Milwaukee police officers will now be able to find out quickly if a juvenile they are stopping is on probation under a new agreement between the city and Milwaukee County, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The agreement will give police electronic access to juvenile probation information, replacing an arrangement where patrol officers had to call Children’s Court for such information and wait for someone to look it up. Police typically got an answering machine.
Police and the county’s top prosecutor say faster access to such information is vital to busy officers trying to decide how to handle a juvenile they stop on the street. It also will protect officers’ safety, they say. Confidentiality concerns have blocked such access. Juvenile court records are protected by law, though law enforcement is allowed access for investigations. Safeguards are being put in place, and the agreement says there are criminal penalties if the information is misused. The agreement comes after the Journal Sentinel’s “Dangerous and Free” investigation highlighted the communications gap between police and Children’s Court – one finding in an investigation on how offenders escape punishment because of shortcomings in the system.