Kurdistani police and children: Policing for future good citizens, not criminals

By Ala Jaff:

While the police services in Kurdistan are moving at groundbreaking speed in terms of police ‘reform’, there is still much progress needed in dealing with children offenders and children as victims and in upholding their basic human rights. Equally requiring police attention is the issue of children as witnesses.

Whilst one article cannot possibly address all aspects of police reform, given the complexity of political, economical and social issues in Kurdistan, I will however attempt to consider some critical points to spark much-needed debate around the issues of child protection by the police and the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

Children and youths (juveniles) are “distinctively unique” type of offenders in that they are going through various forms of maturation and psychological, sexual and physiological changes, which must be handled appropriately and by trained professionals. In times of crisis, where most juvenile offenders lack proper social order, structure and, at times, parental guidance (to name just a few matters), the most critical part of society, that must not fail them, is the CJS.

As an important feature and arm of the CJS, the Kurdistani Police must take a first step towards developing a specialized Unit that deals specifically with juveniles. The police officers within this Unit need to be selected professionals who must be properly educated, trained and appropriately sensitive in dealing with both children as offenders and children as victims.

Surely all fields of police training and work are equally important. However, due to the vulnerability of juveniles involved in the CJS, this Unit should have a ‘special priority’ status to help minimize trauma caused to children. This ‘special priority’ status should be complemented and supported by ‘on-call’ medical professionals, lawyers, social workers, psychologist as well as other important actors within the CJS to protect the best interests of children while police conduct their investigations.

Moreover, this Unit must have a quota and comprise a minimum 25 percent female police officers who are equally qualified and at times more capable in dealing with juveniles as offenders and as victims due to their intrinsic trustworthiness and the compassion they emit, areas in which some male officers fail or are not capable of expressing.

While everyone must be treated humanely, professionally and with due care, this must be adhered to even more so when it comes to children. The initial interactions between police and juveniles on both spectrums of crime (as victims and as offenders) are critical for numerous reasons. For instance, these first interactions could help victims of crime with the healing process while it can also harness offenders to join in cooperating with the police – this is even more important when children are involved in terrorism, as they could provide critical and crucial criminal intelligence to counter-terrorism.

The days of tough-handed policing and police practices are over, especially when it comes to dealing with children. Therefore, police need to be retrained properly to deal with children from their initial contact to their final visit.

With reform, new legislative powers, strategies and attitudes must become the cornerstone of the CJS in dealing with children—extending from the political system and its leaders to the patrol officer at the basic level. While it is an understandably complex process, it is imperative to have new laws implemented, new courts set up, retrained judges appointed, new rehabilitation centers built (not prisons) and police ‘reformatted’ with new training and approaches towards dealing with children.

This new type of thinking must include the adoption of reintegration and rehabilitation-based strategies, such as moving from the ‘Punishment’ phase to a ‘Rehabilitation’ phase for all crimes, regardless of the offence. Modern policing theory highlights the importance of remembering that all criminals (especially in the Western context), will eventually have an Expired Warrant, meaning all criminals will eventually be released into our communities, will become our neighbors and become part of our societies. Therefore, all efforts must be exerted to provide them with as much education, help and tools as necessary to enable and encourage them to become productive members of society— after having served their rehabilitation sentences.

Programs to create new life skills:

With these new reforms, basic but imperative rules and policies need to be adopted. The CJS, policy-makers and police must realize that children must be given reduced sentences to help with their rehabilitation into society. Numerous rehabilitation options and alternative measures should be legislated to provide official guidance to the CJS and the police. These alternative measures can consist of community service, anger management courses, conflict resolution, elementary and high school education, life skills, trades and technical courses that would help them find themselves and future employment in society. This is in addition to medical and psychological services—which must be provided to address other issues.

The aim of the entire CJS and police should be focused on how to reduce or even eliminate the chances of re-offending by children and – through the implementation of these types of programs – juveniles can be taught positive and productive social behaviors away from criminality.

‘What kind of neighbor do you want?’

Objections to this type of 21st century policing can be calmed by asking: “What kind of a neighbor do you want?” Almost everyone in society will want a productive juvenile who has been held accountable for his or her crimes. But, more importantly, society will likely accept a child who has been given an opportunity to demonstrate their worth, who has been re-educated, reintegrated and rehabilitated while being held accountable for their crime.

As a cornerstone to rehabilitation, new practical and educational programs must be instituted by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to teach and ‘rewire’ juveniles so that they do not become a burden on society or repeat (violent) offenders. Moreover, police officers also need to be trained to deal with, for instance, juveniles who are victimized by family members, or where they are the perpetrators of serious offences such as sexual assault (rape) or even murder. Providing this type of training to police and education to juveniles will benefit society in the long run as it could prevent future victims.

In conclusion, while police reform is a complex, resource intensive process, the rewards are enormous for society. It is also imperative to remember that children are the future and must be given an opportunity to become great, productive future citizens and not today’s offenders and tomorrow’s criminals.  The Criminal Justice System and Police alike must be taught that children should be handled with utmost care and provided with the respect and resources they need to make a better future, regardless of their past criminal behaviors.

Ala Jaff is a practicing police and security professional in Canada. He holds a Police Foundations diploma and a BA in Law. He is currently working towards his Masters degree in Criminal Justice, Governance and Police Science.

Copyright © 2013 Kurdistantribune.com

One Response to Kurdistani police and children: Policing for future good citizens, not criminals
  1. Mamkak
    October 31, 2013 | 05:28

    Good Ala Jaff,
    You have touched upon important points related to policing in Kurdistan. I hope that the Kurdish authority will read and understand what you have targeted in respect with dealing specifically with children and juvenile.
    To the best of my knowledge, however, these two groups have not been targeted properly, yet there is a specialized detention centre that directly deals with juvenile rehabilitation.
    Well done Ala.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL https://kurdistantribune.com/kurdistani-police-children-policing-for-future-good-citizens-not-criminals/trackback/