People under 25 are ‘developmentally different’ youths, says Chicago Police Department, which hires 21-year-olds to be cops

CHICAGO — While you were enjoying the holidays, your Chicago Police Department leadership issued a new general order that formally defines 18- to 25-year-olds as “youth” who must be given special consideration by the city’s police officers.

“Youths and children are developmentally different from adults and therefore require the use of unique approaches during voluntary contacts, investigatory stops, searches, and custodial contacts,” the order, entitled “INTERACTIONS WITH YOUTH AND CHILDREN,” explains.

Claiming people under 25 are “developmentally different from adults” is an interesting starting point for a police department that accepts applications from 20-year-olds and hires at the age of 21.

When cops encounter “youths and children … the primary concern will be to safeguard the youth’s and the child’s emotional and physical well-being,” the order continues. “All members will maintain a sensitive approach in responding to these situations to minimize any trauma.”

Officers, even those who are technically “youths,” will “engage with youths and children in a developmentally appropriate manner,” the department order continues, saying cops must “[take] into account their age and physical, cognitive, social, emotional, cultural, and linguistic development.”

Exactly how police officers under 25, whom the department believes are not fully developed, can make those determinations is a mystery.

In one notable passage, the general order tells cops that “a youth or a child may not comply right away with orders.” Presumably, CPD leaders considered that as they issued the order to “youth” police officers.

Will police supervisors be providing TLC and giving special consideration to youth-aged officers who don’t comply with orders on the job? Will they, as the order requires, “make efforts to allow time for the youth or child to vent their frustrations and give them an opportunity to comply?”

The order also instructs the city’s cops to “exercise discretion to use alternatives to arrest and referral to court,” such as issuing warnings, “conducting informal counseling to caution youths and children regarding the consequences of their actions,” and issuing citations.

It does not explain how a “developmentally different” officer under the age of 25 can be expected to mentor a “developmentally different” member of the public.

Children and youths may come “into contact with the Juvenile or Criminal Justice System” “due to factors beyond their control,” the order states. It does not mention any specific uncontrollable factors that could result in someone committing a crime.

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About Tim Hecke 326 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is