Archive for the Community Outreach Category

Youth + Sports + Dedicated Police Officer = T.U.F.F. “The Ultimate Family Foundation”

Youth + Sports + Dedicated Police Officer = T.U.F.F. “The Ultimate Family Foundation”

Virginia Beach, Virginia is known for its beautiful beaches and boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean. And, like many American cities, it is filled with children living in poverty and violence. It is also home to a remarkable community program for youth at-risk created by a Master Police Officer in the Virginia Beach Police Department.

037-vs. steelers playoffs 142 - CopyOne Saturday afternoon in 2007, Master Police Officer David Nieves and his wife, Nayla, took their excited 12-year-old son to his first practice of the Green Run Recreation League football team in Virginia Beach, VA. They arrived to find 12 other waiting children in total disarray, with no coach and no plan. In quick order, Officer Nieves also became Coach David, and Nayla Nieves became chief organizer, volunteer recruiter, cook and cheerleader. The nervous 12 year olds became The Spartans who soon won the Recreation League Football Championship of Virginia Beach.

Master Officer Nieves also quickly determined that these at-risk children needed to know more than the basics of football. Many of them lived in families teetering on disaster. He and Nayla developed a full program of goal setting, community service and building self-esteem for the team. Some children needed food, shelter and tutoring at points during their four-month season. Providing for these basic needs were also incorporated into the program.

Season begins with a camping trip, 4 days of waking before 5 AM to run on the beach at sunrise, team exercises and nutritional instruction. In order to earn their football jerseys, team members also plan community service activities to perform once the camping trip has ended.

“We try to instill in these youngsters that they are valuable kids, “ said Master Office Nieves. “They can make a real contribution to their neighborhood just by picking up trash and cleaning up empty lots. And their parents and younger siblings often join in.

“Once the boys get their Spartan jerseys, they know they are wearing a real sign of respect for the community and a commitment to their team,” he said.

Now an organization of 200 kids and more than 35 adult volunteers, TUFF helps children deal DSC_0020with issues such as single parent homes, anger, hunger, loneliness, gang recruitment, homelessness.  It also takes children on field trips to their state capital, Richmond, to meet their delegates and to learn that they, too, can look to a future of a being a member of the House of Delegates. All they have to do is live the fundamentals taught by their coach.   This extraordinary program, begun by a police officer and his family, has garnered The Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge National Award. TUFF has applied for 501(c) 3 status.

Not incidentally, the Spartans have won 13 combined football championships from all age groups since 2007. Watch them win a championship by clicking here.

Strategies for Youth salutes the vision, commitment and humanity of Officer David Nieves and his volunteers for the community-building they’ve achieved with young people and the communities of Virginia Beach.

Think About It First! Cards

Sergeant Kenneth GreenAlthough we’d like to, Strategies for Youth can’t take full credit for our Think About It First! cards, pocket-sized tools that warn about the collateral consequences of arrest and involvement in the juvenile justice system. The original idea belongs to Sergeant Kenneth Green of the MBTA Transit Police in Boston.


Stationed for five years at Boston’s Ruggles Station, an inner city subway stop walking distance from two college campuses, Sergeant Green has had plenty of interactions with youth. At Ruggles, he encountered youth who were loud, rowdy, and had a penchant for challenging authority, but he always kept these interactions in perspective.

“You’ve got to remember they’re kids,” he said. “As police officers you try not to take it to heart. They’re immature and we got to keep that in mind.”

During his time at Ruggles, Sergeant Green unknowingly developed what would later become the Think About It First! approach.

“It wasn’t rocket science to think about this,” he said. “Why don’t we let them know what happens if you’re placed under arrest? You want to mature, buy a home, have a family, go in the service – an arrest may prevent you from doing that.”

Looking back, Sergeant Green, who has been promoted to Deputy Chief, says this approach was effective with nine out of the ten kids he came into contact with. “They got the message,” he said.

Now in a supervisory role, Deputy Chief Green views the cards as a great tool for officers in the transit system to build positive relationships with youth, and to give kids a second chance. “In law enforcement you’re supposed to be big tough guys, but we have to remember that we were all kids too,” he said.


“Beyond helping kids, Think About It First! cards have also proved to be an asset for police. In Minnesota, the MN Second Chance Coalition in partnership with the St. Paul Police Department began its Think About It First! initiative, funded by the MN Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, by distributing the cards to law enforcement during roll calls in St. Paul. They were surprised to find many officers previously unaware of the information on the cards.”

“This is important information for judges and law enforcement to consider,” said Sarah Walker of 180 Degrees, a MN Second Chance Coalition program. “Many officers don’t know the technicalities of the juvenile law.” Walker believes the cards help officers better use their discretion when determining whether or not involving a youth in the juvenile justice system is an appropriate response.

