Craig T. Steckler, Chief of Police, Fremont, California, Police Department
s a nation, the United States continues to lose its future as its youth are needlessly both victims and often the perpetrators of homicides. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 13 young people aged 10 to 24 are victims of homicide each day. This is a statistic we cannot ignore.
Increasingly, U.S. youth are exposed to violence on a daily basis—including through the rising number of mass shootings such as the horrific event that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. As we explore ways to prevent the horrific active shooter incidents that have occurred in Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; and Newtown, we must also look at ways to mitigate the day-to -day violence in our communities through adequate state and local law enforcement resources, tougher laws, and strengthened programs.
A 2009 Department of Justice study showed that more than 60 percent of the children surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year either directly or indirectly. Children’s exposure to violence, whether as victims or as witnesses, is often associated with long-term physical, psychological, and emotional harm and puts them at a higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior later in life and becoming part of a cycle of violence. We also know that, among homicide victims ages 10 to 24 years old in 2010, 82.8 percent were killed with a firearm. As police leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure that these statistics are reduced.
Coupled with the IACP’s work to reduce firearms violence, we also are working to reduce youth-involved violence. From youth brain development to adverse childhood experiences to children exposed to trauma and violence, there is a new movement to gain better outcomes for children, youth, and communities in public safety as well as in public health by incorporating knowledge of child and youth development and trauma-informed practices into policing.
In recent years, the IACP has been developing Youth Focused Policing (YFP), a proactive intervention strategy to enable police to intervene with youth to reduce crime, victimization, long-term health and criminal justice costs, and prolonged involvement in the criminal justice system. IACP’s YFP Resource Center, accessible at http://www.IACPYouth.org, contains information and resources to assist law enforcement in delivering YFP within their communities. This includes providing training and incorporating best practices to transform organizational culture and agency performance measurements.
Further, the IACP, in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, has begun a multiyear initiative called Law Enforcement’s Leadership Role in the Advancement of Promising Practices in Juvenile Justice. The goal of this initiative is to increase the leadership role of state and local law enforcement executives to effectively address systemic juvenile justice issues as well as improve local responses to juvenile offenders. In support of this goal, the IACP is conducting a survey to gather information about law enforcement leaders’ knowledge of and attitudes about the juvenile justice system, assess collaboration with community juvenile justice partners, and learn about resources available locally to respond to juvenile offenders.
In September of this year, with the results of the survey in hand, the IACP will be holding a National Policy Summit on Juvenile Justice. The two-day summit will bring together a diverse cross section of juvenile justice system stakeholders to work together to explore key juvenile justice issues, consider ways to improve law enforcement leadership in juvenile justice reform, and craft a national strategy for enhancing response across the juvenile justice spectrum. The IACP will then take the information gathered from both the survey and the summit and will develop an intensive Leadership Institute on Juvenile Justice, open to all IACP members, reflecting the issues and needs identified.
The IACP is moving ahead by building training and resources for law enforcement on how to identify and respond to children exposed to violence. The IACP is working in partnership with the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence/Childhood Violent Trauma Center at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut, where law enforcement and Yale’s mental health professionals first forged an innovative and successful partnership more than 20 years ago. The IACP, with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, will promote the creation of these partnerships between law enforcement and mental health providers not only for the benefit of children and communities but also because such partnerships lead to an increase in job effectiveness and satisfaction for officers.
Amid all of the IACP’s new and ongoing initiatives related to juvenile justice and child protection, at the start of my IACP presidency, I appointed a new chair for the IACP’s Juvenile Justice Committee, New Haven Chief Dean Esserman. In addition, the IACP’s Executive Committee unanimously agreed to adopt a new committee name of Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Committee to better reflect the distinct but related topic areas. It is exciting for me to share with you the IACP’s efforts in the area of juvenile justice and child protection. I believe the vital role we, as law enforcement officers, have while interacting with children and youth cannot be underestimated or overstated. ♦
Please cite as:
Craig T. Steckler, "Juvenile Justice and the Prevention of Child Exploitation," President’s Message, The Police Chief 80 (March 2013): 6.