Why Formal Policies Are Necessary When Police Arrest Parents: A Comparison of Two California Counties
This paper examines the role that law enforcement officers should play if arresting a parent when a child is present. Although approximately 2.7 million children have at least one parent in prison, little attention has been paid to the potentially traumatic experience of a child witnessing his or her parent being arrested. Throughout the United States, few counties have a formal policy or protocol in place that outlines the roles and responsibilities of the arresting law enforcement officer if a child is present. The following paper argues that formal policies and protocols for parental arrests are needed by first looking at several main problems related to parental arrests and then examining current state legislation in California and comparing the arrest process in two neighboring counties. The paper concludes with a summary of possible reasons why progress in implementing formal policies to date has been slow and suggests that the greatest problem is changing department culture.