Stoneleigh Fellow Kevin Bethel spoke about his experience with the Philadelphia Police School Diversion Program at a seminar held by the Committee on Law and Justice of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in Washington DC.
Kevin Bethel, a former Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner, was dismayed in 2014 to learn that police officers in his city were making 1,600 arrests of students each year— many of them for relatively minor offenses such as marijuana possession, fighting, or bringing weapons into school as a defense against bullying.
Bethel believed that most such cases could be handled by sending accused students to various social service providers rather than processing them in the juvenile justice system. He devised a diversion program with a goal of cutting the arrest total in half.
The effort has far achieved that goal, reducing arrests to only 456 in the program’s fourth year, Bethel told a seminar sponsored by the Committee on Law and Justice of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.