Continue reading to learn which options police officers have when they are confronted with children who disobey the law and how they choose which one to use.
Detention and Penalties for Children
When a child is caught disobeying the law, a police officer has a few choices. His decision will depend on several factors, including the child’s age, the severity of the crime, the family’s ability to take over, and more. Here are 3 options a police officer has when faced with juvenile crimes:
❶ On-Site Counseling and Release
A police officer may decide that a child simply deserves a stern lecture and kind counseling as a penalty for their crime. For children who are young or have committed a minor infraction, such as j-walking or trespassing, a cop can decide to counsel a child at the scene, give them a lecture about making good choices and the consequences of poor choices, and then release them back into the streets. They choose this route with children who seem capable of reasoning and agreeable to discussion, and who is not a danger to themselves or others.
❷ A Ride Home in a Squad CarAn officer may decide to give the child a ride home in the back seat of their squad car as a penalty. They will choose this avenue for a few reasons. For instance, they may choose this option if they believe releasing the child is necessary, but releasing them back into the streets would not be safe or in the child’s best interest. Not only does this option provide safety, it also teaches children a lesson. A ride in a cop car is serious, but showing up at home with a police officer is even more distressing. The officer will up the penalty by discussing the circumstances with the parents, who can then decide on
a proper remedy for their child.
❸ A Trip to the Police Station
If a minor’s crime is more severe, and does not fit the terms for a “catch and release” form of punishment, like the two mentioned above, a police officer will transport the minor to the police station. There, the juvenile will be detained in an office-like setting, but sometimes police may place them in a cell by themselves if a minor is being uncooperative. What happens next primarily depends on the circumstances and guardianship of the child. Usually, the child is detained at the station until the parents come to pick them up. For children who do not have available or adequate family members, they are placed into the custody of child protective services. But for more serious crimes, minors are placed in lock-up and charged accordingly.