The Gangfighters Network is an organization designed to bridge the gap between academia and the criminal justice professions. For more information, visit and The focus is on gangs, initially adult gangs as it appears they have been ignored or absorbed into the mainstream society. There's a special focus on gang members in the military.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Parents anger misdirected -- should be upset with themselves

A recent headline -- Parents angry after finding children's names on police 'gang lists' contains the epitome of parental denial of a problem.

Are there really parents in today's world who believe their kids are innocent just because the kid says they are?

Back in the day, women who attended Mom School learned to tell their kids that who you are is affected by with whom you associate. This advice was more likely passed on with comments like, "Don't hang around them boys -- they are trouble."

Men had a school, too, but many of us failed to graduate, so all we were able to say in support was "You heard your mother, boy, don't make her tell you again."

Apparently Mom and Dad school have lower attendance numbers or, maybe, this isn't taught any more. Nonetheless, it's a timeless principle -- except when you fail to accept responsibility for the children you bring into this world.

Here's a few clips from the story, in an attempt to put (what I see as) the reality into perspective . . .

Neither boy had ever been arrested and, (the mother) said, (and) neither was involved with gangs.

Well, the mother may be an authority on whether her son had ever been arrested, though the police would know better. She is not an authority on whether her son is in a gang, unless, of course, she is with him around the clock. What this response means is either 1) my son told me he is not in a gang and those drawings on his school papers and suspicious friends he hangs with don't convince me otherwise, or 2) I have more important things to do than keep track of my son's whereabouts and have taught him that denying reality makes it go away.

. . . more than 50 people, all but a few of them black, showed up . . . heard eight representatives of law enforcement agencies, all but two of them white, tell them why they keep these lists and how they use them.

Anytime the media, or observers for that matter, make a point to note the races of those involved without also showing why that was important, it's not. More police officers are white and more street gang members are black. That's not something that affects the facts of the case. I am pretty sure it doesn't change readership.

JR got on the list, according to Largo police records, because police found 11 pictures of him online displaying 119 Boys hand signals, and because a police officer saw him once with other gang associates, and because he once ran away from a sheriff's deputy while accompanied by another gang member. "It's hurtful," said JRs mother, about her son's inclusion.

Those facts, for people who are not the boy's parents, serve as a clear indication that he at a minimum has an interest in local gags and more likely is an associate or member. These are also an indication that the boy's parents haven't seen the indicators or have ignored them and denied they are indicators. They are not an indication that the police intended anything to be "hurtful" as that's not in their job description.

. . . prosecutors use the lists to get higher bail amounts and longer prison sentences. Prosecutors need to prove gang membership to a judge before a harsher sentence can be imposed. Public Defender Bob Dillinger doesn't like how the lists are used to set higher bail."You have no way of knowing it (gang member status) is accurate," Dillinger said. "If the police say it, that's it."

No, Mr. Dillinger, you actually have a way to know whether the list is accurate -- beyond the police simply "saying it" -- it's the part above where it says "Prosecutors need to prove gang membership to a judge." That's how (and why) our justice system works.

If you saw this as a rant, then it's over. Something had to be said. If you are a parent and want to know what indicators to look for -- check out the warning signs.

What do you think?

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