If the house is-a-rockin', cops may not bother knockin'
May. 08, 1997
CUMBERLAND, R.I. (AP) _ It's your high school graduation night. Your parents are away. The next move is obvious. PAR-TAY!
Better hold off on the keg order in this town however, where parents can now waive their constitutional rights and allow officers to enter their homes without a warrant to crash parties going on behind their back.
``It's time to say enough is enough,'' Chief Anthony Silva said.
In what's believed a first-of-its-kind initiative, parents may sign a form allowing police to search their homes when they're away.
The ``Parents Consent to Search'' gives police the right to walk into a home if they suspect underage drinking going on. The form was made available at the police station Wednesday and will be mailed to parents of the 283 seniors at Cumberland High School.
Donna Bergeron, whose son is a high school senior, likes the idea.
``There are lots of single parents who work two jobs and can't keep an eye on their kids 24 hours a day,'' she said.
But other parents aren't so sure, and the American Civil Liberties Union is warning it could lead to trouble.
``People do have the ability to waive their constitutional rights, though it's something they may end up regretting,'' said Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU.
``It's a tremendous overreaction to a problem that can be addressed in more moderate and reasonable ways,'' he said.
For instance, in the nearby Massachusetts town of Rehoboth, students had to pass a Breathalyzer before being allowed into the Dighton-Rehoboth High School prom.
Cumberland School Superintendent Joseph Nasif Jr. said the consent form is less intrusive than a test.
``Who can argue with something that gives parents peace of mind and can protect kids?'' Nasif asked.
Besides, testing kids at school does nothing to stop the inevitable house parties that come with the end of the school year, Cumberland police say.
``If we see 50 or 60 cars parked at a house, hear the noise and know there's a party going on inside, there's nothing we can do if the shades are down and the kid won't let us in,'' Silva said.
He brushed aside concerns that police might abuse their power.
``We're not going to be going into cupboards and digging into bedroom drawers,'' Silva said.