It is not uncommon for police to respond to calls for service regarding out-of-control juveniles.  Good officers take the time to learn about behavior disorders so they can help a family begin appropriate interventions for the health of the juvenile and the family. 

MRAI is a law enforcement term used in Illinois to describe a juvenile who is not in the process of committing a criminal offense, but needs emotional health services instead.

This post was written  by Alyssa Dawson.  Alyssa is an LEJA student at Western Illinois University, and this post is part of a presentation she made in her Juvenile Justice class.


            Where I grew up as a child, there were a handful of children that had behavioral issues. Those children were typically kicked out of that school and sent to an alternative school in another town. They would often act out and disrupt class multiple times a day, and it was usually a day-to-day occurrence. Some of those students even displayed symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a diagnosis given to children who are persistently negative, hostile, disobedient, and defiant towards authority, and which interferes with the child’s everyday functioning. There are three categories that the symptoms fall into. Those categories are; angry and irritable, argumentative and defiant behavior, and vindictiveness. There is no specific cause for ODD, but there is a combination of factors that can play a role in the development of the disorder. They include biological, psychological, and social factors. In order to be diagnosed, the child must exhibit four of the nine symptoms for at least six months or longer. ODD can vary in severity: mild, moderate, and severe. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is what most doctors use to diagnose ODD in children. Only 3.3% of the population has been diagnosed with ODD. Of those diagnosed with ODD, between 14% and 40% also have ADHD, up to 14% have anxiety, and up to 9% have depression as a co-existing condition. Among younger children, ODD is more common in boys, but once children reach school-age, it occurs equally in boys and girls. There is no way to prevent ODD, but research shows that early-intervention and school-based programs along with therapy can help improve behavior and prevent them from getting worse. There are certain types of treatment and programs that can help the child and family cope with the ODD diagnosis.

Conduct disorder (CD) is a psychiatric condition in children that exhibit aggression, lying, stealing, and other behavior that is socially unacceptable. The DSM-5 classifies two major subtypes of CD; childhood-onset and adolescent-onset. For the childhood-onset, at least one of the criteria of antisocial behavior must be exhibited by a child younger than 10 years old. For adolescent-onset, there are no characteristics presented before the age of 10. Brain damage, traumatic events, genes, and child abuse are some causes of CD. Experts say that there are six factors that play a role in developing conduct disorder. CD is in 4.58% of boys and 4.5% of girls. In a study conducted in four schools in Kanke, with 240 students in the survey, childhood-onset was found in 73% and adolescent-onset was found in 23% of the students that had conduct disorder. Of the students with CD, 36% had mild conduct disorder, 64% had moderate, and 0% had severe. CD is more common in boys than it is in girls and is more common in cities than in rural areas. 40% of these children will have antisocial personality disorder as an adult. Some risk factors are: children that come from homes that are disadvantaged, dysfunctional, or disorganized. Some children who have CD also have coexisting conditions. The only way to diagnose a child with CD is to have them diagnosed by a child psychiatrist or a qualified mental health expert. There are certain treatments that help with CD, such as, cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, peer group therapy, and medicine.

There is no way to prevent ODD or CD, but positive parenting strategies can reduce the risk. While having a child diagnosed with ODD or CD can be difficult to cope with, there are a few ways to deal with it. You must keep all your appointments, take part in family therapy, develop a treatment plan, and reach out for support from others.


Police and Juvenile Interventions: A Brief Review

This post was written by Elizabeth Conner.  Elizabeth is an LEJA student at WIU, and this post is a summary of a project she presented to her Juvenile Justice class.

There are many different situations police respond to for juveniles.  The big one that police respond to are abuse and neglect of a child in a home.  The police response to a call of neglect or abuse is to access the situation and take the child into temporary custody without a warrant if they feel the child is in danger.  This is to protect the child from any other harm that could come to them in the current situation they were in.

When interviewing the child there can be some challenges that arise that investigators should be aware of; many children do not want to tell the investigator anything out of fear of being taken away from their parents or guardian, they also are frightened by places they do not know with someone they are unfamiliar with so put them in a comfortable area and make it child friendly.

Police also work in school to deter students from a life of crime.  There were many initiatives taken to try to accomplish this, but the best one is the Student Resource Officer (SRO) program.  This has proven very effective to deter students from getting into a life of crime.  The SRO program was created in 1958 in Flint, Michigan. Student Resource officers do not enforce school rule, but instead they work with the students, parents and school staff to apply preventative techniques for youths who are causing problems. Techniques include counseling the children and their parents, referring them to social agencies, and referring them to drug or alcohol agencies, however they still must remain in contact with the school daily.

Finally, a big problem in our society today is school shootings.  There are four different types of threats that a child could make.  The first is a direct threat. An example of a direct threat is “I’m going to put a bomb in John’s locker”.  This is a big indicator that the child is going to do something traumatic.  Second is an indirect threat.  An example of this type is “If I wanted to, I could blow up this school”.  Third is a veiled threat.  An example of this threat is “We would all be better off if this school was destroyed”.  Fourth are conditional threats.  An example of this type is “If you do not go out with me I will blow up this school”.  Not all threats are equal, but if you hear a child say something along these lines it should be investigated further.  If a child does go through with the threatened violence the response of police is to go in immediately and try to force a surrender.  The protocol used to be to wait for SWAT and more information, but the protocol has changed.  This change was a positive change for the children who may have been killed while the first responder was waiting for either other officers or SWAT.