Do We Need A Daytime Curfew?
Recently the Costa Mesa Police Department, as part of their comprehensive plan to reduce gang activity in our city, recommended the establishment of a Truancy Ordinance, which amounts to a daytime curfew for school age children. The Daily Pilot provided a good overview in an article by Alicia Robinson here.
I watched the CMPD presentation before the city council at the study session and also watched a handful of concerned parents speak to this issue before the council at a subsequent meeting. I agree with most of the views expressed that night - this smacks of authoritarianism. Quite honestly, I'm not surprised that this city council is considering such a move. They have demonstrated many times in the past that they are more than willing to compromise the rights of residents to attain their own personal goals.
At a time when we've seen actions proposed by Mayor Mansoor and his majority cause a rift between the Latino community in this city and the government, including the police department, do we really want the Costa Mesa Police Department to be tasked to become truant officers? At a time when we should be attempting to build relationships between the police and the youth of this community do, we really want our officers randomly stopping kids who might legitimately be away from their campus for a variety of reasons?
What guidelines will they use for stopping children during school hours? Will they stop the white kids driving their mother's Mercedes to the skate park? Will they stop and interrogate the Latino children waiting at a bus stop for transportation from school to their after-school job on the other side of town? Will they sit in the Wendy's parking lot on 17th Street on Wednesday afternoons and cite the hoard of rowdy urchins from Ensign Middle School who descend on that fast food store each week?
What about those college students at OCC who look younger than their age? Will they stop them as they travel to and from that school?
Will this be a "zero tolerance" ordinance, with no room for the exercise of judgment on the part of the officers? If not, what are the parameters of this flexibility? Will every kid with brown kid be cited and every kid with white skin be warned?
What kind of identification and authorization must a child show to prove he or she is legitimately off campus during school hours? Will they be required to prove legal residence? Will they be taken to jail for a truancy infraction, where they get passed before the resident ICE agent? If that seems like a stupid question, I guarantee you there are children on the Westside of our city wondering about that very issue?
It seems to me that this is a perfect topic for those young people involved in the Youth in Government program to contemplate. It would be very interesting to get the viewpoints of those involved, bright young people who will live with this decision before casting it in stone.
The school district is charged with the care and education of our children during school hours. I suspect that if we returned to a time when there were closed campuses and an enforced school uniform policy many of the problems of children wandering throughout the neighborhoods during school hours would diminish. Drive past any high school in the district during the normal school day and you'll see a continual flow of children coming and going at all hours. I read of the procedure currently in place and wonder just why that's not successful in controlling truancy. Perhaps the district needs to tighten up the enforcement of their own policies before suggesting we unleash a draconian daytime curfew.
Many of you have dismissed out of hand my assertions in the past that our current elected leaders are tending to resemble the leaders of Nazi Germany in the run-up to World War II. This, I'm afraid, is just another example of that kind of behavior. Before we unleash the good men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department with an open-ended, inadequately defined plan for the interrogation of our kids, more reasonable, rational consideration should be given to this kind of plan.
Yes, we have a growing gang problem in Costa Mesa. Yes, we need to provide the police department tools with which they can combat this problem. I, along with many of my fellow Costa Mesans, are concerned that this approach proposed by the CMPD will only exacerbate the fracture in relationships between the police and a demographic group representing more than a third of our residents. Not only that, but it has the very real potential to create animosity and distrust among the children that are part of the remaining two-thirds.
I urge more debate and caution before this curfew plan is codified.