Mayor Dave’s plan to get guns off kids

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In an interesting legal maneuver, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is going to try and forgo search warrants for juveniles suspected of having guns. How? By asking the ‘rents.

Utilizing parental consent to a search instead of a search warrant approved by a judge is a way to move quickly — before the guns can do damage — when police are tipped off to the location of a weapon in the hands of a juvenile.

Michael Scott was a St. Louis Police Department administrator in 1993 when the department adopted a similar program. As part of the deal with parents, when guns were found, there was no prosecution, except in extreme cases where the guns had already been used in serious crimes, Scott said.

“It makes getting guns out of the hands of kids the highest priority, an even higher priority than prosecution,” Scott said.
Wray has said that the community must break through a “no-snitch” culture made up of people who won’t report wrongdoers to police.

It’s hard, rather, practically impossible, to judge the effectiveness of a proposal like this. To get a grip on the policy you have to  analyze the incentives for all the actors in the situation.

We’ll start with the police. Theoretically, the introduction of this plan suggests there is a group of cops who are keeping up with “gang politics,” per se. They are tuned into teen rivalries, they analyze youth arrests and try to figure out who is at risk to commit a crime with a firearm. If the operation is that sophisticated, and I am not confident that it is, then there might be a fair number of circumstances in which cops could take advantage of this new policy and keep extra tabs on teens who are suspected of keeping guns. The idea is likely that if a teen is a participant in gang activity, or associates with gangs, the cops could go to that kid’s house and simply ask his parents if they could make sure he doesn’t have a gun. Already you can see how the policy could be abused and some neighborhoods could start to feel the pinch of a police state.

The next actors are the parents. The plan might appeal to them because it means their kids will not be prosecuted if they co-operate. That is they key in the matter. “Probable cause” is an important tenant of the American justice system, and it’s importance is recognized by this policy because the police are admitting that they don’t have it (no search warrant) and agreeing that they are not going to prosecute the juvenile if any contraband is found during the “public safety” search because they did not have probable cause to search in the first place. The policy allows parents to consider the safety of their child and their community in earnest, without getting this issue mixed up with fears of legal repercussions.

Finally the kids. It all depends on how much this new policy will actually increase searches. Will the number go up exponentially in the next few years? Will it be a sort of blanket proposal, that will operate like a huge fire alarm, in which cops go to the houses of kids who are not even suspected of having guns? Will it embitter kids against their parents and the police or will it scare kids into good students? Very rarely will the latter take place, unless the kids are young – early high school or middle school.

It’s hard to make judgement on this policy until I get more background. What cases in which a search warrant is not granted would this option be implemented?

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One Response to “Mayor Dave’s plan to get guns off kids”

  1. Sam Clegg Says:

    The proposal is interesting to me as I once attended a town-hall meeting with the police in my town to follow a similar policy with regards to alcohol and drugs. When the police were asked about how they would respond if parents called them, they dodged the issue, finally stating that they would take “appropriate action” but attempt to respect the parent and his or her child. It sounded, well, like something a member of the mafia might say. My concern here is that if the police are having trouble using discretion on Mifflin street with kids who step on a piece of pavement, how the hell are they going to use it any better with kids who are carrying guns instead of Natty Lite?

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