Law & Order ECS | To Protect & Serve: Democracy in Action and Teens Decide!
Our civil justice system focuses on protecting our rights and serving our citizens. This became progressively apparent during our visit with the Colorado Springs Police Department. CSPD showed us how they serve us, the citizens, and how they protect us.
We started with a discussion of different divisions of police work, such as vice and narcotics, investigations (street work, interviews, investigation beyond the crime scene out in the field), and crime scene investigation (labs and photography, crime scene analysis). We then went to have a discussion with the dispatchers and the people who take the calls that come in for the emergency 911 number. We learned many things about how they deal with calls and when vehicles are dispatched for the calls. Though operating on minimum staff a majority of the time, these call takers have developed an efficient and safe way to make sure that we the citizens stay safe and protected. After our visit with communications, we left to go meet with the investigations advocate. He told us about the types of investigations that they conducted and informed us of the steps they must take in order to be sure that no one’s rights get violated. The advocate explained that they were there to protect the rights of the citizens and help get criminals off the streets without violating their rights. From there we moved to the labs and crime scene investigation/ analysis. We learned the difference between fact and fiction that media presented us with. They told us what working for forensics is really like, and answered any questions we formed on the subject. They told us the ways in which they work in order to efficiently bring criminals in off the street without much chance of getting the wrong guy. Since the technology they work with help them get the right guy most of the time, they don’t risk taking away the rights of an innocent.
In every department the officers made it clear that they strive to protect the community and maintain the rights of the citizens. Our law enforcers really are here to serve and protect.
Later that day, we went to see how other aspects of the system are here to serve and protect our citizens, especially the youngest among us. Off we went to the Municipal Court to learn from Erick Groskopf and Colorado Springs Teen Court.
Teen Court is run by teens ONLY, but they have professional help. The judge is not a teen, but he/she was not controlling the court as much as they normally would in a court case. Teen Court is provided for teens who have admitted guilt to be sentenced on misdemeanor offenses. They will not be tried for federal or a felony crime. The jury is made up of previously offending teens. Those teens decide the punishment for the teen being sentenced. Part of every sentence coming from Teen Court is that the teen has to serve on a Teen Court jury. The jury has a choice to give the convicted teen as many classes as they wanted as part of the sentence. The choices of classes are:
Each of these classes is supposed to help the teen with communication skills, self-esteem issues, substance abuse issues, or learning how to better adapt to situations. The teen gets at least one class. Then the jury also decides on how many hours of community service the convicted teen must do. Those are consequences that have to happen with every sentence. There are other consequences that may also be added. There may be an artistic consequence, drawing a picture or designing something. Then there is the possibility of writing an apology letter to the parents or victim. With these consequences, Teen Court has had only 5% of those convicted actually go out and commit another crime.
There were two trials happening while we were there Tuesday night. In the trial I saw the girl was 14 years old and still in middle school. She was caught stealing another girl’s iPhone. She showed no interest in being at teen court. She kept saying, “It was a waste of my time.” She kept saying, “I know this could ruin my life. I wanna focus on my grades and track right now. I want to move to New York and become a fashion designer.” She answered questions briefly with no details. She was given the punishment of jury work (you have to), 26 hours of community service, four of the classes listed above, and apology letters to her mother, to the girl she stole the phone from, and to the school. Fianlly, she had to design a dress with a New York theme.
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