We have all seen the TV cop shows where a perp is tricked into giving evidence. He is offered a drink or given a tissue so that fingerprints and DNA evidence can be collected from the items. The perp thinks the offer is genuine but it is solely to collect evidence. This happens all the time in the real world as officers fool people into giving evidence. These folks are adults and if they are fooled then it is their fault.
But what about children?
We already know that children are only allowed to consent to certain things (like abortions where they do not have to inform parents) but for the most part parents are supposed to be involved when students are questioned by police.
How about when evidence is being sought? Are the police allowed to trick children into providing information that might incriminate them? Is it legal for people who children believe to be in authority positions to have children unwittingly provide evidence by using false pretenses?
In Northampton Massachusetts a joint effort by the police, the District Attorney, and the school board has resulted in children being fooled into providing handwriting samples. This stems from an incident where a threatening note was left at the school resulting in an incident where the school was evacuated.
After that incident the three entities obtained handwriting samples from the children to use for comparison to the note containing the threat. The children were led to believe they were writing a statement indicating they take the threat seriously and share the concern of the police. There is no indication these children were ever informed that their statements were going to be used as evidence to see if one of them was the note writer.
It does not appear as if the children were given an option not to write the statement so many probably looked at it as a mandatory school assignment. What would have happened to any student who refused?
I don’t think that collecting evidence like this is appropriate since the intended use of the statements was only for this purpose. Why wouldn’t the police just ask teachers for handwritten assignments to use for comparison? Would a warrant be required for this? If the purpose of obtaining the samples was for comparison why was a warrant not required to get them?
“We disagree that it violates student rights,” he [Police Chief Russell P. Sienkiewicz] said.
Sullivan released a statement saying that the bottom line is ensuring the safety of students.
“We take any threats against children seriously and investigate all such threats,” he said. “The alleged threat at Northampton High School was of a serious nature.” Mass Live
The claim is that the DA said the method is valid and legal. Under what laws and why were parents not involved?
How is what happened here any different than tricking all students into providing a DNA sample to see who was sticking gum under desks?
I think threats should be taken seriously but violating the rights of citizens to do so makes those involved no better than the criminal who left the note.
Never surrender, never submit.