On August 25, the Edmonton Police Service’s (EPS) DIVERSIONfirstUnit was presented with the 2022 Minister of Justice National Youth Justice Policing Award, alongside program-community partners YMCA of Northern Alberta (YMCA) and Boys and Girls Club Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs).
The award recognizes the restorative justice trio for their innovative approach and efforts applied in the police-led program. Together, these organizations work to reduce youth involvement in the criminal justice system.
The Department of Justice Canada, in collaboration with the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, presented the award to DIVERSIONfirst Sergeant Kendall Booth, EPS Youth Programs Coordinator Leeanne Harvey, and YMCA Program Manager Michael Peters.
“The work the Edmonton Police Service is doing with its community partners makes a real difference in the lives of youth,” said the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, in a news release.
“The DIVERSIONfirst Program is a great example of collaborative work that delivers a restorative justice approach. I want to congratulate this year’s recipients for their innovative policing approach and efforts to support our youth.”
DIVERSIONfirst is a restorative justice program that connects young, first-time non-violent offenders to community organizations and family supports that offer a wide range of services dedicated to mentoring and improving the lives of youth to help them build a foundation for a positive future away from crime, reducing the likelihood of reoffending.
Initially launched as a pilot with the YMCA in 2018 and formally launched in November 2020, the program has since expanded, partnering with BGCBigs in April 2021.
“This is very much a team award,” said Sgt. Kendall Booth. “To see how far this program has come is truly inspiring. Our Unit could not achieve this accomplishment without the hard work, dedication, and support of the YMCA and BGCBigs. It highlights how important police-and-community collaboration is and what our organizations can achieve to help one another succeed because, at the end of the day, our youth are the true winners.”
At the point of arrest, officers can refer a young person to the program instead of laying a criminal charge. DIVERSIONfirst staff will follow up with the youth and their guardian(s) to further assess their suitability for the program.
Once enrolled, DIVERSIONfirst and their community-program partners then work together to redirect young people by connecting them to organizations focused on improving the lives of the youth and their families so they can begin accessing the services they need through a customized support program.
About the Minister of Justice National Youth Justice Policing Award
The Minister of Justice National Youth Justice Policing Award recognizes police officers and others involved in police-led initiatives which, individually or as a team, develop innovative approaches or promising practices that go beyond the formal court system when dealing with youth in conflict with the law.