Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence

The IACP in partnership with the Yale Child Study Center are engaged in a multi-year initiative, supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, to increase the capacity of law enforcement officers to identify and respond to children exposed to violence (CEV). As part of this initiative, the IACP and Yale will provide the resources and tools necessary to equip law enforcement professionals in their vital role in helping children and families through identification and trauma-informed response to violent events. The IACP and the Yale Child Study Center will achieve these goals through two primary activities:

  • Build on materials and resources that have been developed and recognized as best practices in law enforcement response to CEV to create a series of tools and resources that can equip law enforcement agencies to meaningfully address children’s exposure to violence through operations, policies and procedures;
  • Utilize and refine existing models of training for law enforcement professionals, and the breadth of the IACP-developed venues for review and dissemination, to offer resources, training and technical assistance related to law enforcement responses to CEV in order to reach the largest possible number of law enforcement officers.

The Yale Child Study Center

Meet our Partners 

Dr. Steven Marans, Director of the Childhood Violent Trauma Center at the Yale Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine
Dr. Steven Berkowitz, Director of Penn Center for Youth and Family Trauma Response and Recovery
Chief Dean Esserman, New Haven Police Department of Police Services 
Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova, New Haven Department of Police Services 
Project Director Hilary Hahn, Childhood Violent Trauma Center
Clinical Coordinator Kristen Hammel, Childhood Violent Trauma Center 
Assistant Administrator Colleen Vadala, NCCEV and the Trauma Section at the Yale Child Study Center
Director Sarah M. Greene, Southeast Regional Training Center of the NCCEV in Charlotte 
Deputy Chief (Ret.) Eddie Levins, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

Project Design and Implementation

Advisory Group

  • Provide strategic advice to inform project development;
  • Advise on optimal methods to increase the adoption and utilization of trauma-informed responses by law enforcement;
  • Provide guidance on best methods and tools to increase awareness on CEV within law enforcement.

Focus Group 
IACP and Yale Child Study Center will convene three focus group meetings. 

  • Inform training, technical assistance, and resource development;
  • Provide recommendations on how to adapt tools and resources for various types of communities;
  • Offer feedback on new and adapted tools and resources.

Resources Available

Organizational Self-Assessment Tool with Action Planning Tool
An organizational self-assessment tool was created for law enforcement (with community stakeholders) to: gauge current identification of CEV incidents; determine current response to CEV; assess readiness to address CEV; and gauge capacity to enhance or improve agency response. An action planning tool is included to allow agencies to translate their responses to the self-assessment into a plan for organizational change.

Protecting and Serving: Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence Classroom Training
This classroom training is currently being delivered to six of the Defending Childhood Initiative demonstration sites. If you are interested in bringing this training to your agency, please contact Program Manager Kelly Burke at burkek@theiacp.org or 800-843-4227 ext. 842.

The Officer's Role in Responding to Traumatized Children, The Tactical Edge, journal of the National Tactical Officers Association (Winter 2015)
This article discusses steps officers can consider when coming into contact and interacting with children on scene. Resources are also noted in the article, including IACP resources on responding to CEV.

Coming Soon

Tools for Frontline Officers:

