Before he got his scooter license, Stormboy walked. He's always been a roamer. When he got home from school he'd often tell me of his trek 'the long way', deviations over the granite clad mountain and down the other side into the mossy chasm where storms cut into the hill, to our home. He walked, because as the child of a lower income family, when we ran out of fuel before the end of the pay week, all of us walked. He walked because he liked it as well.
Recently I discovered, not from Stormboy but his Dad, that Stormboy had been stopped and searched by police twice while he was walking along a road. My son somehow neglected to tell me this news. Maybe he thought I'd write a post about it or go on some mad campaign or something. Stormboy is sixteen but he is a six foot two white man and looks a lot older than his years.
Predictably, I was completely enraged by this news. When I asked him about the circumstances, he was vague but resigned.
"They do it to all of my mates."
"But it's illegal! Cops can't search someone under eighteen without a guardian present."
"They do it all the time, Mum. They always search us."
Look. This is a kid born into white, middle class establishment. He's not black, he's not brown, he's not socially disadvantaged. His heritage automatically makes him one of the top tiers of our post-racial (ha ha) society. So he has it pretty good when it comes to being a young man walking along the road.
"I hate them. I hate the cops," he said.
All of a sudden I have a big gentle, sensitive son who loves walking and hates the law.
How did this happen?
I researched the stop and search laws in Western Australia. Juveniles (like my son) can refuse a body search if they are stopped by the cops. The kids don't know about this bit. Someone should probably tell them. It is quite legal for kids to be patted down, swabbed etc but the glitch is that police are obliged to let kids know that they need to give their consent ... which the constabulary constantly neglect to do. In fact the police rarely advise kids of their rights before they search them. To shape the whole scenario, the child must be suspected of an offense in the first place. So, Stormboy, while walking along the road, must have been suspected of an offense to justify him being searched. And he's a white kid. Imagine if he were an Aborigine.
When kids kick against it, apparently it's called a perfect law and order trifecta:
Refusing a search. (unsure of your rights)
Resisting arrest.(kicking against the pricks)
Swearing at a public officer. (understanding the English language)
Striking a public officer (the last resort)
Thank goodness Stormboy is such a polite child. Thank goodness he didn't take on the fact they'd clocked him as a criminal while he was walking along the road. Every time he was searched, he dealt with it quietly, he co-operated, and he didn't tell his mother.