National Police Directorate, Norway. It is financed by the National Police Directorate.
National Police Directorate,
Dep. 0031 Oslo,
Dialogue is an important tool, both for resolving conflict and for creating understanding and trust. When children and young people come into conflict with the law, or are at risk of doing so, understanding the reasons behind this is key. It is vital to create an arena for frank expression of all parties involved; gaining an overview of the situation can help parties arrive at a common understanding of the problem. Only then can we start work towards positive change.
Empowerment conversations have become a useful tool for creating such an arena, in encounters between police and children/young people and their parents (or other legal guardians). The aim of the conversation is to safeguard everyone’s interests and reach solutions that benefit the child/young person in particular, but also the parents. This method is recommended when addressing unwanted/criminal behaviour that could progress into a criminal career. It is used in police prevention work in response to unwanted behaviour, and as a means of guiding young people onto a path of reconciliation and consideration. This method is therefore also used in cases showing signs of radicalisation.
A good conversation involves posing open questions and practicing active listening (i.e. confirming and repeating back what was heard). Clarifications and summaries are an integral part of the process, and there should be no leading the conversation. Pauses (silences) must also be used consciously, to allow children time to think, reflect, conceive and put forward the responses themselves.
It is essential to set aside plenty of time for the conversation: it must never seem rushed, and children should never be given the impression that they must respond quickly. Children should have the time at their disposal to find their own words to express themselves. Often, these children/young people are not accustomed to being listened to or verbalising their thoughts and feelings.
Even though the conversation is a dialogue, you must be aware of and state when a limit has been reached. Follow the enforcement pyramid: information — guidance — advice — instructions — warning.
You must remain unbiased in the conversation, while keeping it from veering off-topic and the focus from shifting. If the child/young person repeatedly tries to shift the focus, you should deal with this head on, and clarify why this is happening.
Listening is a crucial part of the conversation. It is important to demonstrate that you are registering what is being said by listening actively, i.e. using non-verbal cues like nodding and verbal cues like ‘yes’, ‘okay’, etc.