Law Enforcement Tools

Police officers have multiple opportunities to divert youth away from arrest. Cities across the nation have used data and objective assessment criteria to reduce arrests of youth in a developmentally appropriate way. NLC supports cities' reform efforts to ensure the first point of contact between youth and police does not lead to unnecessary involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Diversion programs, which are often developed by municipal police departments, are systems that allow low-level offenders to avoid criminal charges and convictions. These programs hold youth accountable for offenses while keeping them in school and in their communities and providing access to services that address unmet needs such as mental health services and family support.

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Leadership and engagement by local officials can build opportunities to hold youth accountable and avoid the consequences of detention and confinement. NLC's Issue Brief, Alternatives to Arrest for Young People, describes the steps municipal leaders can take to open the door for policies and evidence-based protocols that their police departments will use to determine which youth should be arrested and/or detained and which youth can develop more successfully with locally controlled, community-based interventions.

NLC has also collected a variety of Police Training Programs as a resource for cities engaged in reform. The training program areas include improving responses to youth with mental health needs, improving youth-police relations, adolescent youth development, and reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

Local Reforms to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities

Even after decades of reform and investment to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, problems remain. Local leaders can institute evidence-based practices that reduce disparities.