Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Building Connections between Officers and Baltimore City Youth: Key Components of a Police-Youth Teambuilding Program

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Building Connections between Officers and Baltimore City Youth: Key Components of a Police-Youth Teambuilding Program

Article excerpt

Introduction

Relationships between police and youth in urban America are often strained (Brunson & Weitzer, 2011; Hurst & Frank, 2000; Lurigio, Greenleaf, & Flexon, 2009). Youth living in lower income areas, adolescent males, and African-American and Latino youth are particularly likely to report negative attitudes toward police, that they have been disrespected by police, and that they have experienced unwarranted and harassing stops and searches (Eith & Duróse, 2011; Weitzer &Tuch, 2006). In turn, Engel (2003) describes how citizens from historically marginalized social groups, particularly young minority males, may behave in disrespectful and oppositional ways toward police to "symbolize their perceptions of injustice" (p. 477). There is a widespread lack of training programs to prepare officers to deal appropriately and effectively with youth or to address the underlying causes of disproportionate arrests of minority youth (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2011;Thurau, 2009).

Negative attitudes and interactions between police and youth reduce opportunities for community-police collaboration, which has serious implications for public safety. Police are usually the first-and often the only-representative of the criminal justice system with whom youth interact; these early contacts support the development of stereotypes and inform future interactions between youth and the system (Winfree & Griffiths, 1977). Fagan (2002) describes the law as "the meeting point between citizens and accepted social norms, learned from childhood" (p. 69). When the law is implemented in an unfair manner, which can include uneven application of criminal codes through race-based policing, failure to protect marginalized citizens from crime, and disrespectful treatment by police, disadvantaged groups internalize distrust for authorities and resistance to social regulation and control (Fagan, 2002, 2008).

Positive interactions with police have been found to be predictive of positive attitudes toward the police, while negative interactions have been found to be predictive of negative attitudes (Rusinko, Johnson, & Hornung, 1978). Researchers have noted the tendency of youth to perceive officers as primarily an extension of an oppressive system rather than as individual people (Cooper, 1980; Williams, 1999). Similarly, police officers have been found to make assumptions about young people based on their race, age, dress, and appearance (Fine et al., 2003; Thurau, 2009; Williams, 1999). Researchers have also found evidence that police officers hold unconscious biases against minority youth (Graham & Lowery, 2004) and unconsciously associate African-American male faces with concepts of crime (Eberhardt, Goff, Purdie, & Davies, 2004).

In an effort to improve the quality of officer-youth interactions in a city confronting record-breaking rates of violence and youth incarceration (CDC, 2011), the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) partnered with the Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound Center (OB) in 2008 to create the 1-day Police Insight Program (Fenton, 2008).The program runs on a monthly basis and participation in at least one program is required of all BPD officers as part of a mandatory training curriculum. Each Police Insight Program brings together all of the officers who work a given shift from one district (25 to 35 officers) with a roughly equal number of students from a middle school located in that same district. Students participate voluntarily and are invited to take part in the program at the discretion of teachers and school administrators. School staff is encouraged to invite students who span a wide range of academic and behavioral performance levels. The program day consists of small groups of students and officers, usually five of each, working together on a series of games and group challenges led by Outward Bound facilitators at the Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound base. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.