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A hypothesis explaining why juveniles of color have higher rate of contact with the police

More likely than not, whether or not a juvenile is processed into this system is dependent upon the outcome of an encounter with the police. It is accurate to say that the police serve as the "gatekeepers" to the juvenile justice system—they serve this function in the adult system as well.

The police in turn begin the criminal justice process by making initial decisions about how to handle incidents involving juveniles. Indeed, the role of the police in juvenile justice is an important one. Police officers have many contacts with juveniles that are for the most part unknown.

  • Ostensibly, they were there to prevent mass school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1998 — in other words, to protect students, not to police them;
  • It is unclear whether this movement to get tough on juveniles has affected police handling of juveniles, or if it will in the future;
  • Laws, statutes, and ordinances are often vague or inapplicable and, subsequently, do not provide much guidance for decision-making on the street;
  • And most of those are low-level violations:

For this reason, the cases that reach the juvenile courts are only a small fraction of the interactions that police have with juvenile suspects and offenders. In deciding how to handle incidents involving youth, the police have a wide range of responses available to them. This latitude is a necessary element to police work as patrol officers are presented with various and often complex situations Whitaker.

  • Varieties of Police Behavior;
  • One other study utilizes police-juvenile contact records from 1968 to 1975 to analyze police arrest practices with juveniles Sealock and Simpson;
  • Evidence from the 1990s reveals that police encounters with youth typically involve only one juvenile and usually there is not a victim or complainant present during the encounter;
  • Wordes, Madeline, and Bynum, Timothy S;
  • Juvenile specialists now operate as detectives, and are called juvenile unit detectives, juvenile specialists, and so on;
  • A large body of research has accumulated on this subject and this research supports the hypothesis that police respond to the situation with which they are presented see Smith and Visher for an example.

However, in light of this discretion, one should be concerned with how police make decisions involving juveniles as it is an important decision, one that may formally classify juveniles correctly or incorrectly as delinquents and introduce them to the juvenile justice system. This entry will focus on the police part of juvenile justice and will provide an overview of policing juveniles.

It will briefly review the police role in juvenile justice from a historical perspective and it will review the organizational structures existing in policing today to handle juveniles as well as the legal rights of juveniles who are accused of some wrongdoing. This entry will then review what we know about police-juvenile interactions, including a discussion of how police dispose of their encounters with youth, and what factors shape their decisionmaking.

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Finally, ideas for future research on policing juveniles are discussed. Historical overview and organizational structure The focus and purpose of "juvenile justice" has undergone considerable change in the past century. Juvenile justice systems were originally formed to protect youth from the adult systems of justice and to allow discretion in decisionmaking involving youth so that juvenile justice actors could make decisions that were in the best interest of the child.

The ideals behind the formation of the juvenile court, for example, revolved around rehabilitation and helping juveniles who might have problematic home lives or who were psychologically immature or troubled Scott and Grisso.

Troubled and delinquent youth were not thought to be fully capable of guilty intentions, rather they were thought to be in need of help and guidance. However, the idea that juveniles should be handled with "kid gloves" and that they should be protected from the adult system of justice has changed—particularly since the mid-1970s.

These changes have not, however, had many direct implications for police handling of juveniles; they more often have altered the context of the juvenile courts. Remarkably, the police role in juvenile justice has remained much the same. One of the central reasons for this has to do with the occupation of policing.

Police officers work alone, without direct supervision, and they bear the burden of much discretion. It is difficult to know what officers do during their shifts and many of their contacts with youth and adults go without documentation in official records. When the creation of juvenile justice systems occurred and this happened sporadically throughout the statespolice handling of juveniles was not of much concern.

Prior to the early twentieth century, police had the authority to arrest juveniles possibly more authority than with adults because juveniles had no procedural protections but juveniles were usually dealt with informally.

That is to say, police officers would warn kids, bring them home to their parents or guardians, or maybe relinquish them to a community agency i. It is important to put this within the context of policing during this period. Policing in America prior to the 1920s and 1930s was very political. Patrol officers campaigned for local politicians and as a reward were allowed to keep their jobs or to begin a job as a patrol officer. Patrol officers were politically recruited from the neighborhoods in which they lived, and as a result they knew many of the juveniles living in their assigned areas.

Kelling notes that many cases of youth crime and disorder were settled with the end of a nightstick. The youths' families and their political connections would more than likely influence the outcome of a police-juvenile interaction. These police practices with juveniles and adults came under scrutiny during the Progressive era, which marked a period of professionalization for police. The professionalization movement in policing occurred in response to a movement to establish professional standards in policing and it occurred as the result of increased technology in America see Walker, 1992.

