In the 1980's, a teen-aged Joe Negron was caught planting a Ronald Reagan yard sign at the Jupiter Island home of Dorothy Bush, grandmother of President George W. Bush. Negron avoided arrest by undoing the damage.
Now President of the Florida Senate, Negron says he doesn’t want to “criminalize adolescence.” But a Senate bill that would force police to write civil citations instead of making arrests goes too far, says Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gaultieri.
“I think there’s room for discussion with this. But at the core of it, law enforcement has to retain discretion in order to make those good decisions, and not end up in a situation where it adversely effects the kids and it adversely effects public safety.”
Advocates say civil citations are an important option at a time when an arrest record can haunt a young person for life. Programs are working around the state, but some law enforcement agencies are slow to catch on, advocates say.
But Gaultieri says the bill is an unfunded mandate for smaller communities that have yet to adopt juvenile citation programs.