When police disobey a direct order from a judge, what happens? It is safe to assume that there are no consequences. That is unless the victimized has a network of support to push for change. Not just a symbolic change, but real and actual change in policy, procedure, and structure. A lawsuit filed Tuesday by one mother is seeking such change from the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department.
According to the lawsuit filed by Tureko Straughter, probation officials held her 15-year-old son unlawfully. Officials alleged that her son was guilty of a nonviolent property offense but like in the story of Donna Small, had no evidence implicating him. The case went before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Braden Woods the same day the boy was arrested. He determined that “there was not sufficient probable cause” to hold the boy. Judge Woods ordered the boy’s release at 2pm that day.
In complete disregard to the judge’s order, probation officials kept the boy locked up for four days. The boy should have been released to his parents within hours of the judge’s ruling. The lawsuit claims that is not what occurred. The lawsuit alleges that probation officials deliberately and intentionally ignored the judge’s order.
While the teen was detained, or held hostage, the mother was allowed three “tightly supervised” visits in 45 minute increments. SF Gate reports that the boy slept in a locked cell four days before being released July 3. According to the mother, the son has never been in trouble with the law before.
According to the complaint, a probation officer found the record of another teen with the same last name and birth date as the detainee. It turns out, that record cited the teen’s twin. The suit claims that officer maliciously assumed the detained teen was using a false name.
The complaint further alleges the teen slept in a locked cell, and his experience at the facility “caused mental anguish, emotional distress, feelings of unjust treatment, reputational harm, fear, anxiety, humiliation and trauma.”
“Finding out my son was supposed to be released really hurt,” said Straughter, in a statement. “He could have been home with me and his brothers. I was scared for him.”
The teen, who is not being identified, said in a statement that “instead of juvenile hall, I think the city should invest in the community. Youth community centers provide important support to young people.”
“Too often, incarceration is a default response to youthful behavior, even though we know that incarceration is harmful and disproportionately impacts young people of color,” said Meredith Desautels, an attorney representing the teenager through Bay Area Legal Aid. “This case is emblematic of a systemic problem we have here in San Francisco and around the state.”
Straughter is suing the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, Chief Probation Office Allen Nance, three San Francisco Police Department officers, and the city and county of San Francisco. She is also requesting a jury trial but the amount of monetary damages has not been reported.
“We have not been served with this lawsuit, so we can’t comment on something we haven’t seen,” said John Cote, communications director for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.