Bartholomew County and Columbus law enforcement, including school resource officers, invited local junior high and high school students to get to know them on the ice of Hamilton Center.
The officers skated with 121 youth from area schools and enjoyed food and refreshments. There were also prize giveaways during the event.
The two-hour event, sponsored by the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), through the juvenile court operations in Bartholomew County, was held from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 11.
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The idea behind the event was to allow law enforcement officers and teens to simply go out to the ice rink and hang out and have fun, said Bartholomew County Juvenile Court Magistrate Heather Mollo.
JDAI in Bartholomew County is one of many programs throughout the state that is in place to evaluate the operation of law enforcement regarding juveniles — which juveniles are being detained in secure detention and why, Mollo explained. While an emphasis is placed on keeping the community safe, the needs of the juvenile are also paramount as secure detention for a juvenile can mean being cut off from the support system of family and school and being exposed to possibly concerning influences by other juveniles in detention.
Another initiative out of JDAI’s efforts has been to help law enforcement officers understand the “teen brain,” Mollo said. Officers are trained with a special curriculum that goes over teen impulsiveness and potential reactions when dealing with authority figures, to prepare officers for those responses.
JDAI also is sponsoring events for teens and law enforcement throughout the year such as the free skating event to help develop better understanding and communication between them.
In addition to the law enforcement officers and school resource officers, Magistrate Mollo also skated with the teens at the event, she said.
“It was just about inviting the kids to come out and hang out with the law enforcement officers and have fun,” Mollo said. “I don’t think all of us (officers and the judge) looked great out there, but we were having fun,” she said.