The MN Second Chance Coalition and the St. Paul Police Department have already distributed almost 300,000 cards in Minnesota and plan to bring their message to school posters and city bus stops, as well. The International Association of Chiefs of Police will also feature this Think About It First! initiative at its 2012 convention.


In Indiana, Think About It First! efforts are also off to a running start. Spearheaded by the Indiana State Bar Association (ISBA), this particular initiative builds off the American Bar Association’s Think Before You Plea project. In addition to the cards, the ISBA is also developing juvenile justice fact sheets for youth and families that deal with important issues like expunging juvenile records, and the law on juvenile sex offenses. This important information is being shared statewide at trainings for law enforcement, educators, and other juvenile justice stakeholders, where use of the cards is being promoted.

“So far, we have presented at and distributed cards to a statewide urban education conference, a crisis intervention training (CIT) for school based law enforcement in Marion County, and a statewide juvenile justice training sponsored by NAMI Indiana,” said JauNae Hanger of Waples & Hanger, and the ISBA. “We have plans to present and distribute cards to other professional associations, including Indiana prosecutors and detention center directors.”

And there are plans for even further expansion Hanger says. Thirteen school resource officers have signed up to distribute the cards and two local judges have asked that the cards be replicated in their counties. The ISBA has made the cards available for their use electronically. They are also exploring opportunities with several child-serving organizations statewide, hoping to bring the Think About It First!initiative to the populations they serve. Learn more about Think About It First Indiana.

SFY Can Make Think About It First! Cards for Your Department

At Strategies for Youth we want everybody to be able to use ourThink About It First! cards, so we customize them to each locality. Juvenile law varies from state to state. And even within one state, juvenile interests can be widely divergent too. “Greater Minnesota youth are interested in a felony charge prohibiting them for getting a gun for hunting, city youth don’t have that concern,” noted Walker.

In addition to their specificity Think About It First! cards fit perfectly in a wallet or purse and are easy for youth and professionals to hold onto and refer to frequently. Strategies for Youth has found that many of the youth to whom the cards have been distributed keep them for a long time. Youth also pass along the information on the cards, increasing awareness of the collateral consequences of arrest and involvement in their juvenile justice system among their peers.

So far, the replication of SFY’sThink About It First! cards has been met with much success and many more calls for replication. Strategies for Youth is hopeful that the use of the cards will continue to grow, and is eager to work with anyone who wants to create their own version of the Think About It First! card. There are plans to increase the cards’ distribution and bring their message to other venues.

Learn more about our current Think About It First! efforts or contact us about creating a card for your community.

The SFPD Says “It Gets Better”

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has a message for the city’s bullied youth, “I can tell you, it gets better. Everybody has had their moments where they didn’t think it would get better and it did.”

With bullying – especially of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth (LGBT) – becoming an increasingly high profile issue, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has taken extra steps to reach out to the city’s youth. The police department recently released an eight-minute video – to join the chorus of others produced for Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project – in which LGBT officers discuss the challenges they faced as youth. And they each say that, for them, it did get better.

“I would say by the age of 5, 6, I already knew that I should kind of keep it on the down low,” said one police officer, featured in the video, of her sexuality. “I didn’t really have any positive gay role models that I thought were out there.”

An LGBT officer from the video“I was a police officer for about four years, thinking that I was the only male, gay police officer in the world,” said a police sergeant featured in the video. “I actually believed that I was the only gay, male police officer in the world.”

“I would’ve missed the first time being held by someone I love,” said Officer Broderick Elton, featured in the video, reflecting the It Gets Better Project’s focus on suicide prevention. “Loving, I would’ve missed experiencing just the joy and jubilation of life, of people who show me amazing new things all the time, new ways to think, and new ways to look at the world,”

Chief Suhr’s interest in making an SFPD video was sparked when his Chief of Staff, Commander Lyn Tomioka, suggested he watch the It Gets Better video produced by the San Francisco Giants, the city’s Major League Baseball team. For Commander Tomioka the project is personal, “I’m a parent of a gay child and was very interested in hopefully getting parents to understand to just accept their children as they are,” she said. When Chief Suhr learned that no police department had ever made a video for the project, he immediately wanted to make the SFPD the first.

An LGBT officer from the videoIt was “a complete, no cost endeavor,” Chief Suhr said of the project, for which all of the participating officers volunteered. There were many more volunteers than were ultimately featured in the video, Chief Suhr said, including straight police officers who were bullied as youth. “It’s a way to remind our next generations how to be kind to one another,” said Commander Tomioka.

