Do Upper-Class Kids Get a Pass From the Cops?

I just saw a show on MSNBC, about the murder of a Los Gatos HS student in 1982. The case was interesting because the kid (a shy loner) disappeared-it wasn’t till 13 years later that skeletal remains were found, at a site only one mile from the highschool. It turned out that the murderer had been a popular kid, who killed the boy because “he was a loser”. It also turnedout that the murderer had a reputation of torturing anmals (cats), and had even retaliated against a friend’s mother (he had cut the brakelines in her car)! He was caught and given COMMUNITY SERVICE! (He could have killed her).
Los Gatos is a VERY exclusive community-one of the wealthiest towns in the country-HS kids drive BMWs and LandRovers.
My question: because of their social status, do juvenile criminals in these places get kid gloves treatment from the local police? It reminded me of the two kids in Boulder CO (Columbine HS)-who wound up causing a massacre-the local police did nothing to stop these creeps.

I don’t know what it has to do with Columbine.

But yes, generally.

It happened so fast the police weren’t able to respond in time. It’s not really their fault. Cops can’t just materialize at the scene of an emergency. “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” But they did their best. I don’t think they are to blame.

Of course a question like this is just about impossible to get a definitive answer to----Certainly some individual cops are swayed by money and influence, and are inclined to give the rich kid a break that he wouldnt give to a kid from the projects, but there has to be more than a few cops around who must resent the rich kid, driving a car that is worth 3 times the cops annual salary----I bet that more than occasionally a wealthy kid in a ultra luxury vehicle gets written up for every minor infraction the cop can come up with, infractions that he would let slide with a working class kid in a beat up 94 Chevy…

You emphasize that the kid got only community service for a previous offence. As he was arrested by the cops, he did not get a pass from them on that. Are you suggesting that they may have given him a pass on the murder charge? That seems unlikely.

You don’t say what the charge was - if it was a minor charge, then he got a pass from the DA’s office, not the cops. Ditto if he plea-bargained down to community service.

If he was found guily and the judge passed sentence, then he got a pass from the judge (and possibly from the DA, if they recommended the sentence) or the jury, if they had a say in the sentence.

Also, don’t forget that upper-class kids can pay for the best lawyers, so are more likely to get off or cut a favorable deal.

I don’t think the American public had the hard on it has now when it comes to treating juvenile offenders as adults and throwing the book at them. Children who commit crimes are typically handled with kids gloves and we even have a separate system of courts to try them in.

To answer the OP’s question: Probably. I imagine that I as a middle class college educated white male will be treated differently that an uneducated poor young black male. I could see attitudes about race and class having an impact on how an officer treats a minor suspected of a crime. I don’t know to what extent though.

If you mean “not racially profiled,” then yes, rich WHITE kids tend to get off easier.

Cops don’t give community service - courts do.

And the connection to Columbine is tenuous at best.

It’s still racial profiling.

So, would a Beverly Hills cop thro the book at a snotty rich kid? The kid’s dad is probably a multi millionaire businessman-and he can hire a topnotch lawyer. Arresting the kid might get the cop in a heap of trouble. Contrast that with a Brockton HS student (per capita income perhaps 1/10 that of BH)-would there be a difference?

Do you honestly think that every kid from Beverly Hills has carte blanche to break the law, and every cop on the force is unwilling to cite any of them???:rolleyes:

I work in a school with extreme class disparity: I have had many kids in my class whose parents were worth in the tens of millions (or more, in at least one case) and I have had many students who were refugees and had nothing, who in fact had to work not just to cover their own expenses but to help their parents with the rent and the grocery bill. Teaching is also a strangely class neutral profession: 40 years ago, it was a respectable major for upper-class daughters, and it seemed like a solid, reliable job for blue-collar parents to push their first-college-generation kids into: teachers are married to CEOs and to grocery store shift managers.

So I work in a class-interaction panorama, and over the last decade I’ve about decided you can’t generalize. Teachers of lower-middle class backgrounds sometimes resent the rich kids for being part of rich families and sometimes assume the families of the poor kids must be lazy good-for-nothings for not having reached lower middle class. Some teachers do both. Wealthy teachers are sometimes totally oblivious to class limitations (i.e., you can’t assume they can get to a bookstore), but can also be amazingly generous and understanding.

