“When they put the handcuffs on I thought, `Wait a minute, this has got to be a joke,’” recalled Latoya Harris, describing the arrest of her 9-year-old daughter last May. “The look on my daughter’s face went from humiliation and fear, to a look of sheer panic.”
At the time, the girl was wearing a bathing suit and a towel, still damp from running through a neighborhood sprinkler. She was taken away in handcuffs by officers David McCarthy and Matthew Huspek, fingerprinted, photographed, but never charged with a crime. She was held at police headquarters for an hour before her frantic mother — who didn’t have a car — could retrieve the girl from her captors.
The stated purpose of the visit was to investigate a playground fight that had taken place a few days earlier. The actual purpose of the arrest was probably to serve some depraved impulse on the part of the officers to assert their supposed authority over an intimidated but uncooperative child.
This is why it is important, from a very young age, to teach your children not to talk with the police. If playground fights between 9-year-olds are being handled as criminal affairs, children need to be informed of how to interact with police. Teach your children to assert a right to remain silent. Teach them to actually remain silent. Have an attorney ready to defend yourself and your children. The criminal justice system is designed to be adversarial, not inquisitive. It is the role of law enforcement to find evidence of a crime and make an arrest. When they say everything you say can and will be held against you, they mean it. Even if you are 9 years old.
If your child attends a public school, as he or she most likely does, also be aware that they will be exposed to state and law enforcement propaganda programs. For example, the D.A.R.E. program and other law enforcement related forms of public relations. While many might advise you to pull your children out of these experiences, my advice is the opposite. Let them experience D.A.R.E. and other law enforcement propaganda. Let them see the positive public relations tactics and the negative police scare tactics. Contrary to the idea that this will indoctrinate them, it may actually inoculate them against such misguided ideas.
But you must give them the tools — give them the inoculation if you will — to see police propaganda for what it is. Teach them to stand up against, confront and reject untruths, illegitimate authority and bad laws. Unfortunately, we are living in a world where there is a very high chance your children will be the victims of police abuse as teenagers or young adults. Thus, it is important to prepare them intellectually while young so that they do not become future victims.