Since its debut on February 10, 2012, the video has been viewed more than 165,000 times on YouTube alone.

Even without active outreach efforts to youth, the response from youth and other members of the community has been overwhelming. Chief Suhr says that many people – youth and adults alike – have approached members of the SFPD to say thank you, and that the San Francisco public schools have begun to show the video in some of their classrooms

“It’s going viral,” said Chief Suhr, “and stimulating conversation between kids in all walks of life and officers, and adults in general.”

Chief Suhr said the SFPD plans on maintaining its relationship with San Francisco filmmaker, Shawn Northcutt, and on making more videos in the future – expanding the message beyond LGBT youth. He also encourages other police departments to make videos of their own, and to encourage officers to speak to youth in their element. “Anything that makes things better for youth,” he said.

“I will help you and I will protect you and I will listen,” says a female police officer at the end of the video. “Things start getting better as soon as you reach out to other people. You need to know that you’re okay, that you are beautiful. It gets way better.”

Milwaukee P.D.’s STOP Program Is a Good Start


3 images from a STOP Program sesson

What is one thing most urban youth have in common? – A general dislike and mistrust of law enforcement. A dislike and mistrust that can have dangerous, far-reaching consequences. That is why a program like STOP, an innovative approach being tested in Milwaukee, is so important.

Youth participating in a STOP Program sessonStudents Talking it Over with Police (STOP) was initiated in September 2010 by the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee (BGCGM), in response to escalating conflict and animosity in police encounters with youth.

“It’s not about changing the minds of kids, it’s about showing the kids what happens and why it happens and, with the generation we’re talking about, the ‘why’ is more important than ever before,” said Captain Victor Beecher, Director of the Training Division for the MPD. The program gives officers an opportunity to “explain themselves” to youth, he said.

Under the direction of Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward Flynn, Sergeant Delmar Williams and other members of the District 5 Community Prosecution Unit spearheaded the initiative, contacting the BGCGM to field test the program, and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) to evaluate its efficacy.

“We have to give a lot of credit to our chief who recognized the potential for a problem and was very proactive about communicating with our youth,” said Sergeant Williams.

Discussion during a STOP Program sessonThe program, which facilitates dialogue between youth and police, was evaluated by Drs. Kimberly Hassell and Tina Freiburger of UWM over several months. The evaluators conducted focus groups with the program’s initial participants, and facilitated new sessions where participants were administered a pre- and a post-test, and divided into three groups: a STOP group, a UWM group, and a Control Group #2.

The study found that the STOP session conducted by the MPD officers was the most effective in changing youth perceptions of police. A typical STOP session begins with introductions; officers ask the youth their first and last names, where they’re from, and what future career they seek. Officers also introduce themselves and encourage the youth to call them by their first names.

Police-Youth dialog during a STOP Program sessonIntroductions are followed by a detailed look at the city of Milwaukee, in which officers and youth explore the city’s districts and the crime rates in each by examining maps of the city. Officers share with youth when and where certain crimes are most likely to occur, and highlight the concentration of crime in Milwaukee’s inner city. City ordinances are also reviewed, sometimes by an Assistant District Attorney, but usually by the officers.

Officers then play and review a typical computer-aided dispatch (CAD), or in laymen’s terms, a call, with the youth. The officers ask youth to identify the important information. The youth find the exercise challenging and frustrating: bringing home the point that officers rarely have all the facts when they respond to a call.

The majority of the STOP session is focused on appropriate police and youth behavior during stops. The officers review with youth the MPD Code of Conduct, passing it around the room for the youth to examine.

After discussing appropriate police behavior, the officers then explain important conflict resolution and social skills that could improve these interactions. Youth are told to –

  • Engage in active listening
  • Ask questions
  • Be courteous
  • Recognize differing perspectives
  • Watch out for emotional triggers
  • Watch their body language
  • Take action to control the situation.

presentation during a STOP Program sessonYouth’s understanding of these skills is tested when officers and youth role-play typical interactions with one catch – the youth play the role of police officers while the officers act as citizens being stopped. This role reversal allows both youth and officers to comprehend the difficulty in each other’s situation, and to assess how their own behaviors directly affect the other’s responses.

UWM researchers concluded the program is a success for improving youth perceptions of police in Milwaukee. Youth have left STOP sessions feeling empowered by the information they were taught and less adversarial towards police.

And what do officers get out of this program?

Pride and understanding that they’re doing something important for the community, said Captain Beecher. If we can reach out to kids and explain to them what exactly is going on in a way the makes them assets not only to law enforcement when we’re investigating crime, but to the community, we’ve created an environment where suspicion is replaced by understanding and trust.

