Florida law enforcement angered parents by falsely labeling large number of juveniles on secret gang membership lists even when they never violated the law. Clearwater Criminal Lawyers pointed out that the over-broad characterization from the Largo Police Department, the St. Petersburg Police Department and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department was not only unfair and un-American, but actually was useful only in grooming these youths into the role of law breakers rather than law abiders. Close police scrutiny on any citizens based on their merely speaking to other citizens at the same school or church is wrong and violates our rights.
|Van Gogh, Young Man, 1888|
An entire class of citizens is being branded as part of the criminal underworld even when they never violated Florida law. Finally, local authorities in Pinellas County, Florida are looking at changing the criteria for inclusion of a citizen as a gang member. Action needs to be taken immediately to correct the unfairness of the gang lists with these solutions as noted in TBT:
- There must be mandatory notification of the parents or guardians of any juvenile before being listed as a gang member.
- There must be an appeal process for those who believe they’ve been falsely labeled.
- There must be one central database of names for Pinellas County rather than each agency having a list which could be abused.
The absurdity of these lists which were created by a Florida Statute on Gang Prevention is that the laws create gang membership even where there is no real gang affiliation. One unfortunate but laughable result of over-broad labeling by law can be found in the fact that the FBI is being sued because it labeled the entire fan base of a heavy metal rap band as gang members. But at least these thee steps will stop the Largo Police Department from abusing its authority by absurdly listing 500 juveniles in that small city as gang members and by giving parents the ability to appeal arbitrary gang affiliation decisions with due process rights enforced by Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys.