In Baltimore, MD, Criminal Justice, Maryland State, Police Accountability

The period for public comments has ended. Stay tuned for actions you can take to make our police department more accountable.

The Baltimore Police Department is revising their policies on youth interrogation and is accepting public comment until December 13. Reforming how young people are treated by the criminal justice system is one of JUFJ’s 2020 legislative priorities in Annapolis, and we need to let the BPD know that their proposed policy is not in line with our values or with medical science.

You can review the BPD’s draft policy here. A JUFJ leader has prepared the brief statement below; we encourage you to personalize your comments as much as possible. While a city policy is no substitute for legislation on this matter, it’s important we let the BPD know that we’ll stand up for the children of this city.

Having reviewed the BPD’s proposed policy on youth interrogation (policy no. 1207), I am writing to express my concern that it is not in line with medical knowledge about how young people think and develop, and that it will lead to mistreatment of young people being interrogated. I suggest these changes:

1) The definition of “youth” should include everyone under the age of 21, and there should be no distinction between children 15 and younger and 16 and older. There is not adequate scientific evidence differentiating an 18 year old’s brain from a 20 year old’s. Developmental delays and/or mental health challenges (which are prevalent in young people detained by law enforcement) make it far too difficult to determine that a 15 or 16 year old is any more or less developmentally equipped to waive their rights than an 18 year old.

2) Youth should not be able to waive their rights nor be interrogated without an attorney. An attorney should be present, either in person or through phone or video conferencing, during questioning. A parent should not be able to waive a child’s rights until an attorney is consulted. As the Juvenile Law Center has noted, “Adolescents waive their Miranda rights at an astounding rate of 90% and make false confessions at exponentially higher rates than adults.” Parents are also susceptible to intimidation and threats to waive their child’s rights.

3) If an officer violates any part of the policy or there is an imminent threat requiring an officer to immediately question a youth, any statements made by the youth should not be admissible in court.

Please submit your own comments on the policy, or your version of the text above, by Friday, December 13, 2019.

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