That change in the community’s view of police is apparent. Sergeant Williams recalls being stopped by a woman and her teenaged daughter while grocery shopping. The woman told him that the program was one of the best her daughter had ever participated in, and that she had come away with a “newfound respect for you guys.”

Officer at a STOP Program sesson“Several times that we would go to homes, and different communities, literally children will run up to these officers asking for autographs,” said Sergeant Williams.

The MPD is now looking to expand the STOP program beyond the Boys’ and Girls’ Club. Over forty officers, supervisors, and command officers have volunteered to become trained instructors, who will bring the program to Milwaukee public schools starting this fall.

Captain Beecher said he ultimately hopes to see the program expand far beyond the city limits. “We’re going to give it away to anyone who wants to replicate our success,” he said.

Youth of Promise Mentoring: Powerful Support for Struggling Tweens & Teens

What do you do with failing, out-of-control 11-14 year olds headed for the juvenile justice system? You pair them up with police officers and fire fighters – for mentoring.

Youth of Promise Mentoring: Powerful Support for Struggling Tweens and TeensCarmen and Sharise are typical 8th grade students. Currently attending their final year at Washington Middle School in Northwest Pasadena, CA, they are not outstanding scholars. Only one of the two girls has a high enough GPA to graduate from middle school, and the other is far below requirements. Under California law, however, both will be sent on to nearby John Muir High School in the fall regardless of their final GPAs and skill levels.

Their classroom behavior over the past three years has mirrored their scholastic difficulties: each girl is frequently obstinate and occasionally disruptive and combative. At times, their behavior is directed at their teachers, at other times it’s directed at one another.

Their male and female peers at Washington are struggling right along with them. After the 2011 academic year, the school’s API score was only 667, out of a goal of 800 and a total of 1,000 possible points. It was the lowest score in the Pasadena Unified School District.

Students’ grade point averages reflected that level, with a 2.0 (C average) being considered a relatively successful achievement. Books in the classroom have a tendency to be thrown around as often as they are read, leading to a student-suspension rate almost twice that of the district’s average, at 43% last year.

Poverty is the defining characteristic of the students enrolled in Washington: 90% of students qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program, and overcrowded homes are endemic. In terms of ethnicity, the surrounding community is approximately 24% African-American and 62% Latino.  Thirty years ago, those numbers were reversed.

Along with the prevalence of poverty, violent gangs have managed to entrench themselves in this area. New policing tactics over the past four years have begun to make a dent in at least one gang’s activities, but the violence, burglary, prostitution and drug trade continue.

A little-noticed trend among the gangs in Northwest Pasadena, however, has been gradually taking place over the years. It mirrors the same trend around the country: new gang members are no longer high-school age, or even in their teens. They’re only 11-12 years old.

The impact has been felt most acutely at Washington Middle School (ages 11-14), where behavior for some students has degenerated into constant fights and arguments.  Of the 585 students enrolled at the school, close to 100 are now exhibiting violent behavior severe enough to be categorized as Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), which is a childhood mental disability characterized by a pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behavior towards authority figures.

Even students not participating in such behavior are strongly affected by the students that are, resulting in the cohort of incoming 9th graders last year heading to high school with GPAs below 2.0 (and many below 1.0), multiple F’s and excessive truancies and absences.

In spring 2010, a highly-experienced Flintridge Center employee was put in place of a fledgling mentoring program for the middle school students at Washington. Before joining Flintridge, Mr. Ricky Pickens had been the only truancy officer for the entire Pasadena Unified School District for several years, and before that he had served as a Gang Outreach Specialist for the Pasadena Police Department. Due to his previous experience, Ricky knew that a standard mentoring program at Washington wasn’t going to work. He needed to innovate.

At the suggestion of one of his former colleagues at the police department, Ricky began recruiting field officers and commanders interested in becoming mentors for the toughest, most troubled kids on campus. He had a quick response from a surprising number of police personnel and began to train them for their volunteer responsibilities with teens in crisis.

Youth of Promise Mentoring: Powerful Support for Struggling Tweens and TeensRicky also approached the Pasadena Fire Department and began recruiting among the fire fighters posted to local fire stations. Again, the response was encouraging. The advantage to a fire station is that students can participate in small groups at each location, as long as transportation is properly arranged. Maintaining the fire-fighting equipment, cooking, cleaning up and participating in physical fitness routines with their mentors were thought be a compelling attraction to almost any kid. As it turns out, they are, but the logistics can be tough to sustain.