The professionalization movement sought, among other things, to eliminate political control a hypothesis explaining why juveniles of color have higher rate of contact with the police the police, raise personnel standards, appoint qualified chiefs to lead police departments, refocus the police toward fighting crime, and create specialized units to handle special problems. When policing underwent this reform in the early twentieth century, some of the changes were targeted at policing juveniles.

Police departments began acknowledging the problem of juvenile crime and began to address this issue as part of an overall policing strategy Miller. Moreover, reforms targeted at policing juveniles called on police to prevent juvenile delinquency —rather than merely attempting to make arrests. Police attention to juvenile crime before the mid-twentieth century was focused on crime prevention rather than on apprehension, deterrence, and punishment. With this new attention to juvenile crime came the hiring of female officers.

Female police officers were introduced to the policing occupation during the early twentieth century and they were initially hired to work with juvenile delinquents and runaways. They were labeled juvenile "specialists" because it was thought that women had a "special capacity for child care" and that handling juveniles was in fact women's work see Walker, 1977, pp.

During the early 1900s larger police agencies began instituting some organizational structure to handle juveniles. In the 1920s August Vollmer, the father of police professionalism, who was at the time chief of police in Berkley, California, formed one of the first juvenile bureaus Walker; Bartollas and Miller.

Vollmer advocated for increased training and specialized training for juvenile officers. He wanted juvenile officers to be educated on the causes of juvenile delinquency and to develop programs that would help keep juveniles out of trouble. Specialized juvenile units and bureaus would be found in most metropolitan agencies by the mid 1900s, their primary focus on crime prevention.

Police agencies that did not have the manpower or need for an entire juvenile unit or bureau would often have at least one "juvenile specialist" who focused his or her efforts on keeping kids out of trouble and preventing juvenile crime. The establishment of these organized juvenile units and bureaus spawned the development of police athletic leagues and youth diversion programs—some of which still exist today. Police athletic leagues were created to help foster a relationship between police and kids.

Diversion programs divert youth from the criminal justice system by using counseling and other tactics to teach kids about accountability and the consequences of delinquency. In the 1960s these were formal programs designed to avoid labeling youth as criminals and to lighten the load of the criminal justice system.

Today most police agencies have juvenile units or juvenile specialists, but the focus of the juvenile officer in metropolitan agencies has evolved over time. Juvenile specialists now operate as detectives, and are called juvenile unit detectives, juvenile specialists, and so on.

They are embraced as an essential part of police departments and are no longer viewed as the add-on that they once were. Juvenile officers spend much of their day doing investigative work, following up on juvenile crimes and on juvenile victimization.

This is not to say that juvenile officers never spend time involved in crime prevention, that crime prevention can no longer be their sole focus. In terms of prevention, juvenile officers still spend some time forming police athletic leagues and youth diversion programs that began in the middle of the twentieth century. It is also common for juvenile detectives to make appearances at elementary, middle, and high schools to deter juvenile crime and to speak out against drug use and gang formation.

In fact, many metropolitan departments train one or more officers to work directly with schoolchildren of all ages, educating students on the consequences of delinquency and drug use. During the 1990s many police departments hired officers to work specifically on the DARE project.

DARE, which was developed in the Los AngelesCalifornia, police department as a drug prevention program for school children, uses uniformed patrol officers to educate school children on the dangers of drug use. DARE officers often had offices within public schools, where kids could easily access information or ask questions.

POLICE: HANDLING OF JUVENILES

Unfortunately, extended evaluations of this program now suggests that the long-term effects of project DARE are not as beneficial as once thought; in fact they may be nonexistent see, for example, Rosenbaum et al. For this reason, many departments are phasing out DARE as a preventive measure or are at least restructuring the program.

The role of the juvenile officer or detective continues to evolve, and with time involvement in investigation has taken precedence over prevention, although this may change with new reforms in policing. Under the umbrella of community and problem-oriented policing, police departments nationwide are beginning to form partnerships with communities so that they can be more efficient at preventing crime. This new approach to policing will surely influence how police address issues of juvenile crime.

In 1998 and 1999 President Bill Clinton awarded millions of dollars in School-Based Partnership grants, which funded partnerships between the police, schoolchildren, and the community.

The goal of these partnerships was to target specific problems of school crime and violence and to develop a link between kids and cops. Evaluations of these projects are ongoing.

