Oklahoma City parents complain police wrongly rounded up teenagers in Bricktown

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said some of the complaints parents made after a curfew sweep Saturday night were valid.
BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Published: July 20, 2011
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Citty said police are investigating their handling of the situation to see what went wrong.

“The ordinance does provide for legitimate reasons for someone who is underage to be out past 11 p.m.,” Citty said. “If they can show they were attending the theater and are waiting for a ride to be picked up, the arrest of that juvenile would not be appropriate.”

The kids were taken to the Crisis Intervention Center, a holding facility for juveniles picked up on minor complaints. It is run by Youth Services for Oklahoma County Inc., a nonprofit organization that contracts with the city and the state.

‘Called kids liars'

Parents complained they were treated unprofessionally by staff at the center and had to wait six hours or more to get their kids back.

“The C.I.C. staff used profanity, harsh language and called kids liars when they weren't given the information they wanted to hear,” Peggy Hammons said. “My husband and I arrived at the C.I.C. before midnight. I could hear my daughter and her friend just in the other room bawling.”

Kelsea Hammons said she and Brittney held hands in a holding cell because they were scared but were told by staff to separate because they were publicly displaying affection.

Peggy Hammons said staff members were curt with her and made her wait until 6 a.m. to take her daughter home while they completed paperwork.

Debby Forshee, president and chief executive of Youth Services, said she is working with police on their investigation and is also looking into the incident. She said the center has to follow procedures and complete paperwork as a matter of its contracts with the city and state.

“When you have such a large number of kids all at one time, you can imagine it takes longer than if it was one or two people,” Forshee said. “We are looking at a couple of our processes on how we handle large groups.”

Peggy Hammons said even if the citations are thrown out, it won't erase the experience the kids went through after they were arrested and booked like common criminals even though they did nothing wrong.

“You tell your daughter the police are there to protect her,” Hammons said. “What do I tell her now when it is the police doing the harm?”

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