With many of its responsibilities set to take effect on July 1, the new Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission created last year to oversee policing in Massachusetts issued recommendations Wednesday for how officers should interact with minor children.
The release of the guidance marks one of the first official actions of the commission tasked with certifying all police in the state by the end of the year and adjudicating complaints of unfair policing.
The nine-member POST Commission, which has still not been fully funded, faced a deadline of June 30 to issue guidance for police on developmentally appropriate de-escalation techniques and alternatives to use of force with minor children.
The commission recommended that law enforcement be trained to deal with children and to understand how minor children, including those with developmental or mental health conditions, might react differently than adults in stressful situations. The six-page document also recommends “communication strategies which avoid threats and intimidation and promote calm age-appropriate language, provide choices and allow ample time for compliance,” and urges law enforcement agencies to encourage officers of all ranks to establish community relationships with minors and adults outside of enforcement actions.
“The POST Commission issued its guidance to suggest productive ways for law enforcement to engage and build positive relationships with youth while keeping communities safe—based on facts, knowledge and scientific research,” said Margaret Hinkle, a retired judge and chair of the POST Commission. “We believe this guidance represents a balanced approach and is available for Law Enforcement Agencies across the Commonwealth to consider as part of their efforts to strengthen community policing.”
The Legislature is currently negotiating a supplemental spending bill that would appropriate $5 million for the operations of the POST Commission and another $12.5 million to help pay for implementation of the policing reform law.