Daniel PollackDaniel Pollack, professor at Wurzweiler School of Social Work, co-authored an article with Lisa Thurau ’91C, executive director of Strategies for Youth, for the March 14, 2018, issue of New York Law Journal. Titled “Improving Training, Interviewing Skills When Investigating Pre-Teens, Adolescents,” the authors argue that law enforcement agencies need to train and guide law enforcement officials to handle cases with youth with the skills, resources, and information necessary to avoid results leading to severe miscarriages of justice resulting in traumatic impacts.

First, police and prosecutors need to understand that “in the delinquency setting, young children do not perceive, process, and experience the world as adults do and also need to be treated differently,” a point recently made by Judge Jane Stranch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit when she wrote in a case that “it is of unquestionable importance that law enforcement officers receive proper training and support in how to understand and interact with children—whether they are accusers or the accused—in a way that recognizes the unique needs and vulnerabilities of children.”

Clearly, policies, practices, and training need to shift, but one of the obstacles is the “decentralized model of policing,” which often means that “states do not take responsibility for ensuring that appropriate policies exist and are followed, and whether they have been updated to reflect the law and best practices.” Litigation, then, remains the only way to challenge these policies, but litigation has limits when it comes to enforcing changes.

The authors conclude that “without state-sponsored statutory or regulatory oversight mechanisms, there are few incentives to ensure that law enforcement practices for young children will change quickly. And that’s tragic.”

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