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Police and Juvenile Justice


The major issue of juvenile delinquency negatively impacts the country’s social order. This issue is seen as a socio-legal category created in collaboration with the juvenile court, as a label given to youth after a process involving the Police, the general public, and juvenile court officials. International Concern and General Principles of Juvenile Justice. Juvenile offenders are a special population for Police to interact with since their first impressions of law enforcement are often lasting. The duties of a police officer can be broken down into three categories; order maintenance, service tasks, and law enforcement. Police officers have various options for detaining and arresting offenders, and when used properly, these alternatives are advantageous to the offender, the community, and the judicial system.

Police and Juvenile Justice

Juvenile police work is crucial since first impressions of law enforcement officers impact how young people grow up to feel about the Police. There is a higher-than-average rate of juvenile offender involvement in crime, making them a unique problem for law enforcement. American Police arrested an estimated 2.1 million people under 18 in 2005. In 2005, juveniles accounted for roughly 16% of all violent crime arrests and 26% of all property crime arrests. The Police’s involvement with juveniles is increased because they deal with various status offenses, including truancy, curfew violations, and running away, in addition to nondelinquent juvenile issues like neglect, abuse, and missing persons reports. Most urban police agencies have juvenile bureaus or specialized police units to handle the rising number of juvenile cases. Special juvenile officers’ responsibilities include receiving reports of missing children, looking into runaway cases, investigating juvenile crimes, speaking with and interviewing minors, their parents, school officials, and complainants about the details of an offense, keeping juvenile records, and showing up in juvenile court. Juvenile delinquency is a significant issue that negatively affects the country’s social structure.

International Concern for Juvenile Justice

The magnitude of the issue of juvenile delinquency has attracted the focus of criminologists working at the worldwide level as well. The International Penal and Penitentiary Commission worked successfully on preventing crime and treating offenders until October 1951. They repeatedly emphasized the necessity of rational and humane treatment methods that could avoid the need to keep juvenile offenders in prison to dissociate them from the criminal world (Bhagat, 2022). United Nations’ attention was drawn to the issue of juvenile delinquency in both industrialized and developing countries, prompting the organization to formulate guidelines for a Juvenile Justice System. In September 1985, the 7th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Treatment of Offenders was adopted, largely due to the efforts of the United Nations Asia and Far East Institution.

General Principles of Juvenile Justice

Welfare verse Justice Models

Three primary goals should be considered when determining an appropriate punishment for a person convicted of a criminal offense: deterrence, rehabilitation, and retribution. Regarding juvenile criminals, rehabilitation concepts typically have the heaviest weight. It is not a novel idea for the criminal justice system to provide special consideration for minor offenders (Bhagat, 2022). In Roman law, the presumption that a person lacked the mental ability and knowledge necessary to be guilty of a criminal offense was referred to as the “doli in capax” principle. This allowed young children to be shielded from criminal prosecution under Roman law. Although most nations provide some form of special care for children who break the law, the extent to which this is done varies greatly from nation to nation.

Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

One of the most significant causes of juvenile delinquency is exposure to domestic violence. Lawyers in Tulsa who defend juvenile offenders say it is common knowledge that abused kids grow up as aggressive adults. Also, Pressure from friends and peers can impact a young person’s behavior, just as it does from adults in the community. If the child sees all their friends engaging in criminal behavior, he or they may feel forced to conform. In addition, due to a lack of positive adult role models, children are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior. There is a correlation between the amount of positive adult supervision a youngster receives and the reduced likelihood that the child will engage in antisocial behavior. Lastly, family or youth substance addiction is a major contributor to juvenile criminality. Children exposed to substance misuse are often deprived of basic resources and must learn to improvise to survive.

Police Roles and Responsibilities

The criminal justice system’s police officers command the most public attention and educate the public about the legal system. This includes gathering information from witnesses or victims of crimes, issuing tickets for moving violations, and interviewing or arresting suspects in felony or misdemeanor cases. Furthermore, the primary responsibilities of law enforcement officers are crime prevention and law enforcement (Mwangangi, 2019). They have the authority to apprehend suspects, use force up to a reasonable threshold if required, and place detainees under arrest. Many responsibilities and high expectations fall on the shoulders of law enforcement officials.

Police have historically been tasked with preventing and responding to criminal activity by uncovering evidence of wrongdoing and apprehending those responsible for it (Mwangangi, 2019). Regular patrols, victim and witness interviews, and other information gathering contribute to police efforts to detect criminal activity. Lastly, Serving the public is central to the mission of the Police. Helping those in need can involve many activities, from contacting a tow truck for a stranded vehicle to delivering a baby whose mother could not make it to the hospital in time to give birth.

