How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship with Law Enforcement

March 23, 2017


Courtesy of Steven Marshall. BYMS students Elyzabeth Andersen (left), Jocelyn Castaneda (middle), and Angelo Calavitta (right) speaking with Deputy Nick Doty.

Occasionally teens may have a run-in with law enforcement officers or the law. However, as teens grow and develop it is essential for them to know how to maintain this relationship. The Matador Messenger brings you the latest in the “How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship” series with law enforcement.

In the news, teens are often given a bad name for giving law enforcement officers a hard time. This may be true for some teens but why is it that they may have to be put in the situation in the first place?

According to a Survey Monkey of 100 BYMS participants, 15% break the law, 12% act as a witness, 10% contact an officer for a school related project, 29% encounter law enforcement for a different reason, and the majority of 53% of teens don’t encounter law enforcement.

Some of the cost common reasons why teens may have a run-in with a law enforcement officer are “Someone could be in Junior High and maybe I might decide to cross the street where I shouldn’t be crossing the street or perhaps I was out past curfew and I should have been at home,” according to Lt. Mark Stichter, Public Information Officer (PIO), for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Most of the participants indicated they do not have a run-in with law enforcement; however, teens having an encounter is more common as 29% had an encounter 1-4 times, 4% had an encounter 4-6 times, and 6% had an encounter 6 times or more.

Being in a confrontation with an officer isn’t something taught like math or science and survey participants asked the question “What am I supposed to do if I run into a law enforcement officer?” Out of 100 BYMS teenage participants, 48% indicated they are unsure of how to act in an encounter with law enforcement.

The next time you are in a confrontation with a law enforcement officer, follow the advice to deal with the situation by “…slowing down and just listening to what the officer has to say, not arguing and not trying to do something they are asking you not to do,” Stichter continued.

Conflicts between officers and teens may occur because of brain development. Previously, it was thought that the brain was fully developed by age 6; whereas, further research showed that the brain will not be fully developed until later in the developmental process. This means that the teenage brain is still different to an adult brain which could affect how the teen perceives the officer according to

As the teen brain is still not fully developed, peer pressure can play a role in encountering law enforcement. As a result, young teens are not prepared to make wise choices such as drugs, alcohol, etc. until 17-18 when they can more effectively handle peer pressure. “Now they’re getting pressure at 13 and 14, when they’re too young to resist. It’s not that child development has changed, it’s that the demands are coming at earlier ages,” explained David Elkind, professor of child development at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, in an interview with

“It’s not that child development has changed, it’s that the demands are coming at earlier ages”

“Roughly half of all youth arrests are made on account of theft, simple assault, drug abuse, disorderly conduct, and curfew violations,” according to

Although not all teens will be put in this situation, they shouldn’t ignore the possibility. According to the majority of participants who don’t encounter law enforcement, they follow the law and may even have an interest in possible future careers regarding law enforcement.

Therefore, if a teen would like to go into a law enforcement career, the advice offered by Lt. Mark Stichter is “work on your leadership skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills. Being in law enforcement involves a lot of writing, make writing a priority, learning to write and read very well.

“Work on some jobs here and there because a lot of police departments like to know that you’re committed and working hard at something. It’s about starting something and ending it,” Stichter continued.

 Lt. Mark Stichter

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    Tim WangMay 24, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    I was surprised to learn the law encounter percentage with teens is lower than I expected.