Edmonton, Alberta – The Edmonton Police Service has concluded their investigation into an assault outside a school in April, with four male youths entering EPS’ restorative justice approach program, DIVERSIONfirst.
DIVERSIONfirst is an EPS program that first began in late 2018 and aims to connect young, first-time offenders to community organizations and family supports that are dedicated to mentoring and improving their lives, helping them to build a foundation for a positive future away from crime. Youth who are referred to the program by investigators are supported by various agencies and community partners as they navigate a customized plan that holds them accountable for their behavior and addresses underlying issues.
In April 2021, EPS began investigating an assault of a 14-year-old male that took place outside a school in Edmonton’s Rosslyn neighborhood. The youth sustained non-life-threatening injuries during the assault.
Following a thorough investigation, detectives identified four male youths, aged between 12 and 15 years old, directly involved in the assault. In consultation with the youth and their families, all four will enter the EPS’ DIVERSIONfirst program in lieu of facing criminal charges.
“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,” says Staff Sergeant Andre Francois with the EPS West Division Investigative Response Team (IRT). “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.”
“Research and studies have suggested that a formal system processing of youth, at any stage, increases the likelihood that they reoffend,” says Sergeant Kendall Booth with the EPS 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.”
All four youths have already been referred to the DIVERSIONfirst program and have started the intake process. While this assault 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 Mitch Flaman, Inspector 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,” says Flaman.
To date, DIVERSIONfirst has supported more than 339 youth in getting their lives back on track.
On Friday, April 16, 2021, a 14-year-old male youth and a family member reportedly attended EPS Northeast Division station to report an assault that took place outside of a school in the area of 132 Avenue and 113A Street. It was reported to police that earlier that afternoon the complainant was leaving school and walking to a nearby bus stop when he was approached by a group of male youths and assaulted.
Northeast Division front counter officers advised the complainant and his family member to first go to the nearest medical centre to seek assistance with the youth’s injuries and then call police to have an officer dispatched to their location. The EPS complaint line was then contacted regarding the incident on Monday, April 19, 2021, at which time an officer was dispatched, and an investigation was initiated.
Detectives determined that the males involved in this incident knew one another, this was not a random occurrence and that altercations had taken place between the youths in this group before. Evidence obtained by investigators also confirmed this event was part of an ongoing conflict between the group of youths that reportedly started in late 2020. The EPS Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit was consulted on this investigation.
Edmonton Police Service
MRU #: 21R039-1
“Dedicated to Protect, Proud to Serve”
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