Newswise — In an effort to advance public discourse about the ongoing national crisis over police-community relations in urban America, the University of Chicago Law School is hosting a conference on youth and police.

The April 24-25 conference is designed to contribute to the development of concrete policy, advocacy and research agendas for addressing issues arising from the interactions between youth and police.

The two-day event was jointly organized by the Law School’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and the Invisible Institute, a Chicago-based journalistic production company. It will feature six panel discussions, which will explore different aspects of police and youth encounters. Panelists include scholars, police officers, students, advocates, judges and journalists from around the country.

Organizers say they began planning the conference two years ago, but recent police shootings across the country have helped put these issues at the center of a national conversation.

“There has never been a more critical time in our country to address the relationship between black youth and police,” said Craig Futterman, clinical professor of law and founder of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic. “The divide between black teens and police presents one of our greatest challenges throughout urban America.”

Futterman said the deep distrust that has taken hold over the years hurts both children and law enforcement. “Without trust,” he added, “We cannot address violence in our most vulnerable communities.”

The UChicago conference has grown out of the Youth & Police Project, an ongoing social research initiative by the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and the Invisible Institute. The project, started in 2011, has brought attorneys, journalists, academics and community activists together with teenagers living on the South and West sides of Chicago. Through interviews and role-playing, the teenagers share their experiences with police and researchers, and recount how those experiences affect and shape their thinking and behavior.

“We have learned a great deal from our young collaborators,” said Jamie Kalven, a writer and human rights activist with the Invisible Institute. “They have challenged us and unsettled our thinking. The conference is designed around themes and lines of inquiry that have emerged from our conversations."

During the conference, each panel will begin with a short video prepared for the conference, in collaboration with the high school students involved in the project. A moderated discussion among three to four panelists will explore questions and issues that will include significant interplay with the audience.

For example, in the panel, “They Have All the Power,” Futterman will discuss police accountability with panelists Cathy Cohen, the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science at UChicago; Delores Jones-Brown, Professor of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; and Chris King, managing editor of the St. Louis American. They will examine the costs and harms of the absence of accountability, how the lack of accountability affects the relationships between youth and police, and how improved transparency and accountability affect youth/police relations.

“Our conversations will be the essence of the event,” said Kalven. “We see the individual panels as part of a continuing conversation. Each will build on what comes before.”

Futterman hopes that the conference will contribute to greater clarity about “how to build the kind of relations that are necessary to fight crime, how to effectively address abuses when they occur, and how to improve the lives of youth and the jobs of police.”

The panels will be moderated by Kalven and Steve Edwards, executive director of UChicago’s Institute of Politics.

For more information about the conference or to register, visit or