The need for training on juvenile justice issues is great at a time when funding for such training is declining in many areas, according to the Juvenile Justice Training Needs Assessment Survey, a survey of 404 law enforcement agencies released last month by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
About one-third of the surveyed departments said they do not have an assigned staff in charge of juvenile operations, while 25 percent have a centralized juvenile unit. Twenty-two percent of the agencies have at least one officer assigned to youth services, and 16 percent have multiple officers assigned to the youth issues, but these officers do not make up a centralized unit.
Eighty-eight percent of the agencies surveyed have written guidelines for how to respond to incidents involving youth. About half of the agencies saw a decrease in their training budget over the last five years, while only 17 percent received an increase. Seventy-six percent of the surveyed states said they do not mandate juvenile justice training for law enforcement departments.
Of the agencies with written guidelines, 64 percent have general orders, 60 percent have standard procedures for how to operate and 17 percent have a departmental memorandum in place.
The majority of the departments surveyed, 71 percent, get funding for juvenile operations from their agency operating budget. Other departments reported funding that comes from non-agency funding allocations, federal or state grants, and other funding sources such as co-funding through a partnership with a private organization.
The participating agencies identified eight issues concerning juvenile crime, delinquency and victimization to be the most pressing. These issues are: substance abuse (noted to be the most problematic overall), physical, sexual and emotional abuse, juvenile repeat offenders, bullying and cyberbullying, gangs, internet crimes involving youth, runaways and school safety.
When asked what their agency would need in order to improve the management of juvenile cases, the majority of the departments said more manpower or dedicated staffing, increased and better quality training opportunities, and better funding.
The IACP itself conducts the Juvenile Justice Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance Project, which trains law enforcement officials and juvenile justice professionals in dealing with youth issues.
Other organizations including the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Association for School Resource Officers offer training in juvenile justice to law enforcement officials.
NASRO focuses on training officers who work directly with youth on school grounds, particularly school resource officers (SROs).
The federal government heavily subsidized the hiring of SROs through anti-crime legislation passed in the 1990s, but federal funding has dropped precipitously since. Despite that, NASRO Executive Director Mo Canady said, there has not been a significant drop in the number of officers in schools.
“We have not seen a huge overall decline in that area,” Canady said.
While some schools have stopped using SRO’s and transitioned to other forms of security many schools have picked up the SRO program, according to Canady.
The survey yielded 672 responses from 404 law enforcement agencies in 49 states and Washington, D.C.
The majority of survey participants, more than 77 percent, came from police departments, but other law enforcement agencies such as sheriff’s and college and university police departments were represented in the study.
The survey consisted of 26 multiple choice and open-ended questions where participants identified their departments staffing, funding, policy and training information in regards to juvenile justice and youth services.
The survey instrument was reviewed and approved by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention before dissemination.
Click here to read the survey.