For those who have seen the news report involving the detention of an 11-year-old juvenile, this detention, on its face, may seem egregious; however, there is background in this case that cannot be publicly discussed because the information regarding this juvenile is protected information and by law, we cannot release these facts. The detention of a juvenile is not all that unusual. Juvenile detentions between the ages of 10 and 14 constitute approximately 8% of all Arvada Police Department arrests annually. This rate is consistent with what is seen in police departments across the country.
In October 2010, the Arvada Police Department responded to a local elementary school after a school administrator reported a threat by a student. The officers involved in this case interviewed school officials and learned that an 11 year old male had drawn a graphic picture containing a specific threat against teachers. The officer also obtained relevant background information regarding this juvenile's past behavior. After obtaining this information, the officer responded to the home of the juvenile and met with the parents and the juvenile involved in this case. During the entire time officers were working with the juvenile and his parents, the parents and the juvenile were fully informed of the complaint made by the school and the reason for the investigation along with what steps the police department needed to take. When the decision was made to make the detention, the parents and the juvenile were fully informed of the process, how the officers would proceed, and how decisions were to be made from that point forward.
One issue in this case has been the fact that the officer handcuffed the juvenile after the detention. The officer was concerned about the sensitive nature of a juvenile detention and the potential impact on the juvenile and the parents. After the decision to detain was made, the officer's sergeant drove the officer's patrol car to a point on the driveway so the officer could minimize the exposure of the juvenile to others. The juvenile was not handcuffed inside the home as reported. Instead, the officer walked with the juvenile out of the house, between cars parked on the driveway, to the patrol car. At the patrol car, the officer informed the juvenile he would be handcuffed, and only then did the officer handcuff the juvenile for transport to the police department. The decision to handcuff a juvenile is the officer’s decision to make based upon the totality of the circumstances. The juvenile was in police custody for approximately 53 minutes - just long enough for the transport and booking process to be completed - before being transported to a local hospital.
The Jefferson County School District has a policy related to when school officials are required to notify law enforcement. That policy states, in part: in order to eliminate confusion, enhance consistency in crime reporting, ensure standardization of law enforcement responses and provide for a quality educational environment in the Jefferson County School District, the following crimes/incidents will require immediate notification to the local law enforcement agency:
- Firearms or weapons in possession of an identifiable suspect
- Any criminal offense involving a weapon
- Assault involving any weapon or serious bodily injury
- Sexual assault
- Child abuse
- Known or suspected gang members on campus who are not students
- Bomb threats and other threats deemed serious by a school administrator
- Drug and alcohol violations, including paraphernalia
- Other trespassers suspected of involvement in criminal activity
- Crimes involving major property damage, loss or arson
- Other situations as considered appropriate by school administration
The school administrators in this situation did what is required of them by reporting this incident. In addition, the Jefferson County School District has a Code of Conduct manual that clearly outlines what is and what is not acceptable behavior. Click here to read the District's Code of Conduct manual http://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/publications/conduct_code.pdf
The juvenile in this case was charged with Interference with Staff, Faculty, or Students or Educational Institutions (CRS 18-9-109(6)). State law requires that with a charge such as this, where there is a threatened use of a deadly weapon, an officer shall detain the juvenile. The police officer investigating this case determined that action needed to be taken and did so according to law.
Here in Colorado we have experienced numerous school shootings including Columbine High School, Platte Canyon High School, Youth With A Mission, Deer Creek Middle School, and a host of school shootings across the country. Some of these shootings have been perpetrated by juveniles as young as 11 years of age. We must apply the lessons learned from these school shootings and take the necessary and appropriate steps to prevent another tragedy from occurring by taking all such threats seriously, thoroughly investigating them, and ensuring intervention takes place as early as possible.