The young boy resided a considerable
distance outside the city, so I
transported him to a nearby police
district station (not my own) where I
placed a call to his home.  The
appreciative parents were on their way,
but it would be about 45 minutes before
their arrival.  

I got the kid a cold soda, and we sat
down in the station's roll call room where
I went about catching up on my activity
sheet.  Shortly thereafter, a sergeant
walked into the roll call room.  He came
over to me and asked, "What do you
have, officer?"  I explained the
circumstances, and the sergeant smiled
and nodded.  The sergeant then stated,
"Give me your incident and custody
reports, and I'll sign them for you."

Oops.  What incident and custody
reports was he talking about?

Even though I was still quite new, I'd
written a few juvenile custody reports.  
However, up to now, all the incidents had
involved neglect, abuse, or criminal
conduct.  It simply hadn't occurred to
me, by the benign circumstances of this
incident, that this boy was, in fact, in my
In this scenario, the correct procedure
would be to contact the appropriate
agency to determine the disposition of
the infant.  It's quite possible that the
social worker, following an interview,
inspection, etc, may well approve the
next door neighbor in this example.  
Let's say you handled this incident
correctly, and the social worker approves
the next door neighbor.  You could well
have another police officer chastise you
for wasting time, because the end result
would have been the same with a lot less
effort.  Whenever you're criticised by
another police officer for doing anything
correctly, don't ever place any trust in
that officer in the future.

Writing a juvenile custody report and
making any required notifications isn't
any different from preparing other
reports.  Like other reporting, it's a
matter of knowing when a juvenile
custody report is required.
You respond to a residence to serve an
arrest warrant on Ms Smith for an
accusation of theft.  Ms Smith is alone in
the residence except for her 2 year old

Since the infant obviously cannot
accompany the mother to jail, you must
ensure the child's welfare.  The child's
father is not available, and you learn that
the father does not even reside at the

Ms Smith asks that the child be placed in
the custody of her next door neighbor;
until, she returns.  Here's where a lot of
police officers will do just that.  The
neighbor seems decent enough.  She
shows concern, and she gladly takes
custody of the child.

Here's how some cops think.  Ms Smith
will likely be out of jail shortly after
booking and her interview before a court
commissioner.  As long as everything
goes the way it's supposed to go and
the child receives competent care, no
harm will come from your incorrect
handling of the child's custody.

On the other hand, if any harm comes to
that child during the mother's absence,
you'll be in a world of hurt.  When it
comes to children -- particularly helpless
infants -- you must never short cut or
take anything for granted.  What if the
mother doesn't get out of jail?  What if
the neighbor is a "Crack" addict who lives
with a convicted sex offender?  There can
be a lot of "what ifs."

Even after reading what I've just
described, there are some police officers
who just don't get it.  Their standard
defense would be, "The mother made the

Okay...let's break this down.  Until you
showed up, the infant was in the
mother's custody.  You have an arrest
warrant which places the mother into
your custody.  It should be obvious that
the arrest of the mother has removed
her custody and control over the infant.  
The "mother made the decision defense"
won't fly since a person you arrest can't
make decisions, because a person you've
arrested is under your
total control.  In
other words, the so called "mother's
decision" becomes "your" decision.   
Although I would never again have
contact with this particular sergeant, I
never forgot his name.  Sergeant Stine
gave me a polite and concise refresher
course on reporting requirements.  It
was all very simple.  The incident was
"Lost Child" on a Miscellaneous Incident
Report, and the Juvenile Custody Report,
with the same incident title, accompanied
the MI report.

In this incident, the moment I placed that
young boy into my radio car, I'd taken
physical custody of him.  True...he was
not neglected, abused, and he'd
committed no criminal act.  However, by
virtue of his age, my control over him
made his continuing welfare my

You'll frequently take custody of juveniles
under any number of circumstances.
Your police department will have some
kind of reporting procedure to document
your custody and the final disposition of
the juvenile.  Don't make the mistake of
viewing such reporting requirements as
unnecessary under any circumstances.

The incident I described occurred well
over thirty years ago, but the Baltimore
Police Department was well ahead of the
times by its attention to the importance
of documenting a police officer's
interaction with juveniles.  Time and
society's increased attention to incidents
involving juveniles has made
documenting police custody of juveniles
more important than ever.  

While your power to take a juvenile into
your custody has not diminished over
time, your power to release a juvenile
from your custody, on your own
authority, has diminished considerably.  
When your custody is a result of
allegations of neglect or abuse, you'll
most probably be required to seek
direction from a governmental agency
such as a department of social services.

Let's look at a common mistake police
officers have made in the past and
continue to make today:
Custody Report
"You'll frequently take custody of
juveniles under any number of
circumstances. Your police
department will have some kind of
reporting procedure to document
your custody and the final disposition
of the juvenile." ~ Barry M. Baker
I was still a brand new police officer when
I was detailed to direct traffic at a
Baltimore Orioles' baseball game.  As the
traffic flow was returning to normal
following the end of the game, I was
about to leave the assignment when I
was approached by an 11 year old boy.

The boy was an intelligent and obviously
well adjusted young man who'd simply
gotten separated from a group that had
attended the baseball game.  He ask me
to assist him in contacting his parents
since he'd spent all of his money and
didn't even have a dime (yes, a
dime...that's how long ago this incident
occurred) for a pay phone.
Copyright © 2016  Barry M. Baker