FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 29, 2015
Don’t Shoot Coalition Calls For Police Restraint In Interactions With Youth
Rules for Engagement With Youth introduced as Michael Brown shooting anniversary approaches
St. Louis, MO – The Don’t Shoot Coalition, consisting of nearly 50 local organizations formed in response to the police shooting of Michael Brown, have released Rules for Engagement with Youth regarding police engagement with young people engaged in demonstrations, sit-ins and other protest activities . . .
“As school is out and the anniversary of Michael Brown’s shooting approaches, more young people will take to the streets to engage in protests and express their views. It is incumbent that the community, especially the police, approach this with wisdom, restraint and foresight.” said Denise Lieberman, Don’t Shoot co-chair and Senior Attorney for Advancement Project. “Police have the opportunity to shape this formative experience, whether positive or negative.”
The Don’t Shoot Coalition has expressed growing concerns about the treatment and safety of young protestors in light of recent incidents of police aggression. The unprovoked May 29 tasing of protestors by St. Louis Metropolitan Police, is just one example demonstrating the escalation, unpredictability and inconsistency with which police treat young protestors.
Don’t Shoot leadership has reached out to the police departments of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and several North County law enforcement agencies to discuss guidelines for interacting with youth. Talks with some of those agencies are underway, and the Coalition is hopeful that will accept its offers to confer.
With these concerns in mind, the Don’t Shoot Coalition urges special training for police regarding their interactions with youth.
“Police should approach youth with respect and restraint, viewing youth protest as a ‘teachable moment’ in which young people learn how to express their views and exercise their constitutional rights,” said Don’t Shoot Coalition co-chair and Executive Director for Veterans For Peace Michael T. McPhearson.
“Unfortunately, too often we see police escalate otherwise manageable situations,” said McPhearson. “We see the clear need for area-wide training to increase positive outcomes in such interactions.
The Rules for Engagement of Youth follow below.
Rules for Engagement with Youth
Every police officer and law enforcement agency engaging with youth protestors this summer should:
Make serving and protecting youth the top priority.
Treat young people like they would want their own children treated by others.
When in doubt about an individual’s age, err on the side of caution and assume that individual is a juvenile.
Demonstrate humane understanding, displaying firmness when necessary but not rigidity, in order to build better rapport and relationships.
When possible, remove barriers to dialogue and connection such as helmets, weapons and shields.
Allow teens to “vent” and discuss options rather than cracking down quickly with “failure to comply.”
Create emotional “exit routes” as well as physical ones in interactions and confrontations with youth.
Act with an understanding that humiliation or disrespect will only create defiance.
Deflect and de-escalate anger rather than confronting it head on. Humor and self-deprecation can be effective with youth in this regard.
Be open to listening and hearing. Avoid personalizing or attempting to debate protesters.
Maintain adequate distance to ensure that clear space is created to allow for self-expression.
When orders are necessary, give adequate time for teens to absorb the information and respond.
Refrain from intimidation tactics (such as tapping of shields) when children are present. Do not use fear to compel compliance.
Keep physical force to an absolute minimum. Physical restraint must be commensurate with size, strength and condition of the individual.
Refrain from using mace or tasers on youth.
Respect a juvenile’s right to have an adult present when questioned.
Respect a juvenile’s right to special protections when detained.
Ensure that police throughout the St. Louis region receive training on the Effective Policing of Youth model.