AP NEWS

Town eyes Juvenile Review Board

March 4, 2019

A juvenile review board — an appointed board of counselors and attorneys tasked with interceding in the cases of underage offenders — has the support of the chief of police and first selectman.

The idea has been floated by the town for the past two years, according to First Selectman Rudy Marconi.

Former Police Chief John Roche had proposed the board to the Police Commission, which would partner counselors from Kids in Crisis with appointed members.

“In lieu of prosecution, the family would agree to community service and counseling for the juvenile, and family members if necessary,” Marconi said. “We’ve been looking at this in conjunction with Kids in Crisis, who would provide the counseling services and be part of the Juvenile Review Board.”

He said one or more attorneys serving on the board might also be helpful.

Police Chief Jeff Kreitz told the Police Commission recently that he was in favor of the project, which is in its early stages.

“Especially with our juvenile court going to Bridgeport now — it’s not Danbury,” he said. “They’re overwhelmed up there, they’re busy, and at the end of the day you really want to benefit the juveniles in this community, and I think this is the route to go.”

The board’s recommendation does not supplant the legal system.

“You’re under arrest, it’s just this is an option for you to take if you want, otherwise your paperwork gets processed under the normal course of action,” said Marconi.

Under Roche’s original proposal, the board would be overseen by the Police Commission.

Creating the juvenile board should not require an amendment to the town charter, Marconi said.

Parents can also choose to opt-out of the review board process, which would mean their child’s case would go through the juvenile justice system.

“It’s not for serious, serious offenses,” said Kreitz.

Ridgefield’s not the only town to consider the plan. Other nearby towns have their own juvenile boards, including Westport, Norwalk, Newtown, and Greenwich.

George Kain, chairman of the Police Commission, said that there are “some legal issues” remaining that need to be sorted out before the board can be created.

“It’s an informal process, rather than setting up a court,” he said.

Kain suggested the commission should put the juvenile board on the agenda for its meeting in March.

“There are not a lot of people in this situation,” Marconi said, “but for the couple of people that we may have — two, three, four, it’s an opportunity to avoid heading down a long road.”