Pitching the idea to the leadership at Washington Middle School was also easy; the principal, assistant principal and academic counselor jumped on board. That left the more challenging student body. Breaking through pre- and early-adolescent barriers is tough and not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, Ricky is a large and athletic man with a warm heart but a no-nonsense style. He was a highly successful college football player with some time at the pro level.  Nothing deters him, including teenage angst and posturing.

Ricky began meeting with the kids one-on-one and in small groups in the Administration office to introduce them to the program. Hand-picked by the school’s counselor, Dr. Black, the first set of 19 kids were those most likely to be suspended, transferred out or arrested in the near future.

They weren’t really given a choice regarding mentoring. They were enrolled into the program by Ricky, after conversations with their parents or caregivers. Despite their hesitant acceptance at first, they gradually warmed up to their mentors and began to participate with incredible enthusiasm. There’s something about having lunch with a uniformed police officer or fire fighter on campus in front of all their friends and peers that instilled a sense of worth in these troubled students. For most, it was the first positive interaction with an adult that they could recall.

We just want you to know, we know what you’re doing. It’s cutting into our action.” – An older gang member.

The first indication of the success of the mentoring program was swift. An older member of one of the local gangs wandered onto campus and walked right into the Principal’s office. He sat down and let her know that the mentoring program was hampering their recruitment process. “Eyes are watching you.”

It seemed to be more than a matter of saving face, although the Police Gang Unit members, who were immediately consulted, urged calm. If your program was too threatening, you’d know right away. In the weeks that followed, an informal agreement seemed to develop: “If you get the kids first, that’s fine. If they come to us, they’re ours.”

My kid hadn’t looked me in the eye in years. Now, we have dinner together and talk. I don’t know how you did that, but thank you.

—A father of one of the first mentees.

The second indication of success was the type of stories and comments coming back from the mentors and the families of the mentees. Remember, these were all out-of-control kids. Jamal (not his real name) is a good example. Enrolled into the program as a tough delinquent at age thirteen (last semester of 8th grade), he had been identified by the patrol officer that came up with the mentoring idea in the first place. Jamal’s older brother was a violent gang member, his mother was an active alcoholic, and his father was dying slowly of cancer.  “We’re going to save that kid,” said Officer Randall.  And he did.

Jamal entered the program with a 1.8 GPA in his academic subjects at the end of fall 2010, along with daily behavioral referrals and a bad attitude. One year later, after picnics, hikes, playing organized sports, attending professional sporting events, homework help and long talks – representing at least 100 hours of mentoring — he finished his first semester of high school with a 3.6 GPA in his academic subjects (3.25 overall) and had made the school’s football team.

The majority of the other mentees also raised their GPAs by an average of 39%, although in-class disruptions and absenteeism increased. Done well, mentoring works. With considerable outside interference, it’s not enough.

Youth of Promise Mentoring: Powerful Support for Struggling Tweens and TeensMore is needed. Every young teen in the program is suffering from some degree of trauma experienced earlier in their lives, while several are still experiencing repeated trauma at home or out in the community. That emotional upheaval has put most of them far behind in academic skills and emotional maturity.

After careful research, three programs have been identified to support the mentoring effort by addressing this extended range of needs: Aggression Replacement Training© (ART), the Parent Project©-Pasadena (P-3), and Revolution K-12© (RK-12).

ART was designed specifically to help teens learn to control their ODD-style behavior and is provided by certified therapists-in-training once each week for 30 weeks.

P-3 is designed to help parents and caregivers learn to be more consistent in providing effective and positive boundaries, penalties and incentives to help develop more mature behavior in themselves and their teens.  The once-per-week sessions will be provided by Ricky Pickens and at least one other certified instructor for 12 weeks (with English and Spanish cohorts).

RK-12 is a PC-based tutoring program that is fully individualized and supported by a credentialed teacher and college-student tutors. Mentees will participate in tutoring sessions (math & English) four times each week for about 2.5 hours each time. These new components are ready to be implemented…but each one depends on Flintridge Center obtaining additional funding in order to launch the services.

Looking to the Future

Recruiting additional mentors for the next group of students has not been difficult, although Ricky and the current mentors still have to work at it. Public safety employees have complicated schedules, and effective mentoring requires a significant time commitment.

When did I know I was making bad choices? When I was 12 years old. What I needed was an adult to rein me in and show me how to do things right. I’m stubborn –  I’d have given him holy hell for trying, but that’s what I needed, and that’s what I didn’t get.

—A former felon who had just finished serving a 7-year sentence for aggravated assault.

In addition, severely traumatized teens need time to heal and learn new ways to think, evaluate and behave. That can involve considerable patience, compassion, stability and understanding on the part of each mentor. Despite all that, new volunteers are coming forward, recruited in part by the deep satisfaction described by their colleagues at the Police and Fire departments.