  1. Some research has examined specialized juvenile officers, either as they patrolled streets or as they made decisions after a juvenile had been referred to their unit Piliavin and Briar; Hohenstein; McEachern and Bauzer; Terry; Wordes, Bynum, and Corley.
  2. Patrol officers were politically recruited from the neighborhoods in which they lived, and as a result they knew many of the juveniles living in their assigned areas. Under the umbrella of community and problem-oriented policing, police departments nationwide are beginning to form partnerships with communities so that they can be more efficient at preventing crime.
  3. These police practices with juveniles and adults came under scrutiny during the Progressive era, which marked a period of professionalization for police.
  4. In such a case, arrest may be used as a tactic to handle the situation because the police feel that any other outcome may not end the problem.
  5. The goal of these partnerships was to target specific problems of school crime and violence and to develop a link between kids and cops.

Is juvenile crime on the rise? There has been an increased concern about the incidence and seriousness of juvenile offending over the past few decades. Local and national media regularly alert American families to instances of juvenile crime.

This growing awareness and concern has prompted renewed attention to the juvenile justice system, with particular concern over how juveniles are processed in to and out of the system.

  1. Researchers must look to other factors and take different approaches to explaining behavior with juveniles as they have with adults, that is, psychological and organizational approaches.
  2. Zero-tolerance policies have been widely criticized when schools have interpreted "weapon" very broadly, expelling students for making guns with their fingers or chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun shape or bringing a camping fork for Cub Scouts to class. In 1996, juvenile arrests accounted for almost 20 percent of the arrests tabulated for the F.
  3. There has been an increased concern about the incidence and seriousness of juvenile offending over the past few decades.

Whether or not this growing concern is warranted is debatable. While policy makers and public opinion call for "get tough" approaches with juveniles, some argue that there are no justifications for such an approach see Bernard, for an example.

In 1996, juvenile arrests accounted for almost 20 percent of the arrests tabulated for the F. The number of juvenile arrests in 1996 represented a 35 percent increase over the preceding ten years, while arrests overall during that period increased only 13 percent. Further, the number of juvenile arrests for violent personal offenses represented a 60 percent increase see Worden and Myers.

Statistics of this kind along with well-publicized incidents of youth violence over the past decade have prompted policy makers to call for measures that would make the juvenile justice system more punitive. Bernard argues that the statistics do not justify such an approach. A deeper analysis reveals that the number of juvenile arrests with the exception of homicide arrests has basically paralleled the rise and fall in the number of juveniles of crime-prone age p.

In fact, juvenile crime has been on a decline, down by one-third since 1975 Bernard. One might logically infer or hypothesize that the increase in the number of police arrests of juveniles could reflect police adoption of the "get tough" movement. Legal rights of juveniles The creation of juvenile justice systems was based on conceptions of rehabilitation and treatment, not on punishment. For this reason, up until the 1960s persons working in the juvenile justice system and those working in criminal justice generally were allowed an enormous amount of discretion when making decisions about youth.

Discretion exists when a person of authority can choose several types of formal and informal actions, or inaction. With increased discretion and no formal procedures to handle juveniles, criminal justice agents could then act in the best interest of the child. For this reason, punishment policies and procedural safeguards that existed in the adult criminal justice system were not regularly required or operating in juvenile justice systems Feld.

The idea was that juvenile justice would be individualized for each youth and it would be based on a rehabilitative and treatment philosophy. Police were to formally process youth into the system only if it appeared necessary to curb future misconduct or if it were necessary given the seriousness of the suspected offense. In a landmark case, In re Gault, 387 U. The legal response to juvenile delinquency has changed dramatically since the Gault decision. In Gault, the Court began, unintentionally, the process of criminalizing the juvenile justice system and transforming it into what many regard as a near mirror image of the adult criminal justice system see Feld; Bartollas and Miller.

The decision in Gault required states to give juveniles many procedural safeguards that were previously only required for adult suspects.

Before this time, juveniles had no regulated rights from state to state Scott and Grissothough some states did allocate rights to juveniles before Gault, even though they were not required to do so by Supreme Court standards.

Two Supreme A hypothesis explaining why juveniles of color have higher rate of contact with the police rulings directly affected police handling of juveniles.

In Gault, the Supreme Court clarified that juveniles were protected from self-incrimination and that they had a right to counsel though it is not clear if juveniles, like adults, can waive these rights.

The school to prison pipeline, explained