Defender: Video of kids waving fake gun should have never been online

Video surveillance screen shot. Courtesy PPD
Video surveillance screen shot. Courtesy PPD

A public defender is questioning why a video of juveniles playing with a toy gun was put on the Philadelphia Police’s YouTube channel.

Three juveniles, ages 10, 13 and 14, were charged with harassment for pointing a toy gun at people on the street. The older two juveniles were additionally charged with reckless endangerment and simple assault.

The youth were identified after Philadelphia Police posted the video online. Michelle Mason, whose office will be defending the 13-year-old, questioned why the video was put online at all.

“Child pornography is illegal so why are the police putting video of children on the Internet?” asked Mason, assistant chief of the Juvenile Special Defense Unit of the Philadelphia Public Defenders Office. “Nowadays, it is standard procedure to put videos of suspects on the Internet, but the police could have refrained from posting a video with children.”

She acknowledged the individuals who had the gun directed at them may not have been able to tell it was fake.

“There was a time that parents could go to their neighbors and apologize for their children’s behavior. Once the media got involved, everything went to Hell in a hand basket,” said Mason.

The recent trend toward restorative justice, which focuses on victim’s rights, concerns her.

“Whenever we want to make a change in a juvenile case, be it a change of care provider or home visit, the victim has to be informed,” she said. “In many cases, the victim does not even know the juvenile.”

The juveniles are expected in court today.



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