As a result of the Youth of Promise Mentoring Program and its dedicated volunteer mentors, the next few years look much brighter for these kids than it did just one year ago. They have a sense of direction, a network of emotional support, and a positive relationship with an adult they admire.  Every mentee is working diligently to develop the tools they need to turn their lives around.

Despite the inevitable challenges they’ll all face in the years ahead, we’re heartened by their early and impressive success, and we’re dedicated to continuing our support of their efforts. We’ll keep you posted on their progress. If you’d like to join us, please give us a call.

Flintridge Center is a multi-service nonprofit organization based in Northwest Pasadena, CA. Other services include Capacity-Building Training for nonprofit organizations in the San Gabriel Valley, and Apprenticeship Preparation Program for disadvantaged adults, operated in partnership with Pasadena City College. For more information about Youth of Promise Mentoring Program or any of our other activities, please contact:

Mark Eiduson
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Flintridge Center
236 W. Mountain Street, #106
Pasadena, CA 91103

Phone: (626) 449-0839 x128
Cell: (818) 970-1242 CELL

Police Recruits Learn From Youth Service Providers

Police recruits in classroomMultnomah County is often on the cutting edge of innovation for juvenile detention reform. Innovations in training the city’s police force to work with youth is another example of out-of-the-box thinking.

Multnomah’s internship for police recruits, called the “Community Academy,” focuses on youth and juvenile justice, as well as its case processing agreement, all make it a national standout. And that’s only part of the story: Multnomah’s success in reducing the number of youth referred to formal processing and detention distinguish Multnomah County’s approach to policing and working with at risk youth in the nation.

Recruits Learn How to Work with Juveniles Mano-a-Mano

On any given day in Portland, you may find a police recruit conducting intake or looking for a runaway. The recruit placements include Janus Homeless Shelter for Youth, Outside In, and New Avenues for Youth.


To date, over 50 police recruits have gone through this internship prior to attending the Police Academy. The internship lasts approximately 7 days but may be extended in the future due to the overwhelming request of other community providers who want to be involved in the Community Academy.

Lt. Virtue reports that many recruits “feel they are in a better place than they were prior to the internship” and that it has expanded their understanding of the challenges youth face and the scope of alternatives available to them.

This approach, is in line with recruits interests when they arrive at the PPB: “Their first impulse is to want to be helpful,” explained Lt. Virtue. These opportunities help young officers learn the importance of policing through partnering with community leaders and experts and the long lasting importance of building relationships with youth.

“We think this has been a huge success,” said Rick Jensen, Multnomah County Juvenile Detention Alternative Coordinator who recommended that other police departments adopt this innovative approach.

During the Community Academy recruits are given a week long, intensive training on youth issues. The topics covered include “Adolescent Brain Development & the Goofy Kid Syndrome,” gangs, homelessness, child sex trafficking and school issues.

Tina Edge, the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Coordinator Assistant teaches recruits about the negative impacts of detention and promotes the value of police taking the opportunity to understand youth.

“The main focus of this partnership is designed to teach new police officers how the juvenile justice system works as well as a variety of community policing skills,” she explained. “We do this by placing police interns into community service organizations early in their careers and exposing them to the types of complex social issues that they will face in the field. This also helps us work in partnership with police, community service providers to strategize ways to improve how the system works to promote public safety.”

Tom Cleary, Senior District Attorney agrees. “This program also allows for youth to see police in a different way and hopefully develop methods of communication that will aid in avoiding formal involvement in the delinquency system.”

More information on SIRN (System Integration & Resource Network) formerly Community Academy.

Stakeholders in the Multnomah Juvenile Justice world recognized that the use of detention was problematic. Too often, the use of detention with young offenders became an inadvertent source of recidivism, an the use of formal court processing for minor offenses seemed to result in more youth being pushed deeper into the system. With the support of the Casey Foundation and its focus on creating alternatives to detention, they regrouped, developed partnerships, and systems that are showing impressive results.

The first step was getting the stakeholders to the table to develop an agreed upon “decision tree” for dealing with cases using an approach that integrates an evaluation of the legal sufficiency of a police complaint with a case-by-case determination of what responses best meet individual youth’s needs. Known as the Case Processing Agreement, this approach has impressively reduced the number of youth prosecuted, allowing DAs to focus their energies and effort on the most serious cases and reduce the use of detention for youth charged with minor offenses. Read Multnomah County Case Processing Agreement [PDF]

Senior District Attorney Tom Cleary is an ardent proponent of this approach. “The case processing agreement is a living document that furthers our intent to have “the right kid in the right place,” he explained. “The intent of all system partners is to create a system that provides for the appropriate level of intervention as required for public safety and successful development of the youth.”

