This “brief scoping review” provides an overview of current research findings that pertain to law enforcement officers mentoring youth.
Although acknowledging that this is not a systematic review of all available research on this topic, the author presents this report as the “current landscape” of the types of programs that have been studied, the goals of such programs, and the evidence of their effectiveness in achieving intended outcomes. The review begins with a brief history and theoretical justification for engaging law enforcement personnel as mentors. Next, an overview of the review’s scope and literature search strategy is provided, along with a summary of findings of identified studies and consideration of their limitations. The final sections provide conclusions and recommendations. The reviewed literature indicates there are two major ways in which police and other law enforcement personnel have been engaged in mentoring roles for youth. First, under community-based mentoring programs, opportunities are provided for law enforcement personnel and youth to interact with one another in informal community settings. A second kind of police-youth mentoring occurs in a school setting in which officers with responsibility for a safe school environment interact with students to promote positive behaviors and constructive decisionmaking. Almost half of the evaluations identified in this review occurred in a community setting. Overall, the findings provide limited evidence that police mentoring programs can improve youths’ attitudes toward police and beliefs in police legitimacy. Mentee attitudes tended to improve following structured activities that enabled youth to have meaningful discussions and collaboration with their mentors.