Police–Juvenile Relations

Officers deal with juveniles who commit crimes ranging from simple infractions of social norms to more serious ones. Most interactions between Police and minors are in response to infractions so small that they fall under the purview of law enforcement’s order maintenance function. It can be difficult to communicate with and work with young people; thus, police departments would be wise to provide personnel with cultural sensitivity training. Students can also benefit from classroom instruction on police roles and procedures and on proper conduct while engaging with law enforcement officials. Young people’s understanding of police roles and responsibilities can be enhanced through D.A.R.E. and School Resource Officer programs.

Juveniles are given extra attention in the police force’s service functions. Police are tasked with keeping kids safe and stopping crime. In circumstances of suspected child neglect (such as being left at home alone or in a hot or cold car), endangerment (such as not using a car seat or seat belts), or abuse (such as physical punishment that may cause significant damage or death), it may be necessary to intervene. Statistics reveal that juvenile status offenses like running away are linked to child neglect and abuse, which in turn are often precursors to more serious delinquency. Protection of minors and reducing juvenile delinquency are the fundamental goals of including status offenses in all juvenile statutes.

Juvenile Offending and Police Discretion

Police have broad authority in dealing with juvenile offenders, from issuing a warning and releasing them to taking them into custody and referring them to juvenile court. The discretion of police officers is crucial, as their involvement in cases of suspected lawbreaking is the first step in the juvenile justice system (Gonzalez, 2021). Law enforcement officials have leeway in selecting whether to file formal charges against misbehaving minors or merely tell them to “go on,” “break it up,” or “get on home.” Most interactions between Police and minors are informal, and arrests and detention of minors are rare.

Criticism of police discretion stems from the belief that officers use their wide discretionary powers to unfairly target particular suspects or make choices based on considerations unrelated to the crime at hand. It has been established that police officers’ judgments to take official actions are influenced by extralegal elements such as the offender’s sex, race, social standing, and personal qualities (Gonzalez, 2021). Although girls are less likely to be arrested and committed to juvenile court than males, they are more likely to be referred for status offenses like running away or disrespecting parents. Whether or whether a police officer exercises discretion in dealing with a juvenile depends on the teen’s behavior and attitude. Polite and cooperative juveniles are more likely to get a reprimand rather than a referral to juvenile court.

Racial Disparities and Juvenile Arrests

The adult and juvenile justice systems face significant challenges related to racial inequality. There is no denying the disproportionate representation of people of color (particularly African Americans) in the criminal justice system. This is true at every level: from police arrests to detention centers to courts to prisons (Robles & Watson, 2019). African American youth make up a disproportionately high percentage of all juvenile arrests compared to their overall population share. Although they only made up 17% of the juvenile population in 2005, black kids had twice the average amount of arrests for serious crimes like robbery (68%), murder (54%), auto theft (43%), and severe assault (42%).

Options besides Arrest and Custody by the Police

A juvenile offender may be referred to a delinquency prevention program by a police officer, a youth services bureau, or a community agency like Big Brothers Big Sisters. When Police have probable cause to suspect a juvenile of committing a crime, they usually bring the child to the juvenile bureau for questioning, where the child may be fingerprinted and photographed, and then to the intake unit of the juvenile probation department, where a decision on whether or not to detain the child is made (Robles & Watson, 2019). Modifications made to the station, it is not uncommon for Police to detain a child for a small infraction, bring them to the station to make a report, issue a formal reprimand, and then release the child back to their guardians. As a rule, parents are notified first and given the option of being present during any disciplinary action taken against their child.

Conclusively, due to the seriousness of the problem, criminologists worldwide have begun to concentrate on adolescent delinquency. Analyses have been done of juvenile delinquency causes and general principles of juvenile justice. Police officers in the criminal justice system are the ones that garner the most attention from the general public and who also inform them about the legal system. Along with dealing with juvenile offenders and police discretion, officers also deal with young people who break the law, whether for minor social norm violations or more serious offenses. Last but not least, the conversation has also covered alternatives to arrest and police custody.


Mwangangi, R. K. (2019). The role of the family in dealing with juvenile delinquency. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 7(3), 52-63.

Gonzalez, E. S. (2021). Alternatives to Juvenile Incarceration: Contemporary Juvenile Justice System, Diversion Programs, and Partnerships (Doctoral dissertation, CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, NORTHRIDGE).

Robles-Ramamurthy, B., & Watson, C. (2019). Examining racial disparities in juvenile justice. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 47(1), 48–52.

Bhagat, P. (2022). [eBook]. Retrieved 20 September 2022, from https://www.ijrar.org/papers/IJRAR19H1188.pdf.

(2022). [eBook]. Retrieved 20 September 2022, from https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/19435_Section_II.pdf.

Writer: Ian Morris
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