The Gainesville Police Department began a Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Initiative in 2012. We realized that in our community that the rate of black youth are referred to the Juvenile Justice system is four times higher than white youth.
The following factors were examined as we came to this finding:
- Children living in poverty
- Absentee counts in area public schools
- Documented disruptive behavioral issues
- FCAT (third grade assessment) results for at-risk children
- School suspensions
- Violation of Probation
- Time of day juveniles commit crimes
- Existing support services
So, in 2012, the Gainesville Police Department applied for, and was selected to receive a 2 year grant from the Center for Children's Law and Policy. GPD was one of two agencies funded nationally in 2012.
We are now leading the efforts in reducing the arrests of black youth in our schools in our community. How did we accomplish that?
- We developed alternatives to arrests through our collaboration with Meridian and Corner Drug Store.
- We gave our officers and supervisors other options besides arresting our youth.
- We now demand the issuance of Civil Citations for first time misdemeanor offenders.
But the work is not done. We have many goals for the future:
See a Gainesville Sun article about our DMC Initiative
- Improve Mental Health Services delivered to schools/students through a series of meetings with providers, law enforcement, school personnel and probation and parole.
- Develop a System of Care that will provide resources to families (mental health, outreach, tutoring, etc.) as well as communication with other stakeholders involved in the child's well being. (Based on the Clayton County, GA model.)
- Continue to develop alternatives to arrest (when possible) through exploration of other available programs like mediation, restorative justice and community conferencing.
- Identify topics and resources to be developed for police officer training. Training will also be offered to the schools and all partners and stakeholders.
- Institutionalize training initiatives and provide an avenue for materials to be continuously updated and improved.
- Institutionalize police training initiatives
- Continue to examine and refine data collection efforts to better track the at-risk population
- Encourage communication between stakeholders, community partners especially mental health providers
- Expand the impact of this initiative to include other behavioral issues
(the objective is to intervene early before disruptive behaviors become chronic).