ST. LOUIS – Following high-profile cases in the City of St. Louis involving minors, the city’s juvenile court division and police department are clarifying policy regarding underage offenders.

On Thursday, the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s Juvenile Division and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department released a “memorandum of understanding” to the public. The memorandum was finalized this week.

According to Joel Currier, a circuit court spokesman, leaders from both the court and police department have discussed cooperative efforts to make sure juveniles who commit crimes are held to account.

“The law changed recently to raise the age from 16-year-olds to include 17-year-olds, so (they’re) juveniles until they are age 18. So, that has been a big change in terms of numbers,” said Administrative Judge Steven Ohmer, City of St. Louis Family Court.

In late January, three juveniles were arrested and released following a violent incident outside the City Foundry in Midtown. St. Louis police responded to reports of carjackings in the parking lot and confronted the teen suspects, who took off running. At one point, the individuals fleeing police began shooting at officers.

All three teens were eventually apprehended. Two of those juveniles, 15 and 16-year-old boys, were found with guns. Police said the juvenile court was contacted, and the officers were told to release the teens to their parents. At the time, Currier claimed there was a disagreement over what was said during that conversation, and that procedure was not followed by the police and the Family Court.

The memorandum explains that any juvenile arrested for a felony must be taken to court in person, so it can be reviewed by an attorney and judge. Officers will only call the Juvenile Division to request a suspect’s criminal history or to see if they’re wanted in connection with other crimes.

In addition, police can release juveniles under specific conditions, but reserve the right to present them to the Juvenile Division for charges. Officers who wish to formally detain a juvenile must also “complete warrant application referral cards containing basic prosecution procedures.”

You can read the memorandum of understanding below, in its entirety.

Memorandum of Understanding by KevinSeanHeld on Scribd

A spokesman for Mayor Tishaura Jones said city hall supports the discussion and cooperation between all parties in the St. Louis justice system.

The City of St. Louis Criminal Justice Coordinating Council works to ensure the safety of our City by identifying gaps in our criminal justice system and improving communication between partners. Last year, the CJCC brought together the Juvenile Courts and SLMPD to address youth interactions with law enforcement, and the recent incident at the Foundry reemphasized the need to work collaboratively. The CJCC was pleased to work with the dedicated teams at the Juvenile Courts and SLMPD to develop and implement a process that ensures fairness, accountability, and transparency. While our mission is to support youth and divert them from crime, we must work to hold those who do commit violent crime accountable.

Nick Desideri, communications director for Mayor Jones