Today, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) announced a new policy, Interacting with Juveniles, which includes enhancements to current practices, and will be reinforced by additional training for all officers on de-escalation, adolescent brain development, and trauma-informed policing. It is MPD’s policy to protect and serve the residents of the District of Columbia, including juveniles, regardless of whether they are crime suspects, victims, or witnesses.
MPD recognizes that juveniles are different than adults both physically and psychologically, and that interactions with police can have a significant impact on youth. Since April 2019, MPD has worked collaboratively with the DC Office of the Attorney General (OAG), the District’s prosecutor for juvenile offenses, to improve our policies governing interactions with juveniles. We want to ensure that all interactions with juveniles are respectful and that our officers factor in the developmental differences when engaging youth in our city.
“Each interaction with a juvenile is an opportunity to strengthen community relationships while protecting our youth,” stated Chief of Police Peter Newsham. “The nature and circumstances of contacts with police can have a lasting impression on a young person. The policy enhancements are a reminder to our members to always treat individuals, regardless of their age, safely, respectfully, and with the best possible service.”
Through research and collaboration with OAG, MPD has identified practices best suited for the District and is implementing a number of new guidelines in our policy, including:
- Prohibiting the handcuffing of juveniles aged 12 and under unless the juvenile presents a danger to themselves or others and giving officers discretion in handcuffing juveniles aged 13 to 17 based on the severity of the offense and circumstances of the interaction.
- Limiting the arrests of juveniles on scene whenever possible and encouraging officers to apply for a custody order (arrest warrant) when there are no immediate public safety concerns. This policy has already been in place since August 2019 for all school-related incidents.
- Expanding eligibility for juvenile diversion in lieu of arrest by removing criteria that disqualified certain Metro and school-related incidents.
- Consolidating guidance on juvenile policy and procedures into a comprehensive, updated general order.
- Availability of a new OAG Emergency Hotline number available to MPD officers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to consult with an OAG Juvenile Section Supervisor about field and school arrests, custody orders and warrants.
“The Office of the Attorney General is proud that our collaboration with MPD has resulted in new tools for police to productively engage District youth,” said Attorney General Karl A. Racine. “These changes reflect a comprehensive review of proven practices which show that responding to the unique needs of children improves public safety. When police can use interactions with young people as an opportunity to establish trust and help kids stay on the right path, everyone benefits.”
MPD continues to organize and support programs and initiatives focusing on safeguarding youth in the District to promote their growth and development within their communities. The District of Columbia offers a multi-agency approach to serving and protecting youth, including the Child and Family Services Agency, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, District schools, and youth-oriented community organizations.
The full policy is available here: https://go.mpdconline.com/GO/GO_305_01.pdf