Like the Clayton County ticketing system featured on SFY’s Promising Practices earlier this year, police and then DA’s and the Juvenile Community Justice department triage charges against youth and whether to proceed to formal or informal processing. Under this approach, there is explicit agreement about which misdemeanors are divertible (i.e. simple assault, shoplifting), and which are not (i.e. sex offenses, firearm possession, assaulting an officer). The agreement structures how exceptions to the rule must be considered, and which offenses require special attention and review. The agreement also sets forth the benefits of informal processing.

The result is a system in which there is a transparent logic and criteria for decision making—but not at the cost of practitioners’ use of discretion.

One unusual feature of this approach is its focus on domestic violence charges brought against youth. While many domestic violence charges are misdemeanors, the team focuses on the extent of injury, the gravity, and the threat of ongoing violence in each of these cases to determine whether it merits informal or formal processing. This has helped stakeholders focus on what may explain a youth’s behavior and how to address its root causes.

The result, Rick Jensen says, is “proof of the power of stakeholders working together, communicating with each other and creating a collaborative safety net for these youth.”

The MBTA Transit Police STOPWATCH Program

MBTA Officers conferringStopWatch aims at reducing the anonymity of youth in the transit environment and decreasing the number of youth who use stations to congregate before, during or after school.

The MBTA Transit Police are responsible for public safety in the subways, bus routes, and stations in Boston. Over 20,000 public and private school students use the MBTA each day in order to attend school.  In 2005, the Transit Police Department created the StopWatch program.

StopWatch aims at reducing the anonymity of youth in the transit environment and decreasing the number of youth who use stations to congregate before, during or after school. “The underlying theory is that if we reduce anonymity and get to know these kids, they won’t do things they might do if they think no one cares or that no one can identify them,” explained Lt. Det. Mark Gillespie of the Transit Police, who has headed up the program since its inception. To reduce anonymity, a collaboration that includes school headmasters, assistant principals, youth workers, probation officers, Boston Police officers, Boston School Police, and private youth-serving organizations was developed to attend StopWatch.

Each week, Lt. Gillespie sends out a bulletin advising StopWatch partners of the 5 to 10 selected stations where StopWatch partners will be present in the station during the morning rush hour and/or the after school rush hour. Stations are chosen based on frequency of problems, rumors of fights, and passenger complaints. “This is community policing in every sense of the word. We let kids know that a community is watching them and they know too that a community is caring for them so we find that we get a lot of kids asking us for help and there is always someone in the group who can.”

The impact of StopWatch has been noticeable:  “We are seeing a major deterrent impact in this approach to policing,” said Chief Paul MacMillan of the Transit Police who also noted that MBTA arrests of juveniles was at the Department’s lowest rate since 1998. The program won the American Public Transportation Association Award for Innovation in 2005 and was also selected in that year as a semi-finalist for the prestigious Webber-Seavey Award of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

In 2007, StopWatch generated TruancyWatch when MBTA Transit Police noted that many youth were using MBTA stations during the school day and/or heard their partners ask youth why they hadn’t been to school. Massachusetts does not authorize officers to arrest truant youth; at best the state’s status offense system can issue a legal designation of a student being a child in need of services (CHINS). In a city with only 4 school officials to follow up on student absences for over 70,000 students, the involvement of the MBTA Transit Police and its partners has increased the school system’s reach.

Lt. Gillespie and Sgt. Michael Adamson  developed a survey instrument and worked with StopWatch partners to survey youth about their absences from school. In the 2007-2008 academic school year, TruancyWatch gathered over 850 surveys; as of this writing in the 2008-2009 academic school year, over 500 surveys have been completed.

Boston’s Private Industry Council, which focuses on high school drop outs and truancy as a predictor of dropping out, compiled the results of the survey. “Kids are generally quite willing to tell us why they are not in school,” said Lt. Gillespie. “Most of the time it’s because they are unengaged with their own education, or they have been suspended for bad behavior, or because they have serious problems. It really hits you when a kid says, ‘Can you help me? I am so depressed.’ Or you see a pregnant 16 year old and wonder who is there to catch these kids when they are obviously falling,” he added.

The impact of TruancyWatch, which was recently featured on WGBH’s Project Dropout series, has been impressive. Kathy Hamilton of the Boston PIC noted that “The project is an innovative way for partners from different sectors to come together to address a problem. The data we are getting is valuable, too. The most recent finding is that students interviewed, though caught skipping school, are still willing to engage with adults and talk about school with them. That shows that they haven’t given up, and that it’s worth figuring out how to keep them in school.”

