Preparing Children for Police Confrontations (VIDEO)

Detained for playing hide and seek

A short time into their hide and go seek venture, my husband’s phone rang. It was my stepson (17 years old) frantically saying he was in a paved lot next door to our house and the police were there demanding identification. Obviously, we both bolted out the door and across the street. We arrived to find one teenager in the back of a police car, a second police car, two Whitehall OH police officers, and all the teens standing there not sure what to do.

Of course, I immediately began asking if the young man inside the cruiser was free to go, as you can see in the youtube video – see video above, I was told he was not free to go, but was not being charged. I pretty quickly switched from filming via my phone camera to livestreaming via bambuser – see below – because livestreaming is safer if a problem (arrest, abuse, brutality, destruction of recording device, death, etc.) happens.

Unfortunately, every single one of the kids were trespassing on private property. They didn’t consider that because they had no bad intentions and were simply hiding from each other across the street from my home. Should they have considered it at their ages and in this time of ridiculous police actions? Yeah, probably, but they didn’t. The police could have legitimately charged every single one of them with a misdemeanor trespass charge. However, as the officer on the left expressed pre-video, he was a kid once and played hide and go seek, too. I appreciate his humanity and common sense in that choice. What I don’t appreciate is demanding ID from my stepson, patting down the juvenile you can see in the cruiser, and verbal harassment of that same teen – none of which is on video, sadly. The other kids report that the boy who was briefly detained was called names by the police before we arrived. This is pretty typical for Whitehall cops when dealing with minors whose parents aren’t present.

Let’s talk about what should have happened. Obviously, the kids should not have trespassed. The absence of trespassing would have meant no police interaction. As soon as the police started pulling into the lot, someone should have started recording. Almost every teen has a smart phone, let’s teach them to use them. The boy in the cruiser probably should have just told them his name. However, I understand why he didn’t and I probably wouldn’t have, either. In this instance, these kids were legitimately trespassing, causing the police to have the right to demand identification. Had they been in my yard or on the sidewalk somewhere the police would have had no grounds to demand ID. In Ohio the police only have the right to tell you to identify yourself if this applies (from Ohio Rev Code):

Failure to Disclose Personal Information (2921.29):
(A) No person who is in a public place shall refuse to disclose the person’s name, address, or date of birth, when requested by a law enforcement officer who reasonably suspects either of the following:
(1) The person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a criminal offense.
(2) The person witnessed any of the following:
(a) An offense of violence that would constitute a felony under the laws of this state;
(b) A felony offense that causes or results in, or creates a substantial risk of, serious physical harm to another person or to property;
(c) Any attempt or conspiracy to commit, or complicity in committing, any offense identified in division (A)(2)(a) or (b) of this section;    
(d) Any conduct reasonably indicating that any offense identified in division (A)(2)(a) or (b) of this section or any attempt, conspiracy, or complicity described in division (A)(2)(c) of this section has been, is being, or is about to be committed.
(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of failure to disclose one’s personal information, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree.
(C) Nothing in this section requires a person to answer any questions beyond that person’s name, address, or date of birth. Nothing in this section authorizes a law enforcement officer to arrest a person for not providing any information beyond that person’s name, address, or date of birth or for refusing to describe the offense observed.    
(D) It is not a violation of this section to refuse to answer a question that would reveal a person’s age or date of birth if age is an element of the crime that the person is suspected of committing.

So what should your teenager do if confronted by police? The first logical action is to avoid doing things like trespassing. Kids are kids, though, and every now and then, they are going to do something they shouldn’t when we aren’t looking. First, look at your local laws and learn about what circumstances cause your child to legally be required to comply with police demands. Chances are good most of us do not agree with these arbitrary standards, but a teenager is pretty vulnerable to attack by police. We have a responsibility to be sure our children know the local laws and rules to avoid abuse or even death. Second, make sure your kids know how to safely assert their rights. Don’t be alone, always video, don’t act aggressively toward a cop, don’t needlessly mouth off, etc. These things can reduce a cop’s ability to claim valid grounds, if anything were to go awry. Third, if it does go badly, do not escalate it, focus on staying alive and having proof.

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