Dangerous criminals should be handcuffed, strip searched for weapons, and detained. There’s no question about that. But does a teenage curfew violator fit that description? It does in Sioux Falls.
The Sioux Falls police now routinely arrests teens breaking the 11 p.m. curfew law. They are brought to the Minnehaha County Juvenile Detention Center and strip searched for weapons and illegal paraphernalia.
After the strip search, teenagers are asked a long series of intrusive questions including religious affiliation, church attendance, pregnancy, and history of sexually transmitted diseases. The police claim this information is for statistical purposes but would they do with the statistics? If they find teenagers who attend church, temple, or synagogue are less likely to commit an offense, will they require everyone under 18 to attend weekly services? Even questioning teenagers on these matters is absurd. Whether or not a teenager attends religious services or has a sexual history is the business of that teenager and his or her parents.
|Whether or not a teenager attends religious services or has a sexual history is the business of that teenager and his or her parents.
After the Sioux Falls police staff has finished with the intake interview, the teenager’s parents are called for the first time. Since the process of reaching the teenager’s parents can take hours curfew offenders must remain in custody and during that time they must endure a strip-search.
In most situations, it is legal to strip-search people who are brought into custody since police must protect the security of other people at the detention facility. Despite its legality, local residents have demanded an investigation. Since they obviously feel that strip-searches are inappropriate for curfew offenders, they may eventually realize that curfew laws are inappropriate for teenagers.
Formerly, the curfew policy required officers to issue $80 tickets to offending teenagers and hold them until their parents could be contacted. Three years ago, the policy was changed to transport all teenagers to the detention center. The reason behind this change was because it was more time-effective for officers. It would be even more time-effective to shoot every suspect and not bother with a trial.
Officers should spend their shifts on the street, responding to calls and disturbances, as curfew proponents argue. However, it would be far more sensible if police did not spend their time worrying about teenagers out past 11 p.m. since most teenagers on the street do not create a disturbance. If they do, then neighbors will surely complain, police will respond, and the teenagers will be disbursed or arrested depending on the severity of the disturbance. However, if teens are just out with friends enjoying themselves, where is the problem?
If a teenager’s parents trust him or her enough to permit them to be out late, why do cities politicians believe that they should impose a blanket curfew on all minors? Ultimately, a minor is his or her parents’ responsibility. If that parent, who has known that teenager their entire life, believes them to be mature and responsible to make wise decisions out late at night, why does the law want to undermine this parental right?
|It would be far more sensible if police did not spend their time worrying about teenagers out past 11 p.m.
If all minors have to be inside at 11 p.m., what happens when a teenager turns 18? Are they suddenly prepared to roam the streets at all hours of the night? Are they magically granted wisdom and maturity? The only way to gain wisdom and maturity is to be permitted to exercise it.
Curfews are actually not about maturity or safety. The government simply does not think that citizens should have the right to socialize at night. And if not for the Bill of Rights, curfews would also apply to parents of teenagers.
The curfew itself is unjust and ridiculous. Does the policy of arresting, handcuffing, strip searching, and invasively questioning curfew violators teach them a lesson? It certainly does, and that lesson is that the system doesn’t work. And that is a frightening civics lesson.
Teenagers, whose only crime is peaceably assembling, are treated like criminals. This hardly sounds like justice.