Documentation on StopWatch and TruancyWatch

For more information on StopWatch and TruancyWatch, contact Lt. Det. Mark Gillespie, MBTA Transit Police, 617-222-1062,

Positive Ticketing for Youth

Positive Ticket examplesImagine cops catching kids for positive behavior? It totally goes against the old paradigm of the reactive, post incident, corrective model we currently operate within. Reward the positive and your return on investment will be more positive action from a young person.

“This is not rocket science – we generally and police officers specifically, just don’t reward and celebrate the positive of our youth enough,” says Chief Officer Ward of the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service.

On a strong hunch that intense, positive early intervention might reap long term benefits with youth, Clapham developed the notion of positive ticketing while in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superintendent (rtd) Clapham recently retired from the RCMP after leading the 3rd largest Detachment in Canada for seven years. He is now the Chief of Transit Police in metro Vancouver British Columbia, Canada.

For Clapham, an imaginative man for whom turning paradigms on their head is a way of life, there had to be a better way of policing youth then a post-incident, punishment-only approach. Clapham once heard a group of youth describe officers as “hunters.” Disturbed by this characterization, Clapham took the notion, combined it with results of studies of the Minneapolis-based Search Institute showing that positive reinforcement by adult authority figures can be more effective than a negative approach, and came up with the idea of “hunting youth who do the right thing.”

With a little bit of coaxing, police in cities and townships as well as First Nation communities across Canada, began “hunting” for youth doing the right thing. Officers gave these youth recognition and praise for doing the right thing and a “positive ticket.” The goal was to develop relationships with youth in a manner that accentuated the positive aspects of police and policing, increased the number of adults youth could turn to and rely on, and reinforced youths’ good behavior.

Recognizing that youths’ feeling of alienation and sense that they are both disliked and disrespected are antithetical to promoting good behavior, Clapham’s goal was to persuade officers to use tickets to find a way to break the ice with youth. To reduce youths anonymity and find a positive connection, Clapham proposed focusing on the good things youth do and reinforcing those behaviors. Clapham prophesied that increased engagement with youth in a positive setting would result in youth becoming less likely to get involved with people and activities that would hurt their community since they had adults who they wanted to please and whose respect they wanted.

The results in Vancouver bear out this vision. Clapham noted that since implementation of the positive ticketing initiative, juvenile arrests and court referrals in Vancouver had dropped almost in half in a 3 year window. RCMP Officers from Richmond Detachment were giving out 40,000 positive tickets a year: 3 to 1 ratio when compared to the negative ticket.

The positive tickets are redeemable for all sorts of things, from a slice of pizza in Vancouver, to a team-effort to win an ipod-nano in an Indian reservation outside of Quebec.

A typical ticket reads:

“Positive Ticket – To: _______ was caught doing something good”

“It’s not about how many tickets are redeemed. The ticket is the gateway to a relationship. And it is all about the relationship,” Clapham said. “What’s most important is that the ticket is a positive event, and when the youth sees the officer the next time, it will start off on a positive note. For all I know, kids will keep the tickets could be pinned to the wall and be a reminder that a police officer said I was a good kid or a police officer said I could become whatever I wanted.”

And businesses appear all too happy to support the initiative. As one Canadian township noted, “In today’s corporate world, businesses are not just seen as organizations that meet consumer demand while maximizing profits. Businesses are required to be agents of positive societal and community change. In return businesses realize that a strong and healthy community will sustain consumer demand, and that the rate of return on community investment is significant. The Positive Ticketing Program attempts to capitalize on this sound business rationale and bring businesses into the lives of current and future consumers,” writes the Chinook County Security Services which received funding from local businesses and the Calgary Foundation to print the tickets. And youth redeeming their tickets at local businesses would get a second dose of positive reinforcement for having done a good deed to earn the ticket.

In addition to the tickets, officers distribute the equivalent of baseball cards with their photo, name, phone number, and personal information such as interests and a personal message to youth. Ward Clapham’s personal interests include “skiing, hang gliding, technology, and leadership” and his personal message, which appears closely related to the sports he enjoys, reads, “You don’t need drugs to get a high out of life.”

Clapham says he has worked with 53 countries, including the United States, to implement positive ticketing. “I think people recognize that the old approaches are not working in the 21st century. We work harder and harder doing the wrong things. Reacting to crime and putting on band-aids is not working and will not work. We need to seriously address the roots of problems and we need to move from the post incident, corrective, adversarial model.”

And to do that, Clapham says, “We need a model of prepare, not repair. And the best way to prepare is by starting young through positive recognition and relationships.”

For more information on positive ticketing see: