Archive for the Diversion Category

Cambridge Safety Net Collaborative: A Community-based Approach To SROs

Cambridge Safety Net Collaborative Logo

The fall issue of School Safety, a NASRO publication, features an article by John Rosiak about how the Cambridge (MA) Police Department is effectively diverting youth from the justice system through an innovative program called Cambridge Safety Net Collaborative. The Safety Net Collaborative brings together SROs, community service providers, schools, and families in a coordinated approach that focuses on prevention, early intervention, and diversion.

Read the full article by John Rosiak (PFD) »
(Reprinted with permission of NASRO and John Rosiak.)


Counting Kids: The Value of Data Collection for Policing Youth Effectively

Data, Data, Data!

Sergeant. Schwob“If law enforcement expect the public to not only understand but support our efforts,” said Sergeant David Schwob of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, “the more information we give out, the more they will understand and support what we do.”

For the past five years, Sergeant Schwob has been collecting data – lots of data – about the CMPD’s effectiveness in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’m a numbers oriented person anyway,” he said, “ but when it comes to getting funding, or manpower, or anything I need to expand the effectiveness of the program, you need to have something to back it up.”

Hoping to accurately capture CMPD school resource officers’ performance in the Charlotte public school system, Sergeant Schwob began collecting data by hand, and continued to do so for his first few years in the school resource program.

At first it was slow going, he said; but when Chief Rodney Monroe was appointed head of the CMPD in 2008, a new emphasis was placed on data throughout the department and Sergeant Schwob found himself ahead of the curve.

“With command staff support,” he said, “we were able to grow into what we are now, and we’re taking that to a new level.” Recent data collection initiatives are focused on disproportionate minority contact and diversion, both priorities of Chief Monroe.

What You Can Do With the Information

Sergeant Schwob is now focused on not only the number of arrests, but on who is being arrested and why.  Schwob’s analysis led him to conclude that 49% of school-based arrests were for minor offenses, a number that was too high and needed to be addressed. Without his real-time, systematic approach to data collection, Sergeant Schwob would not have been able to develop a strategy for reducing arrests for minor offenses and slowing the effect of the “school to prison” pipeline.

Sergeant Schwob’s careful data collection has  garnered interagency support for the CMPD’s use of diversion with juveniles. Rather than face criminal charges and be sent to juvenile court, some young people end up in “teen court,” a peer to peer mediation tool that many say is much more effective than conventional methods.

“We’re now diverting about 350 kids away from the criminal justice system,” said Sergeant Schwob. “It shows that we’re trying to correct behavior, not just put an arrest on somebody that could dictate their life in a negative way.”

Ultimately, Sergeant Schwob hopes that all of this data – arrests, the demographics of arrest, diversion – will be open and easily accessible to the public. Arrest numbers are already available online and organized by division.

“The data tells the public what we are doing, where their funding goes to, what officers are doing and what their productivity is,” said Sergeant Schwob. “The community wants to understand that the schools are safe and their kids are being taken care of – this information is very important.”

Would you like to learn more about this promising practice? Write to  Sergeant Schwob at

UPDATE (February 25, 2013): Data collection was recently ordered by the New York State legislature in  an effort to better understand the level of school exclusion and school-based arrests occurring in the New York City public schools. The link below describes the provisions of the act and the obligations the New York Police Department and the city’s Department of Education must meet:|Text|&Search=STUDENT+SAFETY

School Resource Officer search screenSchool Resource Officer web page screen

Leap of Faith: Leveraging Teen Mediation

Give kids control to mediate an unarmed robbery? “I thought, are you crazy? Isn’t that what got them into trouble in the first place?”

Then Det. Vanessa Cruz of the MBTA Transit Police Department was told that she would have to leave the room during the mediation and that what happened inside the room would be confidential—except for the agreement between the parties.

“To say I was skeptical is an understatement,” she remembers.

A boy had snatched a cell phone out of a woman’s bag on the city subway system Det. Cruz polices. The woman screamed and feebly gave chase.  The boy ran out of the subway car and into a subway inspector who held him until the police came. Upon interviewing the boy, the police, in agreement with the victim and his parents, offered him mediation or court. The boy chose mediation.

“This is usually where it gets tough,” said Cruz. “Most people don’t want to face their victims and in mediation you must face up to the consequences of what you’ve done—sometimes more than you do in court,” explains Cruz. “Often kids will beg me not to have to go into the room with their victim. They tell me they’ll do anything but that. And then when the mediation is over, a lot of them thank me for having given them the opportunity to have mediation. “

In this case, two peer mediators trained by Chandra Banks of the Cambridge Public Schools came from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School to do their magic. The woman who had been robbed explained that she was returning from chemotherapy treatment the day the boy robbed her. She also explained that she had recently lost her job. The 15 year old boy came out of the room in tears and continued apologizing to the woman, the mediators, and the police officers—vowing never to do it again.

“It’s transformative,” says Banks, who has run this program for the last 5 years. “About 95% of our mediations end in an agreement, and about 92% of those agreements hold and there are no further problems. And that’s not unusually high, those statistics are typical of mediation efforts nationally and internationally.”

“This was the perfect kind of case for mediation,” says Detective Vanessa Cruz, with the MBTA Transit Police.  “The boy seemed to be doing it just to do it. There was no strong motive.” And in this case, the boy’s school record was good, this was his first, senseless incident. “We didn’t want to ruin his life with a record.”

Mediation is much better than court in certain situations, says Cruz. “In court there’s not always time to understand the motives of the behavior. And kids don’t have to take responsibility and be accountable the way they have to in a mediation.

The key function of mediation is to understand things from another perspective and provoke self reflection about one’s own behavior. And it works. The fact that their peers, instead of an adult, are telling them that they have broken a rule is more powerful and less easy to shrug off.

Lt. Detective Mark Gillespie of the MBTA Transit Police agrees and is increasing the Department’s use of this approach. “Not all cases are fit for mediation. If we confer with the victim, and the DA’s office, we can help reduce the burden on the courts. This approach is personal and emotional. The kids feel it more and they conform to these rules that they imposed on themselves.”

Why Does Teen Mediation Work with Teens?

It’s no surprise that teens want to exercise control and flex their emotional and political muscles. What is surprising is how they rise to the occasion when given the opportunity—and when adults are not in the room.  Instead of a Lord of the Flies scenario, the Kids are Alright—on their own.

“When they’re in a room with other kids, it’s different. They have to step it up,” explained Banks. “They don’t want to look weak or that they can’t participate; they have to be self-directed.”

Without the adult in the room, they must take that responsibility themselves and with the mediation training and methods, the experience leads the vast majority of youth to take responsibility for their conduct and explain it.

“It lifts their self-esteem because it shows them they have all the tools they need to solve their own problems—if you slow down and think about it,” explained Banks. “When an adult is in the room, they expect the adult to do the work.”

For many youth, mediation serves as translator—helping to explain themselves to themselves, and explain others of the increasingly diverse community in which they live, to each other.

In America today, you can’t really assume anyone know how to behave, observed Banks. Kids don’t believe they an be respected. Too many have not been respected, just exploited. This process gives them a different view of themselves and of conflict.

Elisa Miranda, a junior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School who speaks Spanish, Portuegse and Haitian Creole, gave examples of mediation serving to help youth communicate better with each other.

“I had to go to a mediation because of fighting and that’s what made me want to be a mediator. I was fighting over something that made no sense and when we had the mediation I realized it was not worth it and that if we’d talked about it, we wouldn’t have gotten to that point. But back then, I was like a lot of kids—I didn’t know how to explain myself or my feelings and mediation helped,” she said.

Elisa noted that mediation is also helpful for dealing with teacher/student problems when they have misconceptions about each other. She has seen that getting them to sit together and share their points of view is helpful.

Alice Nakibuuka, a senior at the high school, and a mediator since 7th grade said that  mediation is especially good at working out disputes among teens. “Teens say it straight,” she explained. “But if there are adults there, a lot of teens feel that the adults won’t listen and will just assert their authority so there’s no point in participating.”

Alice thinks mediation is a great form of violence prevention and intervention. “It’s better to resolve the problem because when teens start fighting, it’s hard to get them to start talking and then more kids get involved and it gets out of control.” She noted that Cambridge H.S. is calmer than a lot of other high schools in the area and she attributes it to the use of mediation. “We don’t have fights or the police here all the time,” she observed.

The written agreements that result from the mediations help structure the parties’ behavior going forward and gives a roadmap—and a reminder—to success.

Elements of A Mediation Program

As Banks walked into the high school last Friday, three deans of students met her with requests that she take on new cases. They said they had exhausted their efforts with the youth and needed a new approach.

“The mediation approach is key to building community—while empowering youth to take control of their community,” said Jamal Prince, Dean of Students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, who says the use of mediation has reduced school suspensions and arrests in the last 5 years. “It’s restorative, not punitive, and incredibly effective,”

The five key principles of mediation are:

  1. All participants are there voluntarily and there are no consequences if they choose to end a mediation;
  2.  The mediation is confidential; no one may speak about what is disclosed about during the mediation;
  3. Non-judgment; mediations aim to avoid name calling and labeling and focus instead on win-win agreements for future interactions;
  4. Self-Directed; mediators are in charge of helping those who are mediated solve their own problems;
  5. Future-focused; emphasis is on interactions going forward instead of harping on the past.

All mediators must be trained. Chandra Banks screens cases for mediation and excludes most cases dealing with bullying as power differentials make mediation ineffective. However, successful mediations between parents and their children have been achieved. In the case of a brawl, each of 10 students was invited to do a mediation in which they’d have to face a member of the school community—their favorite teacher—to explain their behavior.

“The teachers all came in and made conditions with these kids,” Banks explained, still amazed at how effective it was. “The teachers invited each youth to connect to them and keep the lines of communication open. Teachers want this because it’s more effective than suspension and detention; sending kids away from education makes no sense.”

