A story from last week brought two very interesting reactions from Premium readers (the story wasn’t in the free edition).
So, first, here’s the story, from True’s 8 August 2010 issue:
Just Four Laughs
Three friends in Whitehall, Pa., wrapped a fourth in plastic to videotape a stunt to post online. They dropped the wrapped boy off in a Kmart parking lot, waited for people to notice him, and then drove up, threw him into the trunk, and drove off again. “I thought it was obvious we were goofing around,” said Aaron D. Coutumas, who will be a high school senior this fall. But a witness called the cops, thinking it was a kidnaping. Within minutes, their car was surrounded by police cruisers, and the boys found themselves at gunpoint. “It’s a joke! It’s a joke!” called a muffled voice from the trunk. Unamused officers charged all four boys with disorderly conduct. As for the video, it’s not coming to a web site near you: since all four boys wanted to be in the video, none of them would hold the camera, and thus none of the action was recorded. (Allentown Morning Call) …Pity: it would have make a good premiere of “Keystone Kriminals”.
Michael in Texas is first:
This is another case of zero tolerance gone seriously wrong. To arrest teenagers for playing a prank that had no chance of causing harm to anyone is a serious flaw to the justice system and certainly sends a bad message to all other kids. ‘Don’t think, don’t play, and above all NEVER act like a kid.’ Whatever happened to the common sense approach of telling them to stop what they are doing and explain why so they might actually learn something?
And then the other side of the same coin, from Alan in Utah:
When I was 14 I shoplifted from a 7-Eleven. They called the cops and I was arrested and taken to the police station. They put me in a holding cell by myself for I don’t know how long. Then this *huge* man was manhandled in by 3 officers and slammed on to the other cot in my cell. He stared at me all night long. I’ve been in some truly scary situations since then, but none of them have compared to this. My mom came and picked me up the next morning. Longest night I have ever had.
Luckily for me, the store manager didn’t press charges. It also turns out that the cops called my mom that night and she told them to leave me overnight and let me stew in my own stupidity. The best part of this is, a few months later I saw the same scary man get out of a police car in uniform. To this day I don’t put my hands in my pockets in a store unless I have a damn good reason. It’s been more than 30 years. Those boys should have been dragged in and treated roughly. They should have had the living tar scared right out of them. But they should *not* have been charged with a crime that will label them, will prevent them from getting jobs.
Seeing It Both Ways
I’m of mixed mind here. Getting charged will “scare the tar” out of these kids! But I’m willing to bet they won’t be saddled by a criminal record: either the charges will be dropped, or (if it gets that far) the judge will come up with a good compromise.
Alan learned a great lesson, but some cop had to spend 6-8 hours sitting in jail “staring” at him; that’s one dedicated scary looking “*huge* man” cop to take the time to do that! The investment paid off: he turned a life around.
But what a risk — these days, I’d bet half the parents in the country would at least threaten to sue the police for doing something like that, and some actually would. Alan’s mom did some great “tough love” too. I hope Alan thanked her for that!
So, do you think it’s an example of zero tolerance? Why or why not? Comment below.
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