Policing the teen brain

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TheNewsDispatch.com on 10/5/2017 by Ben Davis

Training begins for officer/teenager interactions

John Israel leads a discussion on how the teen brain works Thursday morning during a training session entitled “Policing the Teen Brain.”

La PORTE — On Thursday morning, Policing the Teen Brain kicked off at the city of La Porte Police Department.

The two day training program is designed to give law enforcement, teachers and others a better understanding of how to work with adolescents.

“We’ve been in the process over the last three to four years of becoming a J.D.A.I. county,” said La Porte Circuit Court Juvenile Services Director Chip Cotman. “It’s a two day training.”

The day one session featured physiologist John Israel and discussed many tips on how to better deal with teens and issues arising from their brain development.

“The second day is more about learning about La Porte County, statistics and demographics, that type of thing,” Cotman said.

J.D.A.I., which stands for Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative, is a program which focuses on keeping more children out of secure detention, and in the proper programming.

“We’ve been very successful at that,” Cotman said. “Officer Metcalf was trained over in Porter County on policing the teen brain, and Mike Callahan, who is our J.D.A.I. coordinator, also went to the training, and we have now implemented it into La Porte County.”

Cotman added that the program is not only beneficial to the police, but to the community as well.

“They have been doing it for two years now,” he said. “They have been doing it in Michigan City with Michigan City officers. La Porte County, they been doing it with Juvenile service center, probation, some non-profits, we’ve some teachers here today, we’ve got La Porte Chamber President here, the United Way Systems of Care coordinator is here, so it has really been beneficial to the community.”

Cotman also reiterated that the main goal of the program is to help children grow in healthy ways.

“This is part of it, teaching the police how to talk to kids,” Cotman said. “Kids don’t have brain development until about 24 to 26. So officers need to know how to talk to kids, and why they are acting they way they are acting, so this is really a big part of it. The officer always has the last say on if a child gets arrested or not, that’s always there prerogative. But we are trying to give them some different tools that they can use with kids out on the streets, because kids you do have to talk to differently than adults. Kids, you know there brain is ‘we’re gonna challenge authority’. So how do you deescalate that?”

Cotman added that sometimes the best method is listening.

“A lot of times you can deescalate them by just listening to them, talking with them, and handling it that way, instead of slapping the handcuffs on them,” he said.