Do police officers stereotype teens?

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2021 | Criminal Law |

When a police officer sees a teenager, that teenager may be wary of the officer as an authority figure. They may not trust them. They may assume that the officer sees them the same way. 

Does this happen? Over the years, there has undoubtedly been evidence that the authorities tend to view teens negatively. They are often portrayed as risk-takers, as reckless individuals and as those who are more likely to engage in disruptive behavior. As one writer put it, the assumption is often that teenagers are “dangerous, vulnerable or just plain stupid.”

Why does this happen? 

In a lot of situations, teens get this reputation based on events that involve a small amount of them. For instance, if a few teens are involved in vandalism, authorities may be more likely to assume that all teens are more likely to vandalize — even if they’ve never done so. 

There is also evidence that brain development is far from complete for teens. It doesn’t really stop until 25. Officers may assume that teens are incapable of thinking through the ramifications of their decisions and may be more likely to make poor, rash choices, including breaking the law. And, while some teens may do so, it is certainly unfair to assume that most of them are doing so most of the time. 

Why is this a problem?

The problem here is that officers who stereotype any group of people may then be more likely to arrest them, harass them or assume they have broken the law when they have not. If you are the parent of a teen who is facing this type of injustice, it’s important that you know exactly what legal options you have.