"It's not cool to arrest 12-year-olds," Ridgeville Park District Board Member Rob Bady told Evanston aldermen this week, in the wake of the arrest last month of his son. "That's not a good thing."
As Ian Bady described it to the aldermen, he was riding on the rear pegs of a bike on July 14. Another kid was peddling. A third was riding on the handle bars.
They were heading westbound on Clark Street from the Burger King at Orrington Avenue to the Starbucks a block away on Sherman Avenue when the kid peddling "drove straight into traffic against the light, making two cars slam on their brakes and honk at us."
Watch Ian Bady's description of his arrest.
Did police have grounds for an arrest?
The Illinois Vehicle Code says "No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped" and makes it "unlawful for any person to do any act forbidden" by the code.
It also makes it unlawful for the parent of any child to "authorize or knowingly permit" the child to violate any provisions of the code.
It's not reasonable to expect a 12-year-old to have read the vehicle code, but the state's Bicycle Rules of the Road booklet, which is intended to be read by kids, clearly directs cyclists to "always ride one to a bike."
As for the kid who was peddling, the vehicle code also makes it illegal for any driver -- including a bicylist -- to run a red light, and the plain-language booklet reinforces that.
What happened after the arrest?
Ian was transported to the police station and released to his parents. No formal charges were filed. Nobody had to go to court.
A police spokesman said the process, frequently used with juveniles, is called a "station adjustment," and that any paperwork the police maintain on it will be confidential and not subject to disclosure to potential employers or others.
What better option did police have?
In his remarks to the City Council, Rob Bady implied that his son had been discriminated against because of his race, and suggested the police should apologize for having arrested him.
Roby Bady's comments to the City Council.
But he never addressed the question of how police should handle a situation in which they observe kids violating the law and doing so in a way that clearly puts their lives and the lives of other people in danger.
I emailed Rob Bady asking him to suggest what alternative he would recommend, and he did not reply himself.
I did get a response from someone Bady forwarded the message to, Richard Katz, a licensed clinical psychologist, who claimed the children's actions "were not criminal in any stretch of the imagination."
When I responded with citations to the Illinois Vehicle Code and asked whether they thought police should just ignore kids riding three on a bike through a red light at a busy downtown intersection, neither Katz nor Bady responded.
What do you think?
Given that, as noted above, state law makes parents potentially liable for their kids' behavior while riding a bike, it seems that a police response that doesn't involve alerting the parents is insufficient.
And one might think that at least some parents who were not told by police of such an incident involving their child would be outraged that they hadn't been alerted -- for fear the child would repeat the dangerous behavior and end up dead or seriously injured .
But the police would have to stop the kids and question them to determine who the parents are. The child is not free to leave during that questioning, and by some definitions, even that stop constitutes "an arrest."
Then do you give a 12-year-old a traffic ticket and tell him to take it home and show his parents? Would that be an adequate response?