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Redesigned station adjustment forms can lessen the confusion for juveniles arrested by Evanston police officers and provide clarity about the next steps for the juveniles and their families in this unnerving process.

Once a juvenile is arrested and brought to the police station, a police officer has some discretion about the next step. One possibility is issuing a station adjustment, which can be used as an alternative to charging the juvenile with a crime and prosecuting him or her in juvenile court.

There are two types of station adjustment forms – formal and informal. An informal station adjustment is used when there is probable cause the minor committed the offense, Evanston Police Sergeant Jason Garner told the RoundTable.  “Finding probable cause means that the police had good reason to believe that the minor committed the offense and/or there is enough evidence to show that an offense has likely been committed,” he said.  

A formal station adjustment is used when there is probable cause that the juvenile committed the offense and the juvenile has admitted to his or her involvement, said Sgt. Garner.

The incident for which the juvenile was arrested does not determine whether to issue a station adjustment, Sgt. Garner said. Rather, he said, a police officer will consider the seriousness of the incident, the history and age of the juvenile, whether the juvenile was aggressive or acted with premeditation and whether weapons were involved.

The Alternatives to Arrest Committee

Before she left office, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl created the Alternatives to Arrest Committee composed of certain alderman and residents.  The main goal of the Committee, according to the City’s website, is to find local alternatives to arrests for misdemeanors and reduce the number of young adults that have a difficult time finding a job later in life because of an arrest or conviction on their record. Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite serves as the committee chair.

On Sept. 5, the City’s Human Services Committee heard a presentation about the new Station Adjustment forms.

If the police officer decides a station adjustment is appropriate, the officer must fill out a station adjustment form, which must be signed by the officer, the juvenile and a parent or guardian.

“We found the station adjustment forms to be confusing and mired in legalese,” said Patrick Keenan-Devlin, Executive Director of the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy and a member of the Alternatives to Arrest Committee.

Simpler Language Replaces Legalese

The revisions and simplifications, Mr. Keenan-Devlin said, were designed to ensure that families and juveniles faced with reading, understanding and signing such a form understand that the juvenile was in fact arrested, that she or he has  certain due process rights, and that there are terms and conditions with which the juvenile and the family must comply in order to avoid court involvement.

Information on the Police Department’s old form, titled “Minor and Parental Agreement – Informal Station Adjustment, begins, “An Informal Station Adjustment is defined as a procedure when a juvenile police officer determines that there is probable cause to believe that the minor has committed an offense.  A minor shall receive a total of no more than five informal station adjustments statewide during his/her minority. An Informal Station Adjustment does not constitute an adjudication of delinquency or a criminal conviction.”

The committee replaced that language with the following : “You have been arrested. You are being given an Informal Station Adjustment, which is an alternative to juvenile court. It is not a finding of delinquence or a criminal conviction. You have the right to refuse this agreement.  If you refuse this agreement or do not follow the terms below, you may receive a formal station adjustment or be sent to juvenile court.” Both the old and the new forms provide definitions.

There is additional language in the new Formal Station Adjustment, stating how the juvenile may cancel his or her agreement to the terms of the station adjustment and the consequences of doing so – possible referral to juvenile court.

Restorative Support

Under the new station adjustment forms, an officer may require that the juvenile “participate in restorative and supportive services.”

The revisions to the form were a group effort, Mr. Keenan-Devlin said, but he singled out Karen Tollenaar Demorest, Executive Director of the Youth Job Center, who added a dimension of support and accountability to the process.

“She brought to the committee that we should see the station adjustment forms as an opportunity to catch children when they are teetering. The community should be coming together at that point in a restorative manner in providing a whole host of services – not just the mandate of community services but services that offer job counseling, that offer homelessness prevention services – services that are really restorative and rehabilitative,” Mr. Keenan-Devlin said.

Police Chief Richard Eddington had already approved the forms, so the action of the Human Services Committee on Sept. 5 was only to accept the forms and place them on file.

The Police Department is already using the forms, Sgt. Garner said, adding, “No feedback is available, yet, though it certainly appears to be a good tool.” Juvenile officers, who use the form, are receiving training.

“This is just a follow-up in a whole suite of things the committee has taken on,” said Ald. Braithwaite. “The next big thing is to take a look at offenses committed by juveniles. We hope to direct them from the Skokie [Cook County] court house to [the City’s] administrative adjudication procedures.”