Police cannot use underage possession of marijuana or alcohol as a reason to search the young person or their car, he said. The young person cannot be arrested or taken into custody, except to the extent required to issue a written warning.
Caloiaro emphasized that the Lawrence Township Police Department has always used non-punitive measures for the majority of cases of underage possession and consumption of alcohol, and of possession and consumption of marijuana.
Formal charges have always been a last resort, Caloiaro said.
Having reviewed the new policies, what presents itself as most problematic to the Lawrence Township Police Department is the inability of officers to freely communicate with parents, he said.
“We see these laws not only as counterproductive, but also as a detriment to the safety of our children. Who will ensure the welfare of our children, if the police can neither act nor contact a parent or guardian?” Caloiaro said. “This policy goes against every step we have taken as a Police Department, a school district and a community to work collaboratively to protect our children.”
The Lawrence Township Police Department takes pride in its ability to create positive relationships and to build trust within the community, Caloiaro said. One of his first actions as the new police chief was to reinstate two juvenile officers, whose primary focus was to work with young people.