When Most of Us Struggle, We Just Need a Shoulder to Lean 05-08-19

The Crime Report

How would you improve police-youth interactions in this country?

Plenty of academics and advocates have weighed in on this question, but the voices of young people are rarely heard.

So we decided to ask them.  In the first annual Youth Voices Contest sponsored by Strategies for Youth (SFY),  a  nonprofit committed to improving relations between cops and kids, over 120 youth, aged 12-18, from 10 states, submitted writing and artwork in response.

They dazzled us with their honesty, creativity, and ideas for change.

Our staff regularly interview youth about their interactions with law enforcement.  We play a computer-based game, Juvenile Justice Jeopardy, to help them understand the law, and to master strategies for engaging with police without getting arrested.

During our Policing the Teen Brain trainings for law enforcement, we engage young people in skits and controlled dialogue, that is, we give priority to what youth want to tell police, in order to explain why certain interactions with police “work” with young people and others provoke defiance and rage.

But we wanted to learn more, and saw this contest as a different forum for engaging young people, and hearing about their experiences with police.

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