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RI ACLU Blasts Barrington Police for Arresting Kids as Young as 12

Monday, December 07, 2015


The ACLU of Rhode Island has called the Barrington Police arrests of children as young as 12 years old for social media use "an unconscionable use of law enforcement authority." This comes just days before suing Tiverton Police for unlawfully arresting an 8 year old student without cause.

ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown  sent a letter to Police Chief John LaCross, calling the department's enforcement actions "very dubious as a matter of public policy and, in some instances, as a matter of law,” and called for a “reexamination of the Department’s approach to these issues.”

Read a Copy of the Letter Here.

The letter cited three examples of charges brought against minors.

Incident 1

The first incident happened in February when the police department arrested a 12 year old boy for sexting, after he allegedly sent nude pictures of himself to a 12 year old girl he had been talking to online.

“While we certainly agree young children need to be taught the dangers of sexting, arresting 12 year olds to prove the point is, in our view, precisely the wrong way to do it," said the letter.

Incident 2

The second incident occurred in October when the department charged a 17 year old boy with electronically disseminating indecent material to minors. The boy allegedly posted a video clip of a teenage girl, even though it was done with the consent of the girl and did not show her face.

The letter called the department's actions “an unconscionable use of law enforcement authority.”

Incident 3

The third incident occurred last month when a 15 year old boy was charged with cyberstalking after he allegedly sent instagram messages to four girls, all on the same day, asking them for nude photos.

The letter stated that in order to avoid fundamental First Amendment problems, the cyberstalking statute applies only to “pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time."

In Conclusion

The letter concluded "there clearly appears to be a disturbing pattern of overenthusiastic police enforcement of social media ‘crimes’ when other measures would be much more effective and much less damaging to children. We ask you to review these incidents and the Department’s policy approach to addressing teen misconduct on social media in order to consider more humane responses that don’t use the criminal law as the resolution of first resort."


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