Too often, police and youth meet during bad circumstances—a broken up house party, a car accident, an incident of vandalism. Mauldin’s zero-tolerance policy caused an adversarial and distrusting relationship between officers and area youth.
The Mauldin Police Department made it a priority to improve the relationship and better communicate with teenagers. They put aside their zero-tolerance stance in favor of individually treating each juvenile offense. Officials also started four separate youth initiatives, each designed to bring law enforcement and the community’s young people together in a positive way. The city funded these programs with the help of donations from local individuals, businesses and churches.
Officers and other city employees set up the Mauldin Youth Court where first-time offenders could avoid the juvenile justice system. With a municipal judge presiding, local high school students run the trial as if it were a traditional court of law. A jury of the offender’s peers hands down sentencing, which usually involves community service, tutoring or an essay. Teens who have gone through Mauldin’s youth court have a recidivism rate 5 percent lower than the rest of the state.
The Mauldin Youth Academy and Explorer programs allow officers to interact directly with students. During the Explorer program, high school students learn about careers in law enforcement through hands-on activities and mentorship. The city looks to this pool of potential candidates when hiring police officers.
In the Youth Academy, at-risk middle school students spend four weeks with officers. To build self esteem and character, they interact with the officers and others in the community. After the program, each student is matched up with an officer for a year-long mentorship.
The Fifth Quarter is a unique program the police department sponsors with the help of the local high school and churches. The program tries to prevent the swarming that happens after Friday night home football games. The mass loitering in parking lots was contributing to juvenile delinquency and frightening residents. The Fifth Quarter offers students an alternative to hanging out in parking lots. Officers host a get-together at the local skating rink, serving free food and giving out prizes. There has been no report of swarming since Mauldin began sponsoring the Fifth Quarter. Officials hope to expand the program into basketball season.
Through these programs, Mauldin police officers can be tough on crime but still have positive interactions with area youth.
Contact Chief Bryan Turner at email@example.com or 864.289.8906.