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Why Don't Police Identify Juvenile Suspects?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 08, 2012 8:10 AM

Police in Oakland, Calif. recently asked the public to help them find a 14-year-old suspected of raping and robbing two women.

But they didn't release his name or his photo -- at least not at first. They told the public he was out there and that he was to be considered armed and dangerous.

This is a bit perplexing. Why don't police identify juvenile suspects -- even when they're dangerous and on the run?

Rehabilitation, for one. Minors prosecuted in the juvenile system are thought to have a better chance at rehabilitation. Anonymity makes it easier for them to reintegrate into society, particularly when their juvenile record has been sealed.

Privacy is also at issue. Juveniles are entitled to a greater amount of privacy because they are not as culpable as adults. Matters involving juveniles are also considered more sensitive and thus more in need of confidentiality.

The law is often a factor as well. For example, Oakland police didn't identify the juvenile suspect -- now known to be Brionn Glasper -- because of state law. A spokesperson told local reporters that law enforcement can't release photos of juvenile suspects. They can release a name and a physical description, but it's rare.

Many states have similar laws -- again, to promote rehabilitation and protect privacy. Some states even ban the media and public from juvenile proceedings in non-felony cases

Ultimately, police identify juvenile suspects -- within the law -- only when absolutely necessary.  Oakland police eventually realized the information was vital, so they decided to update the public with the child's name.

[3/12/2012 4:54 pm EST Editor's note: This post was updated to clarify the fact that police initially did not identify the juvenile suspect, but then later did so.]

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