In Baltimore, Maryland's Eastern District, police officers are taking a proactive and community-centered approach to keeping families and neighborhoods safe.
Police officers realize that in order to be effective at their jobs, they need to build trust and cooperation with the communities they serve. And a police force in Baltimore is going one step further by actively working to find solutions to their community's problems and becoming positive mentors to children in rough neighborhoods.
Writing in today's Baltimore Sun, police officer Quinise Green explains:
We see ourselves not just as enforcers of the law but also as problem solvers and supporters of the people in our "hood."Our district commander demands that we be an integral part of the community. We go on walks with stakeholders in the neighborhoods to identify problems and find ways to fix them. If we see kids playing where they aren't supposed to, we don't just yell at them to move; we find another place they can play.
One such place is the Eisenhower Foundation Oliver Center, which is funded through the Department of Justice and home to the Youth Safe Haven program. I serve as a mentor to high-risk kids from the Barclay neighborhood at the center. Their lives are littered with challenges most Americans don't have to face: hunger, homelessness, parents with serious substance abuse problems and wrenching poverty. Some days, the snack and lunch at the youth safe haven is their only meal. It is a tough life for our 6-to-11-year-olds. For many of these children, the program has been their lifeline for survival.
Several news stories across the United States last month focused on the alarming increase in the number of students arrested inside public schools—and for alarmingly minor behavior.
The Justice Policy Institute recently released a large study on the use of police officers in schools and the resulting arrest rates of students. The report discusses how reports of victimization and bullying have no correlation, positive or negative, with the presence of police officers in schools.
Further, schools with in-house police officers are funneling more kids into the juvenile justice system. A study of such schools found that five times as many students were arrested for disorderly conduct at those schools, even when controlling for economic factors.
Arresting kids for minor misbehavior that would more appropriately be addressed with standard school and parental discipline imposes a high cost on the juvenile justice system, and states are taking notice.
Via the Justice Policy Institute comes a new report titled Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools. The report cites recent cases to conclude that increases in the presence of law enforcement agents in schools, especially in the form of school resource officers (SROs), coincides with increases in referrals to the juvenile justice system, especially for minor offenses like disorderly conduct.
The report concludes the trend causing lasting harm, as arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system disrupt the educational process and can lead to suspensions, expulsions or other alienation from school.
From the Justice Policy's companion blog post: "All of these negative effects set youth on a track to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later on, all at tremendous costs for taxpayers aswell the youth themselves and their communities."
You can dowload the full report (PDF) here.