By: Dean C. Bossenbroek
If you had asked me at the beginning of 2017 what I knew about my 4th Amendment rights, I would have replied with something along the lines of, “4th Amendment? Hmm. . . . that’s the one that says I am protected from unlawful search and seizure.” On an elementary level, I would have been correct. And that’s all I knew.
In January I received a phone call from Melissa El Manaouar, an attorney with Foley & Lardner. Melissa wanted to know if Briarpatch would be interested in having her and two other attorneys present a five-week curriculum to youth in our court ordered programming explaining the details of the 4th Amendment. I did not hesitate with my affirmative reply.
Most of the clients in the Youth Restitution and Intensive Supervision Programs have had interactions with law enforcement officials. From our youths’ perspectives, these are negative encounters, which lead to negative consequences. Often this stems from the inherent distrust our kids have of cops. That distrust leads to heightened levels of stress when addressed by the police, which may result in poor decision-making. Many of the kids in our program are involved in the court system for Disorderly Conduct charges that often originate with stressful, negative interactions with law enforcement.
Melissa along her coworkers, Attorneys Alex Lodge and Brendan Reinecke, feel that fewer kids would be mired in the juvenile justice system if they knew how to interact with the police in a way that protects their safety and their rights. The five week competency development group, part of the Know Your Rights Initiative led by the three attorneys from Foley & Lardner, included a detailed curriculum aimed at educating our youth that was largely free of legal jargon.
The sessions lasted 90 minutes apiece with plenty of time for questions, thoughtful conversation, and role playing. There was a core group of seven clients who participated in March and April after school. Each week focused on different law enforcement interaction scenarios with personal safety and the ripple effects of one’s actions being the common message delivered throughout the course.
A big Thank You goes out to Alex, Melissa, and Brendan for sharing their time and knowledge with Briarpatch youth. It was a unique opportunity for our clients and staff to learn about hard lessons from experts in a comfortable environment. We look forward to doing it again with another group of kids.
“The 4th Amendment Group was very informative, and it was useful to have those group discussions getting into specific of how everything works.” ~ 16 year old male participant
“The Know Your Rights-Fourth Amendment short course went very well. My colleagues and I were very impressed by how committed the students were to engaging in what can be a very tough topic. The atmosphere was both spontaneous and fun, and we learned a lot about the experiences our youth face when dealing with Fourth amendment rights issues. A particular highlight was sharing a personal ‘like or dislike’ with the group at the beginning of each session. This helped us connect as a group, which made tackling such a complex topic much easier.” ~ Dr. Alex Lodge, Associate with Foley & Lardner, 4th Amendment Group Facilitator
For more information on Court Involved Youth programming, click here.