Youth/Police Conference

University of Chicago Law School

Friday, April 24 - Saturday, April 25, 2015

Photo: Patricia Evans

The aim of the Youth/Police Conference is to deepen the discourse about issues arising from interactions between African-American youth and police in urban America. We began planning this occasion before events in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland put these issues at the center of a national conversation. We hope to enrich that conversation by drawing on the experiences and perspectives of African-American youth in framing the issues and themes to be addressed.

Reserve your seat now.

The Conference grows out of a collaborative project, developed by the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School and the Invisible Institute, that focuses on everyday encounters—on the countless interactions between teenagers and police that take place daily in cities across the country. Our methodology has been simple. We have talked extensively with Chicago inner city youth. And we have listened. We have avoided conventional policy frames—e.g., "stop and frisk"—and instead have asked the teenagers we work with to describe their encounters with the police in their own words, to tell us how those encounters make them feel, and to reflect on how their experiences with the police shape their behavior.

We have learned a great deal. The students have challenged us and unsettled our thinking about accepted practices, opening fresh lines of inquiry. We see the conference as an occasion for enlarging the conversation. It will be a two day event, comprised of six panels, to which we are inviting scholars, police officials, students, policymakers, advocates, judges, and others with relevant experience and expertise.

Each panel will begin with a short video, multimedia piece, or performance prepared for the conference in collaboration with the high school students involved in the project. A moderated public conversation among three to four panelists will explore questions and issues raised by the introductory material. There will be significant interplay with the audience. Unlike the traditional academic conference, we are not asking speakers to present a formal talk or paper. Our conversations will be the essence of the event. We see the individual panels as part of a continuing conversation and will orchestrate them so that each builds on what comes before.

The panels will be moderated by Steve Edwards, Executive Director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and a former NPR host, and Jamie Kalven of the Invisible Institute.

View the conference schedule.

Registration is free — reserve your seat now.

We hope you will join us in this critically important conversation.

For questions, contact Erin Wellin, Director of Conferences and Programs, at


Download the program (PDF):

Youth/Police program cover


Download the Conference Paper (PDF):


This conference is made possible by the generous support of the University of Chicago Law School, University of Chicago Urban Network, and the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement.

Urban Network logo

Civic Engagement logo

Law School logo


  • Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture (UChicago)
  • National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
  • Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA at UChicago)
  • Black Law Students Association (UChicago)
  • National Police Accountability Project
  • Youth Guidance
  • Project NIA
  • Hyde Park High School Media Program
  • First Defense Legal Aid