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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Police should NOT have to parent your child.

This past week marked the end of the school year for most Aurora students.

This is my favorite time of year as sunshine and blue skies become a consistent feature in the scenic backdrop and warm air stays for more than a fleeting moment. There is a sense of limitless possibility for the months ahead and the kids enjoy more freedom as they are allowed to stay up later and sleep in a little longer. There is still a schedule to be followed but it’s made up of baseball games and summer camps.

For police officers, summer represents something a bit different. It means enforcing noise ordinance violations for loud parties and “thumping” vehicles that disturb the peaceful quality of life for our citizens. The summer months also mean that officers spend a lot of time parenting other people’s children.

The ability for our children to roam freely through the neighborhoods is precisely what we want for them. After all, when we were kids (insert “back in my day” preface), we stayed outside in the summer until the street lights came on and only stopped home briefly for necessary re-fueling in the form of food.

However, a problem occurs when children are given too much freedom with too little supervision. This becomes a police problem because when left to their own devices, some kids will exercise poor judgment that might result in their crossing paths with a police officer. Trespassing, criminal damage, burglary and curfew are some of the crimes associated with youthful offenders.

I subscribe to the notion that nothing good happens after dark. I have tested this theory as a patrol officer over the years and find that I’m rarely wrong. Curfew laws were implemented because someone smarter than I developed this hypothesis long ago. I cannot come up with one reason for a minor to be out past curfew unless they are coming home from a job or a sanctioned school or church event. If those exceptions do not apply, I am inclined to believe that kids roaming the city after hours only means that they are engaged in shenanigans.

For arguments sake, let’s give our angelic kids the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are “playing” aimlessly after hours and not breaking any laws (with the exception of curfew). I am still in strong opposition given the fact that there are people out after dark that might prey upon our innocent children. In other words, the curfew laws exist as much to protect our children as well as ensure that they aren’t engaging in criminal activity themselves. My daughter will often say, “Mom, you can trust me.” To which I respond, “I trust you but I don’t trust other people.” She has little room for rebuttal in that statement. Feel free to adopt that as your own.

If you lived in Davenport, Iowa, you could potentially be punished if your child commits a crime. Davenport adopted a statute to address the wave of juvenile crime they were experiencing and decided that parents should “exercise reasonable control” over their children. Parents can be ordered to attend parenting classes as well as pay hefty fines for their child’s infractions.

This ordinance outlines the importance of parents being accountable for their children. Being a parent means that it is your job to supervise your children. That means knowing where they are at all times. That means taking the time to get to know their friends and making sure they aren’t being subjected to bad influences. Being a parent also means saying “no” when necessary.

The best parents I know impose rules, limitations and expectations upon their children. It is no coincidence that those parents also have good kids.

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