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City of Cambridge Publishes New Manual to Help Municipalities Implement Pre-Complaint Juvenile Diversion Programs


Police-Based Juvenile Diversion Manual Graphic

The City of Cambridge today announced a new resource that is intended to help police departments and municipalities all over the country implement pre-complaint juvenile diversion programs.

The newly published “Police-Based Juvenile Diversion” manual is based on the nationally renowned Safety Net Collaborative, which is a partnership between the Cambridge Police Department, Cambridge Public Schools, Cambridge Health Alliance and the Cambridge Department of Human Service Programs that was initially established in 2007. Together, these organizations provide health, mental health and social services to youth and families in Cambridge with the goal of curtailing youth involvement in the juvenile justice system and connecting them to services before issues escalate to potential delinquency. Designed to help serve as a turnkey for police departments and municipalities, the comprehensive manual provides an overview of the Safety Net Program, guidance on establishing critical partnerships, the key steps to delivering a structured case management process, and tools to help evaluate the effectiveness of such a diversion program. Also included are sample key documents, including letters, draft agreements and youth service plans to help expedite the implementation of similar programs for other police departments and municipalities.

Recent reports from Citizen’s for Juvenile Justice and the National Council for Behavioral Health have recognized the Cambridge Safety Net model as a best practice for juvenile diversion.  Research studies have demonstrated that Safety Net has had a significant impact on juvenile arrests (according to a 2016 study, community arrests have decreased more than 50% since its implementation), recidivism and service utilization (contracting with mental health services has led to an average of 94 outpatient mental health provider referrals per year). As noted in recent research articles published in Translational Issues in Psychological Services and the Journal of Applied Juvenile Justice Services, it has also improved youth outcomes. In one case, a young teen was referred to the program after stealing a bike and being involved in multiple shoplifting incidents. He was connected to mental health services and a community program. Today, he is working in the Office of Finance at a local university.

“Policing in Cambridge is not about arrests, but about helping people and working on getting them the assistance they need,” said Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “The close collaboration between the Cambridge Police Department and other city departments creates a holistic team that focuses on providing critical services to our at-risk youth. I am incredibly proud the City is making this manual available to other municipalities.”

“This manual provides a template for how other municipalities can implement police-based juvenile diversion,” said Cambridge Police Commissioner Dr. Branville G. Bard, Jr. “By making this information available, it is our hope that the policies, procedures and documentation successfully developed in Cambridge can be adapted to help youth and families across the country.”

“Now, more than ever, mechanisms that bridge the gap between the police and the community are critical to social justice and equity,” said Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Assaad Sayah, MD. “The Police-Based Juvenile Diversion manual provides the specific policies, procedures and documentation needed for communities to stand up their own pre-complaint diversion programs, which will keep at-risk youth out of court and instead direct them to services and supports."

“Since its beginning, Cambridge Public Schools have been proud partners in the Safety Net Collaborative,” said James P. Maloney, Chief Operating Officer at the Cambridge Public Schools. “The program has helped transform the relationship between schools, police, human services and the health alliance, while connecting our at-risk youth with a wide array of social services.”

“Relationships are the key to the City’s work with children, youth, and families,” said Michelle Farnum, Assistant Director of Child, Youth and Family Services at the Department of Human Service Programs.  “The Safety Net Collaborative has changed the way that partner organizations work together to provide greater support for children and create better outcomes for our community.”

To download the “Police-Based Juvenile Diversion” manual, please visit

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Branville G. Bard, Jr.
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