Officer’s logic handcuffed |

Officer’s logic handcuffed

Don Rogers

Greg Webb’s boy got himself in a lot of trouble with that fight in the schoolyard.Sent to the principal’s office, and a chat with the school police officer. No doubt, he deserved punishment. A scolding, most certainly. And probably time out, swats in these modern times being out of the question. Maybe his misdeed was severe enough for Dad to come pick up his fifth-grade son from Avon Elementary. You know, maybe this even merited suspension, although that’s not what happened. Whatever mayhem the kid committed, it wasn’t deemed serious enough for suspension. No ambulances came whipping up to the school with red lights and sirens wailing. As far as we can tell, no one required professional medical attention. No guns or knives or other weapons were involved. A boy who had been bad on the playground said the wrong thing to the wrong cop, who put him in handcuffs and drove him … home. The principal and district administrators were sufficiently appalled to not invite the officer back to the school. The Avon police and town authorities have clammed up and refused to release any records about the case. Here’s this incident that required an armed police officer to leap to the conclusion, over the principal’s judgment, that this 10-year-old was such a terror that he needed to be handcuffed right now. So then he takes the child home? Shouldn’t someone menacing enough for handcuffs, no matter how small, be taken straight to jail or some other appropriate holding place? If home was the answer, how exactly does the offense require the 5-O treatment for an elementary school boy? The case’s details will remain a mystery. Colorado law protects juveniles pretty thoroughly when it comes to police reports and such. Journalists, no matter how hard-boiled, will lose legal efforts to examine these records. Frankly, that’s the way it should be, outside of violent criminal acts. We’re talking about a 10-year-old here, remember, however much a stinker he might have been in the schoolyard. He will not be facing any charges in a courtroom. Suspension from school wasn’t even in the cards. Whatever the boy did wrong, it did not rise to a criminal level. The principal has dealt with playground dust-ups a time or two more then the cop has. She had the better handle on how to handle discipline. The officer should have restrained himself. Of course, none of this has given a stream of commenters pause. The story quickly morphed into something else with the public – some kind of fable about modern life that has little to do with what happened. There’s the Soviet outlook, missing the good old days when discipline mattered, boys’ butts got beat good and red, and the cops always were right. Tough love, baby. Why, that will larn ’em.And there’s the hippie outlook. Cops can never be trusted. What was causing the child to act out so? Why can’t we all just get along? As if the boy had done nothing wrong to begin with.Neither set of platitudes fits the events in the schoolyard.What conclusions you reach must come by deduction. Here are mine: The boy misbehaved in the playground and deserved to be disciplined. Maybe he got smart-mouthed with the wrong authority. That authority, the police officer, made an error in judgment when he should have taken a back seat for the moment to the principal, who has more experience in dealing with children.The town authorities must basically suck it up and refuse to turn over details of the incident. Releasing sensitive information dealing with a 10-year-old would be wrong, no matter how much they might believe that would exonerate their officer. And it wouldn’t.The school district needs to safeguard its students. That means our officer needs to transfer out of school duty. What little has been released shows gross overreaction with the handcuff thing, along with an odd under-reaction by taking a kid supposedly meriting handcuffs home instead of to jail. The bigger picture lesson is this: The schools and the police forces need to spend some quality time together hammering out a protocol for who takes the lead in student discipline. And whatever policy emerges probably should include provision that leaves the attached more firmly on the officer’s belt. At least when it comes to Officer Friendly’s rounds at the local elementary school.Oh, and a good old-fashioned spanking at home for the boy might not have been such a bad idea, either.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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