Part 3: APS PD and the Professionals Who Work with Our Community’s Youth
By John Prevost and Chris Newman
Part 2 of this series ended with a summary of the types of cases and situations that are addressed by the Fulton County Juvenile Court (FCJC). The scooter boys may have been allowed by the court to remain at home or held in a regional juvenile detention center operated by the state until the delinquency hearing. The court’s evidence-based assessment tool helps make this important decision. During 2022, a total of 319 assessments were completed. If found guilty (delinquent), punishment could be a long term (months to years) at a Youth Development Campus (YDC), depending on the crime. A total of 536 children were found to be delinquent that year in Fulton County, and another 388 were placed in “diversion,” where no delinquency would be recorded if served successfully.
Cases involving serious felonies (aggravated assault, robbery, sex crimes, etc.) where youths are assessed as high risk, may receive the “most intensive level of supervision and community treatment.” The court also employs electronic monitoring, in-home wrap around services, and other strategies. Another unit both delivers and refers “community-based programs to youths and their families served by the court,” such as anger management, mentoring, life skills, and family and individual counseling.
This last installment of our series investigates where Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and APS’ police department fit into this picture.
Our mothers used to say, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” We know the scooter boys were out in the neighborhood during school hours. We spoke to Katie Howard, our district’s school board member. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School (KMS) employs behavioral specialists and social workers. KMS teams up with programs such as CHRIS 180 and “at risk” youth centers. A sign that this is working is that KMS has a very high average daily attendance – students are in school and not on the street.
We also spoke to George Applin, the Chief of the APS Police Department. Chief Applin has a long and distinguished career in law enforcement. APS established its own police department in 2016 and employs about 70 officers, with two officers in each high school, one per middle school, and several officers rotating among elementary schools. APS PD employs several investigators, dispatchers, and a records unit — it is an independent, fully staffed police department. APS PD polices only on APS property.
Officer applicants require two years of experience as sworn officers elsewhere, and then must complete additional training in counseling, crisis intervention, communication, mental health, problem solving, and more. APS PD’s philosophy is “engagement, not enforcement.” Officers use restorative practices and build relationships with students to intervene before problems occur. Officers provide a triangle of services: mentoring, education, and lastly… policing. The number one “crime” problem in schools is fighting. Chief Applin pointed out that truancy is not a crime; it is a concern for school social workers, not the police! Fewer than 300 students each year are referred by APS PD to the juvenile court. Officers routinely provide necessities to students who have challenging home lives. Chief Applin proudly mentioned that one of his officers adopted a student.
We hope that this and the previous two articles in this series have provided neighbors here in Southeast Atlanta a basic understanding of the role of both the APS police force and also the Fulton County Juvenile Court. In addition to parents engaged in various student activities, there are numerous ways for neighbors to volunteer in roles such as tutoring and mentoring.
Note: The GPNA Public Safety Committee seeks to understand and educate itself and our neighbors on the various players in the criminal justice system to identify how we can advocate for the right resources and for system improvements. We advocate for openness in sharing information about agencies’ resources, operations, staffing, workload, and effectiveness. Previous articles reported on the courts, probation, and most recently, on Policing Alternatives and Diversion (PAD).
John Prevost is an instructor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University. Chris Newman is the Chair of the GPNA Public Safety Committee.