Purpose – This paper aims to examine the policing of youth anti-social behaviour and crime. Design/methodology/approach – The paper considers the Independent Commission report, Time for a Fresh Start and argues that its analysis would be enhanced by a fuller consideration of the role of the police as gatekeepers to the criminal justice system. As such this represents something of a missed opportunity. Findings – The paper contends that, like many other reviews of youth justice, and proposals for reform, Time for a Fresh Start says relatively little about policing. As gatekeepers and agenda-setters for much of the criminal justice system, the police occupy a key position. This paper suggests that reform programmes must focus on the role the police play in regulating the flow of young people into the justice system and, in particular, argues in favour of a constructive reappraisal of the value of “diversion”. Originality/value – Without considering the role the police play in regulating the flow of young people into the justice system, any programme of reform is incomplete. We need to rehabilitate the idea of “diversion” and to rescue it from the one-sided picture that became dominant from the mid-1990s onward.