One thing I have noticed across the board (and I probably do this, though I struggle not to) is a tendency to assume that bad behavior from a middle-class kid is a function of their age, whereas the same behavior from a poor kid will be seen as a function of their personality, their class, or their race. People assume the middle-class kids won’t do his work, but that the lower-class kid can’t. Middle class white kids doing drugs are “experimenting”; poor minority kids are “druggies”.

I suspect the same thing happens with cops: if a middle-class white kid is drunk and behaving badly in public, they might be quicker to assume that it’s a phase and something that will work itself out, so call his parents and have them come take him home. A poor black kid doing the same thing will be seen more as a step in an escalating problem, and the kid might be arrested.

As far as the effect of money on kids goes, I truly think it’s a wash: for every spoiled rich kid, I’ve known a bitter, angry poor kid, and for every hard-working, bootstrap-tugging poor kid, I’ve known a rich kid who took their advantages seriously and felt a legitimate duty to live up to those advantages.

My best friend lives in Los Gatos. I’ve been all over that town. It’s by no stretch of the imagination an “exclusive community.” My buddy’s firmly middle class and lives in a subdivision of middle class folks. Los Gatos is an affluent suburb, but it’s not “exclusive.” A city of over 30,000 people could hardly be exclusive.

I would hazard a guess that “rich” kids are better informed, have access to far more resources, know their rights better and are able to “defend” themselves better when they are facing police.

This could have the end result that they are seen to get better treatment, when in reality it is just a factor of the relative power imbalance.

In a simple case - it could be that the rich kid refuses a search of his car so doesn’t get arrested in the first place etc etc. I wouldn’t see that as kid glove treatment.

Yeah, but rich kids get their asses kicked in disproportionate numbers by Walker, Texas Ranger.

Nah, they know that Mommy and Daddy’s lawyer is going to come get them. They probably actually know less about dealing with the cops than the poor do. For most rich kids I’ve met the cops are remote and distant. For the poor kids they are a part of everyday life.

Right, the relative power imbalance leads to better treatment.

I think it’s all about the lawyers really.

The joke goes that a liberal is a conservative whose teenage son has just been arrested.

Anyway, aother vote for “lawyers”. Nothing like knowing that twenty minutes after you’re booked Dad’s $200 an hour lawyer on retainer will be there to make sure the police dot every “i” and cross every “t”. Better still if any of the local officials involved owe your Dad political favors.


Not only does the cops’ view of the delinquent kid affect their decision of how to handle the situation it also seems to be related to their view of the parents (especially in smaller communities). For instance, two kids are picked up for vandalism, one from a middle class family and one from a lower class family. The cop knows that the middle class kid lives in a nice neighborhood and his parents are going to be home, so that kid gets taken home and it is expected that his parents will take care of it. But the cop knows that the poor kid lives in a worse neighborhood and his parents are likely going to be working late shifts or otherwise not home, so that kid gets taken to the station instead.

This is why criminology researchers looking into adolescent delinquency do not use police records to measure delinquency, the data is for too often skewed.

Rich people in general are better off with the police. I performed a citizens arrest on a guy with two pounds of marijuana, who was with a hooker. The hooker went to jail, and the guy took a limosuine to the airport where his private jet was waiting, after the police tried to convince him to slow down a bit and get out of the fast life. Money and status give the police pause, and the police certainly enforce laws unequally across status lines.

The above is coming from someone who generally supports the police, and is seriously looking at the police force as a career option.

Yes. They know that their Mommy and Daddy’s lawyer will get them.

In most of the literature I’ve read, studies have found that kids from wealthier homes think and are treated differently than kids from poor homes. As Manda JO pointed out, when a rich kid gets in relatively minor trouble (drugs, alchohol, etc) it is looked at as “boys will be boys”. Not so with poor kids.

Wealthy kids also tend to have a sense of entitlement that poor kids do not have. They do not allow themselves to be pushed around by authorities. They follow (or go through the motions of pretending to follow) the system to make it work for them. But they also know how to make the system work against someone. For example, while a poor kid will be stuck with a grade they might not agree with, a wealthy kid can typically have his parents call up the principal or school board. Whether the teacher is right or not, they may typically not care enough to deal with the hassle and will just inflate the grade.

IOW, rich kids are not afraid of the authorities and in fact often view them with contempt. But they know enough to keep their mouth shut so are probably less likely to be intimidated into talking without a lawyer present.

Also, when a wealthy kid commits a serious crime, it’s often looked at as a bizzarre abberation. As if wealthy people never commit crimes.