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Cops ready to enforce kids curfew

(Published July 12, 1999)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

D.C. police are preparing to begin enforcement of the cityís contested youth curfew law almost as soon as the ink dries on the imminent judicial order reinstating it, barring an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Charles H. Ramsey said his department will run a 30-day educational period to inform residents about the law before officers begin to cite curfew violators. He said during the first 30 days he expects officers will pick up kids who are violating the curfew, take them home, issue a warning and provide them with educational materials about the curfew.

The U.S. Court of Appeals voted 9-2 June 18 to overturn a lower court ruling that prevented the law from being enforced. The D.C. Juvenile Curfew Law of 1995 made it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be on the streets after 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law was filed in 1996 and the federal circuit court enjoined the government from enforcing the law in October of 1996.

Ramsey said he does not want to create detention centers for curfew violators because that would entail creating a whole system to watch over the kids in the system. He said a center will be created, however, that will be available when officers cannot ensure the childrenís safety at home.

"We want to pick them up and take them home," Ramsey said. "The only ones you bring to the center are the ones where you canít find a responsible adult at home."

The law is currently held up in the court of appeals because plaintiffs in the case, who oppose the law, filed a motion asking the judges to delay issuing their mandate that would allow the law to go into effect. The D.C. corporation counsel, the cityís top lawyer, filed a motion opposing the delay and the court has yet to sort out the issue. Walter Smith, spokesman for the corporation counsel, said he expects the court to issue its mandate any day.

Robert Plotkin one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, said his legal team is currently discussing whether they will appeal the appellate court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Personally, Iím leaning toward an appeal," Plotkin said, noting that the final decision is not entirely up to him.

Smith said he supports Ramseyís preparations for curfew enforcement even though there is still some question about when the law will go into effect.

"Itís much better to do the preparation and find out that this is not in place," Smith said, "instead of not do the preparations and have people say ĎWhy arenít you doing anything with this law?í"

Ramsey acknowledged that enforcement of the law will be a big undertaking at first since the law hasnít been enforced in almost three years. He said officers are currently being trained in police procedures for enforcing the law.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator