Parents Fume at Skateboarding Arrests : Law enforcement: Handcuffs are placed on youths and mug shots taken at substation. Laguna Niguel lieutenant defends arresting officer’s action, says boys were warned. City officials are concerned.
Two teen-agers, skateboarding along busy Niguel Road last week, were arrested, handcuffed and photographed at the sheriff’s substation for allegedly violating a city ban on riding in the street.
The arrests infuriated the parents of one boy who said Wednesday that they have filed a complaint against the arresting officer for the “abusive” treatment of their son.
“My son will now go through the rest of his life with a criminal record,” said the boy’s father. “I’ve got to take my son out of school to take him to criminal court.”
Word of the arrests also prompted concern among several city officials who said they would investigate. “I’m not aware of it, and I didn’t realize they went to that extreme,” Laguna Niguel Councilman Thomas W. Wilson said. “On the surface, it doesn’t sound appropriate.”
Sheriff’s Department Lt. Joe Davis, head of police services in Laguna Niguel, said that the boys had been warned before about skateboarding in the street and that the arresting officer acted appropriately.
“There’s always the discretion to arrest or to counsel,” Davis said. “In the deputy’s discretion, the situation was flagrant enough that it warranted arrest.”
The parents who are complaining offered Wednesday to let their son recount the events of last week; the other boy arrested could not be reached.
The youth, 15, said he and a friend were stopped at Niguel Road near Marina Hills Drive and taken to the Laguna Niguel sheriff’s substation, where they were handcuffed and their mug shots were taken. They were then released in their parents’ custody.
The youth said that the officer had warned him about skateboarding but had not told him to stay out of the street. The other boy had not been warned before, he said.
“She told us not to skate at the parking lot behind Thrifty’s and we weren’t. She told us not to skate on private property, and we weren’t. We were going to my friend’s house.”
The teen-ager said he and his friend had been skateboarding with other boys on the sidewalk before the arrest. His friend had crossed the street outside a crosswalk, he said, and he was preparing to follow when he saw the officer. The two boys were called to one side of the street and arrested, he said. When the police car arrived at the substation, he said, they were handcuffed before being taken inside.
According to an Orange County law adopted by the city when it incorporated, riding a skateboard in the street is a misdemeanor, Davis said. While juveniles have been arrested for doing that elsewhere in the county, Davis said he believes that this was the first time in Laguna Niguel.
Davis also defended the deputy’s decision to handcuff the boys.
“They were under arrest,” he said. “We have a procedure that when people are arrested and put in a police car, they are handcuffed.”
The 15-year-old’s mother, who picked up her son at the station after the arrest, said Wednesday: “I was so distraught. To see a child in handcuffs for skateboarding is almost unbearable.”
Her husband, who was infuriated by the incident, said he is looking for a lawyer to defend his son.
Davis said criminal citations are forwarded to the Orange County Probation Department, which will decide whether to drop the citation or forward it to Juvenile Court.
In recent months, cities throughout the county have adopted laws restricting skateboarding, while supporters of the sport have lobbied cities to designate legal skateboarding areas.
In Newport Beach, City Manager Robert L. Wynn recommended something be done after a pedestrian who was knocked down by a bicycle won a $270,000 judgment against the city this year.
The city already has banned skateboarding at the Newport Pier and on a number of streets and sidewalks. So far, however, the City Council has delayed a decision on a resolution that would ban skateboards, roller skates and bicycles from the Balboa Peninsula boardwalk during the time it is most crowded, on weekends, holidays and during the summer.
Officials in beach cities have expressed concern about the possible danger to pedestrians when beach boardwalks and sidewalks also are congested with skateboarders. In Huntington Beach, skateboarding is banned downtown and in the business districts. However, the City Council passed an ordinance earlier this month that decreased the penalty for speeding bicyclists, skateboarders and skaters at the beach from a misdemeanor to an infraction.
In Laguna Niguel, after residents and business owners complained that skateboarders regularly damaged private property, the Laguna Niguel City Council in June banned “acrobatic or hazardous” skateboarding, bicycle riding or roller-skating in commercial centers at business owners’ request. That law, separate from the code under which the boys were cited, establishes fines of $25 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent violations.
A similar law in La Palma bans skateboarding outside City Hall and in Central Park. In Orange, skateboarding has been illegal on public roads and in the business district since 1982.
Times staff writers Jim Newton and Matt Lait contributed to this story.