Four youths involved assault now part of Edmonton police restorative justice program

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Four youths involved in an ongoing conflict that culminated in an April assault outside a city junior high school are now benefitting from an Edmonton police restorative justice program.

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Police learned of the case April 16 after a 14-year-old and a family member reported the assault outside the school near 132 Avenue and 112A Street to officers at northeast division. Officers told the pair to go to the nearest medical centre to have the youth’s injuries assessed and then call police to have an officer dispatched to their location. The city police complaint line was then contacted regarding the assault on April 19, at which time an officer was dispatched, and an investigation was initiated.

Detectives determined that the boys involved knew one another and that altercations had taken place between the youths in this group before, beginning in late 2020.

Following a deeper investigation, detectives identified four male youths, aged between 12 and 15 years old, were directly involved in the assault. In consultation with the youth and their families, all four are now entering the DIVERSIONfirst program in lieu of facing criminal charges, said a Monday police news release.

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“What occurred in this incident is unacceptable and has no place in our communities; however, in some cases a criminal justice approach may not be the best course of action,” Staff Sgt. Andre Francois, with the west division Investigative Response Team (IRT), said in the news release.

“Beyond the details of the assault, our investigation revealed a group of youths, including the complainant, had no previous involvement with police. We recognized that criminalizing these youths would be inconsistent with a trauma-informed approach and would likely not result in the sense of healing and understanding that the community and all those involved deserve.

“Considering these factors, our investigative team felt all parties would be better served through the youths’ participation in DIVERSIONfirst, rather than face charges and entry into the criminal justice system.”

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DIVERSIONfirst began in late 2018, aiming to connect young, first-time offenders to community organizations and family supports dedicated to mentoring and building a foundation for a positive future away from crime.

“Research and studies have suggested that a formal system processing of youth, at any stage, increases the likelihood that they reoffend,” added Sgt. Kendall Booth with the DIVERSIONfirst program.

“For incidents such as this, our hope is that DIVERSIONfirst will help the youths involved recognize the connection between their behaviors and the harm caused to both the victims and themselves. This will offer them a chance to make amends to correct their actions and ultimately reduce harm to the community, both now and in the long term.”

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All four youths have started the intake process for the DIVERSIONfirst program.

Police added that while theassault did not meet the Canadian Criminal Code threshold for a hate crime, the use of a highly inappropriate and hurtful racial slur was noted by the DIVERSIONfirst team, and it will be addressed during the program. The youths are expected to be in the program for the next several months.

“The EPS has been engaging citizens for several months now through our Commitment to Action sessions,” says Insp. Mitch Flaman of the equity and inclusion branch. “We’ve received invaluable feedback from each session, and we’ve heard loud and clear that diverting individuals from the justice system and towards appropriate community resources needs to be a focus of our policing model.

“Beginning this process with youth is one of the best ways to build robust, healthy and safe communities across our city, and we are hopeful the DIVERSIONfirst approach to this investigation will be a successful start.”

To date, DIVERSIONfirst has supported more than 339 youth.

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