  • Pocket Guide for Patrol Officers (Customizable Template)the pocket guide will encompass resources from the toolkit.
  • How Kids of Different Ages View Police Handout this handout provides insight as to how kids of varying ages view law enforcement from very young (0-5 years), school aged (6-11) and teenagers.
  • Traumatic Stress Reactions on Scene Handout this handout provides examples of physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive reactions to stress.
  • Expected Child Development, Common Responses to Exposure to Violence & What Police Officers Can Do Handout this handout describes expected development and common responses to exposure to violence at different ages and what police officers can do in response.
  • Childhood Stages and Police Response this handout describes what child development experts say about different ages of development, what police officers can do, and a section for officers to write what their specific actions would be to take and what to say.
  • When Your Child Sees Violence Brochure this customizable brochure provides examples of common traumatic reactions, what a child needs from their parent and how to find help if their child is having difficulties. The department can include contact information on local resources for clinical and domestic violence assistance.
  • Commonly Asked Questions from Children and Example Police Responses this document provides commonly asked questions by children when an officer response to a scene where children are present and examples of what an officer can say in response. 
  • Teaching the Calm Breathing Technique this handout teaches officers a simple way to help a child regain focus and some sense of control after being exposed to violence by teaching them how to take a few simple deep “calming and focused breaths.” This tool is a widely deployable and useful in many situations.
  • Common Issues with Caregivers and Police Responses this document provides common issues with interactions with caregivers that officers may face when responding to a scene where children are present and possible responses. 
  • Working Together to Help Children Exposed to Violence this handout describes different scenarios of when a child could be exposed to violence, examples of how police can help a child and a fillable section for officers to include who they can partner with in response to the scenario. 
  • On Scene/Acute Protocol This protocol provides specific procedures for officers to follow when responding to a scene when a child is present.
  • Domestic Violence Protocol This protocol includes strategies for officers when responding to a scene where a child is present and considerations when talking to children and caregivers. Also includes examples of possible resources officers can identify in their community.
  • Death Notification Protocol This protocol sets out specific procedures for officers to follow as they provide surviving family members with sufficient useful information and support in a manner consistent with professionally accepted crisis intervention techniques.

Resources in Development

Tools for Leaders:

  • Chief’s Briefing Sheet on how to champion the issues of responding to CEV within their own agencies, within their communities, and within the profession
  • Guidance for talking to front-line officers and supervisors about the importance of law enforcement in responding to CEV
  • How To’s on building an ecology within your department around responding to CEV by starting the conversation early and adopting policies and procedures that support responding to CEV
  • Building investment in responding to CEV among community stakeholders (city leaders, community members, financial administrators)
  • What metrics to recommend that law enforcement agency leaders be able to report (costs avoided, costs avoided, building trust with the community; building relationships during non-critical times, officer job satisfaction)
  • Press briefing materials
  • Materials to build support among professional colleagues in law enforcement (talking points, presentation slides, videos).

1 Webinar
The webinar will accompany the launch of the National Toolkit and will introduce background on the issue of CEV as well as resources and tools available in the toolkit. This webinar will combine Law Enforcement Role in Children Exposure to Violence and the recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Police Chief Magazine article on successful law enforcement and community collaboration response to CEV (upcoming in 2016)
This article will coincide with the release of the National Toolkit. This article will emphasize the unique position of police, which allows them to play a central role in the recovery of children and families who are most affected by exposure to violence and overwhelming events.

Training and Technical Assistance

Training Deliveries to Defending Childhood Initiative (DCI) Demonstration sites
Training will be offered to law enforcement agencies in six (6) DCI sites. The project team is working directly with the law enforcement agencies in the DCI sites to schedule and deliver the trainings in each site.

  • Portland, Maine
  • Cuyahoga County, Ohio
  • Shelby County, Tennessee
  • Grand Forks, North Dakota
  • Multnomah County, Oregon
  • Boston, Massachusetts

Conference Workshops

  • A Chief’s Legacy: Creating a State-of-the-Art Response to Children Exposed to Violence at the 2013 IACP Conference in Philadelphia, PA;
  • Leading Your Agency In Responding to Children Exposed to Violence at the 2014 IACP Conference in Orlando, FL;
  • Enhancing Law Enforcement Responses to Child Sex Trafficking and Children Exposed to Violence at the 2013 National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention Summit in Washington, DC


Training in Children Exposed to Violence

  • 2015 IACP/MacArthur Foundation’s Law Enforcement Leadership Institute on Juvenile Justice in New Haven, CT


IACP’s Youth Focused Policing Website
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Child Development-Community Policing at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department
Yale Child Study Center 


For more information, please contact Program Manager Kelly Burke at burkek@theiacp.org or 800-843-4227 ext. 842.

This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2012-CV-BX-K056 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.