The scenario is familiar to Utah cops: An officer sees a teen hanging out with older known gang members, flashing gang signs, or wearing gang colors to declare an allegiance. The officer questions the teen, ready to document the identity in a database, but must find out the person's age. When a child is 14 or under, says the Salt Lake Tribune, an officer can't photograph or fingerprint the child without a court order, according to Utah law.
Police say those restrictions are making it problematic to document juvenile gang members at a time when gangs are recruiting increasingly younger protégés. The Governor's Gang Task Force is researching potential changes to the law. “A lot of times, kids give false information when you're just talking to them,” said Salt Lake City police Deputy Chief Terry Fritz. “A change in law that would allow officers to photograph juveniles would help police on the street more quickly identify who they are interacting with.” Police could more easily direct children to gang-intervention programs if officers can identify them with photos, Fritz said. Efforts to change the law could meet swift opposition from those who fear documenting juveniles could lead to falsely labeling them as gang members – a designation that could haunt them later in life, when they may have left bad associates behind.