How Virginia Beach, Va., Is Changing Police Training To Deal With Youth

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Deputy Police Chief Bill Dean of Virginia Beach, Va., tells officers that if you understand the developing and sometimes volatile teen brain, it will make you a better cop. He also says police can make communities safer without being seen as mere law enforcers.

Dean asks a roomful of veteran officers, “Do we have the opportunity to intervene differently?” The same question is being asked in cities such as Cleveland, where violence has spiked in recent years, and where young people often are both victims and attackers, says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams is committed to more community police training and to improving relationships between young people and police.

The leader of Cleveland’s rank-and-file police union also sees benefits in a return to the roots of policing, though he sees obstacles, too. If police act differently, as both helpers and enforcers, will that reduce violence? Lots of cities want to find out. The Plain Dealer, with help of the Solutions Journalism Network, went to Virginia Beach, to learn about about its police training. The city isn’t the only place examining the role of its police or teaching officers about the short-term thinking and irrational nature of the teenage brain. It is among the most progressive. Similar training exists or is being launched in cities from Los Angeles to Indianapolis and in Cleveland. Some believe it’s an essential long-term tool to make communities safer. It wasn’t created simply to quell shootings, and that’s not how success will be measured.

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