Banks has rewarded the high school’s most seasoned mediators, i.e. they’ve mediated some of the most challenging conflicts, in the school context by introducing them to the MBTA Transit Police Department.

“The police can’t be everywhere,” said Lieutenant Detective Gillespie. “In certain situations, which are carefully screened, we have resorted to mediation. We think using kids’ mistakes as teachable moments helps them learn how to respect others and understand the consequences of their behaviors—without a juvenile record that’ll impact and limit their future. We think with certain cases mediation is a great way for kids to move forward constructively.”

For more information on this mediation program, contact:

Chandra Banks, Conflict Mediator
Cambridge Public School District

Det. Vanessa Cruz

Lt. Det. Mark Gillespie

For more information on developing mediation programs, visit:

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

Changing the Playbook for Police in Schools

Something had to give. The courts were paralyzed by the influx of youth arrested in the schools. The police could not keep up with the paperwork demands of all the arrests, much less the court time or the time out of the schools. Youth were dropping out of school at record rates.  Youth advocates were up in arms over so many youth missing so much class time waiting in court. Everyone was angry.

And something gave.

C.C.P.D. SRO Kenneth Cameron utilizing our Notice of Offense protocol with one of his studentsLed by Judge Steven Teske of the Clayton County Juvenile Court, each stakeholder was persuaded to give up a bit of their control and to reconsider the value and purpose of arresting youth in school.  “I made it clear that I thought the practice was harmful to children, a bad use of resources, and a bad message to be giving kids about school,” said Judge Teske.

In 2004, Clayton County Juvenile Court, Clayton County Police Department and the Clayton County Public School District chose a new, proactive approach to policing schools.  In what is now considered a model program, promoted and replicated by judges and school districts across the nation, police presence in schools employs an educational and counseling approach, graduated sanctions and warnings are used, and arrest is saved for serious infractions and used as a last resort.

“The collaborative approach we are using is the key,” says Adolphus Graves, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Coordinator for Clayton County.  “The court had to be willing to hear the concerns of the police department, school system administrators and vice versa.  Our goal is to keep schools safe without diluting the powers of the police by putting so much police attention on infractions that are much less serious in nature.”

An agreement known as The School Referral Reduction Protocol was reached that identified 5 focus acts which would lead to school-based, educational responses to correct misconduct, and not to arrest. The Protocol [PDF] defines its terms and the triage approach as well as makes provision for emergency shelter care when parents cannot be located.

Youth would first get a warning when they committed any of the 5 focus acts which are Affray (mutual fighting between two participants), Disorderly Conduct, Disrupting a Public School, Criminal Trespass, and Misdemeanor Obstruction (failing to obey the commands of a police officer). The Warning [PDF] notes potential consequences, including court referrals, and requires parents to attend a workshop with their child or risk the child going to court.

Other youth would get a referral when they had previously received a warning for acts noted above and/or had been involved in bullying.  Youth who receive a referral must attend a School Conflict Diversion Program or a Mediation Program, with their parent(s).

Police will file a complaint when a youth has received a 3rd or 4th offense against public order or a third bullying offense.

This collaborative effort led to the use of a triage system with 980 youth from the schools between 2003 and 2004. Statistically, the results were impressive: Of the 980 youth who went through the new system, only 98 (10%) were guilty of re-offending within a two year period.  This approach saved police and probation officer time and resources, it reduced the number of days students were missing to attend court.

“It was hard at first,” said Sgt. Marc Richards who now leads the program as Sub Commander of the Clayton County Police Department.  Richards speaks to police departments across the nation about how effective the program is.

“A police response is typically, ‘When an infraction is committed, it’s my job to arrest.’ They didn’t want to delve deeper into why a kid was behaving badly. So we had to change that.”

Richards explained that with the development of this protocol, it was easier and quicker to go through the protocol, document the issue and issue a ticket to a student than to arrest them.  “Over time using the protocol was easier and more effective. It’s shorter than a complaint form.”

“It was more effective because we could distinguish kids who took the warning seriously from those who did not. With those who heard us we could focus on developing a relationship with them and they’d feel that you’d taken care of them and they became your eyes and ears in the school.”

“We showed that this approach could save a lot of valuable resources and time for probation officers who used to be overwhelmed by the number of school based arrests for low level offenses committed by children who wouldn’t receive further charges anyway,” said Graves.  “Now they have reasonable caseloads and the time to focus on kids who really need the supervision, which creates a safer community for all.”

Now police officers are focusing much less on arrests and much more on being available to counsel youth or just be there for them. “So many kids need more time from their parents than they can get. We found that by taking that parenting role a bit, we could get better behavior from the kids, less arrests, and safer schools,” Richards said.

“Now we’re in a win-win situation,” said Judge Teske. “Schools focus on educating kids academically and behaviorally, and kids feel it is their safe haven; the police use their powers selectively for kids who really pose a danger, and the court focuses on the kids who need the most services and support. That’s the balance
we needed to achieve.”

Interested? Contact:

Sgt. Marc Richards at
Adolphus Graves at