Understanding the adolescent brain is a topic important to parents, teachers and others in the community, especially police officers who regularly interact with teens.
Adolescents often act impulsively, misinterpret social cues and emotions, get into accidents and fights, and engage in risky behavior. And adolescence – a time when up to 90 percent of adults admit to having committed a crime – continues past the teen years, until age 25 or 26, according to research.
Like many communities, Virginia Beach has a high percentage of residents and visitors in that young age group. In 2014, as a result of advances in the science of brain development and data involving juvenile crime, delinquency and victimization, the Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) began a training program to teach officers about the adolescent brain. The success of the training, which began with a group of police recruits, continued with training all VBPD officers.
Charlene Hoobler, chief operating officer at The Barry Robinson Center, was among a group of community instructors recently recognized by the VBPD for teaching these officers and recruits.
“It was an honor to work with our VBPD officers,” Hoobler said. “They are a fine group of professionals who are as dedicated to their mission as we are to ours here at the Center.”
Juvenile Perspective: Policing the Teen Brain is a community based course delivered with the assistance of The Barry Robinson Center, Virginia Beach Department of Human Services, Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services Division, and Virginia Beach Police Department. Also, Virginia Beach Public Schools, YMCA of South Hampton Roads, and the Green Run Spartans Football Program provide volunteer teens for the program.
“Our CEO Rob McCartney met Deputy Chief William Dean at a Champions for Children meeting,” Hoobler explained. “When Chief Dean told him about the program, Rob knew we should get involved, to help support the training.”
Dean, deputy chief of operations, wrote in a letter about the program, “These instructors have dedicated themselves to bringing the many messages of this class forward to over 750 members of our Department and our Community. The impact of these lessons will resonate in the minds of our student officers for the remainder of their service, and will persist as a training imperative for our agency for the future.”
The intensive two-day class addresses: Normative Adolescent Development; Compromised Youth and Law Enforcement; Traumatized Youth and Law Enforcement; Community Demographics and implications (Race, Poverty, Mobility, Education, Affluence, Military, Immigrant, Single Parent, Incarcerated Parent, Foster Care, Abuse and Neglect, Crime, Pregnancy, Substance Abuse, Literacy, Unemployment, and Decoding Problem Behavior); Asserting Authority Effectively with Teens; Legal Issues; Community Resources; and Interactions with Volunteer Teens and the Juvenile Justice Jeopardy Game.
Hoobler, who has worked at the Center since 2012, brought a clinician’s perspective to the training. She participated in monthly classes for current officers, as well as for recruits at the police academy.
“We believe this training helps our police officers with a better understanding of how teens and young people think and act,” Hoobler said. “Knowing more about the biological factors that contribute to adolescent behavior can help police respond more effectively as they serve and protect everyone in our community.”