I was mildly amused by the recent event whereby certain Eagle County sheriff’s officers and a member of the State Patrol raided the woodsy (post-graduation party) conducted by teenage miscreants up near Horse Mountain. Citations for underage drinking were issued to those who were nabbed by the officers.
High school graduation in America is a rite of passage from the confines, constraints and structure of home and school to the world of young adulthood, and into the arms of the police state with its legion of rules, regulations and criminal laws that are applied to all, comprehended by few.
So, I say, do not expect the admission of newly minted law-abiding citizens into society on graduation day with full knowledge of what is expected of them, for that is too monumental a reach for kids to make in spite of our expectations and hypocrisy.
Underage drinking is and should be a misdemeanor offense at most, and an act of delinquency in the very least. The law enforcement officers were spot on in their endeavors to enforce the law. Kids need to be civilized, educated and informed of the extant perils of their neighborhoods, country and the world at large.
However, the law must be enforced with integrity, honesty and forthrightness, since above all else, teenagers look for those qualities in adults and enforcement personnel.
In a society in which corruption, concealment and disingenuous process permeates all levels of government, lack of trust in those who foment the law and those who enforce it is rampant.
It is very much the task of officers in the exercise of their duties to engender in the younger generations the trust that they expect and admire. Where misrepresentations, coerced admissions, entrapment and other devious techniques are utilized by law enforcement to lure the naive and under-aged targets into incriminating themselves, the citations may have been written at the expense of respect for the law, the officers of the law and of government in general.
Every citation or complaint issued to these kids without justification, honesty and with due respect for their ignorance should be expunged and dismissed, since the resultant trust in the law and society would be well worth more than the fines, community service costs or indoctrination fees that would be imposed were these kids (and their parents) to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
It takes a good deal of introspection on the part of the law enforcement officer to ask: “Did I do this right? Was I fair? Did I engender respect for my office into the observant, perceptive and inquiring mind of that teenager?”
If that officer doubts the integrity of his performance, then he should teach a greater lesson by dismissing the citation, and exposing the reasons therefore.