Debate On Police Action Is Healthy


At a recent meeting of the Payson Town Council, a question was raised regarding an article that appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of the Payson Roundup about 12-year-old Adam Davis.

The article recounted the repercussions that befell Adam (not his real name), an honor roll student, when he told some of his Frontier Elementary School classmates that he had a gun and would use it if he had to. Besides being suspended for three days, visiting all FES classrooms to tell fellow students the repercussions of such action, and writing a letter of apology to then-principal Sue Myers, Adam was arrested and subsequently placed on probation for one year.

Adam's grandfather, who brought the matter to our attention, suggested both the police and courts were guilty of overkill. Myers agreed.

Although the Roundup's account featured explanations and rationales from Don McKeen, unit supervisor for juvenile probation, and Sgt. Tom Tieman and Lt. Don Engler of the Payson Police Department, it was suggested at a council meeting that we had blown the incident out of proportion.

A recent event in Tolleson provides an interesting perspective from which to address this charge. Last Friday, a 12-year-old Tolleson girl told police she was abducted and sexually assaulted while walking to school. A letter was sent home alerting parents to the incident, which sent "the whole community into shock," according to Tolleson Elementary School District Superintendent Diane Hamilton. On Saturday, the seventh-grader admitted she made the whole story up as a cover for spending more time with her boyfriend.

Instead of charging the girl with falsifying a police report, Tolleson Det. C. J. Downing dismissed the incident as a "bad decision" made by "a pre-teen struggling in whatever teenagers go through."

While the two cases are not entirely parallel, and while I am not suggesting the police and courts were wrong in their treatment of Adam Davis, the Tolleson incident certainly demonstrates that there is more than one way of dealing with such incidents.

I believe the issues raised are worthy of debate in the community at large, and certainly within the law enforcement and judicial agencies involved.

And as Roundup Publisher Richard Haddad pointed out in a recent editorial, one of our primary responsibilities as a newspaper in a free and open society is to report such issues to the public when they arise.

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