This week in The Washington Informer in an article concerning safe passages for D.C.’s youths, reporter Sam Collins reports that by the end of 2018, the Metropolitan Police Department recorded 13 homicides involving minors and that an additional 13 young people were arrested for murder. Gun-related crimes and deaths involving children is increasing. But the good news is the community — from legislators to law enforcement, to educators, community organizations and young people as well — is moving aggressively to stop the violence and end the needless killing of young Blacks.
Still, there’s a two-edged sword when it comes to youth violence — never more apparent than when a 10-year-old was recently stopped, handcuffed and detained for allegedly robbing another juvenile at gunpoint. It was later determined by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, after viewing surveillance video, that the 10-year-old was innocent of the crime and that MPD acted followed policy and procedures. But it was too late as videos of the young boy in handcuffs had already been circulated on news channels and social media.
Herein lies the problem. Too often when a crime takes place, the police show up, and witnesses pull out their cellphones to begin taping, anxious to broadcast the incident live on the internet. Then comes the media, whose real job is to report the news. But they also rely on witnesses to share what they have seen. As a result, the alleged perpetrator’s identity is immediately revealed, and if it is a juvenile, the legal protection of confidentiality of the child is often abused. Regardless of the outcome, even if the child is innocent, the traumatic incident will inevitably leave a lasting mental and emotional scar for life.
In a letter written to the media following the incident with the 10-year-old, Racine stated: “By protecting the confidentiality of young people accused and found guilty of crimes, we ensure they have the best possible chance at rehabilitation. When young people are rehabilitated, reintegrated into their communities, and not followed by stigma, they are much less likely to re-offend and can go on to live successful lives.”
We join the AG in reminding the public that children are not adults, but that adults must ensure children are protected. And that no one under any circumstances, not even the media, is exempt from protecting a child’s confidentiality. It’s a protection we owe them!