Improving Interactions between Youth and Police

The Challenge

Developmental differences in young adults make them more likely to be impulsive and susceptible to negative peer influences and less apt to weigh the long-term consequences of their actions. This can lead to escalated interactions with law enforcement, making it critical that officers are trained both to understand and respond appropriately to young people’s behavior. By changing the ways officers and youth interact, there is tremendous potential to reduce unnecessary escalation and establish trusting relationships that can lead to improved community safety.

The Project

Through her Stoneleigh Fellowship, Rhonda McKitten is working with the Philadelphia Police Department to expand officer training to reduce the escalation of conflicts between youth and police. In addition, she is advising City stakeholders on incorporating adolescent development research into ongoing juvenile and criminal justice reforms.

This Stoneleigh Fellowship will enable Rhonda to:

  • Research best practices and develop officer trainings. Rhonda will audit the Police Department’s existing policies and trainings and research national best practices related to police-youth relations. She will develop new training curricula that includes modules on adolescent development, youth trauma, the collateral consequences of juvenile adjudications, special education and students with disabilities, and implicit bias.
  • Institutionalize trainings and policy changes. Rhonda will deliver trainings in coordination with Police Academy staff and develop a train-the-trainers module and manuals. She will also disseminate the curricula to stakeholders at the state and national level for replication and serve as a liaison for the Police Department across related reform initiatives.
Photo Credit: Pennsylvania Disproportionate Minority Contact DMC Youth/Law Enforcement Corporation

Rhonda McKitten, JD

Stoneleigh Fellow

2016 - 2019

Youth Policy and Training Specialist

Philadelphia Police Department


Project Updates