After reviewing the new policy, what presents itself as most problematic to the police department is our inability to freely communicate with parents. Our police department has always sought the implementation of non-punitive measures for the majority of juvenile offenses including underage alcohol or marijuana possession or consumption. Formal charges have always been a last resort. Over the years, we have diligently worked with the school administration to keep our students safe and provided open lines of communication with parents. Our Juvenile Detective is deeply invested with the school district, routinely interacting with the students through positive programs that empower healthy decision making.
We see these laws as not only counterproductive but also as a detriment to the safety of our children. To apply this to a real-life situation, if an officer sees a 15-year-old (or anyone under the age of 21) consuming alcohol or smoking marijuana, we cannot contact the juvenile’s parent/guardian unless this behavior has been previously documented. Unless the child chooses to share this information, parents will be left in the dark. This policy goes against every step we have taken as a department, a school district, and a community to work collaboratively to protect our children. We are shocked as a police department but also as parents. Who will ensure the welfare our kids, if the police can neither act nor contact a parent or legal guardian?
One of our department’s greatest strengths has been our ability to foster positive relationships and build trust within the community. From having officers perform routine safety checks of the schools to create positive, daily interactions to the implementation of an annual youth police academy, our department has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to maintaining a healthy and safe community. Despite the threat this legislation poses, we will continue to work with the community and its youth.
Together, we will find a way to navigate these trying times. Please know our priorities have not changed even though our means of achieving them might. As always, do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns.