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The privacy of the homeless

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Timsup2nothin, Sep 3, 2018.

  1. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    A question has come up as the result of some recent events that are too low profile to be major news.

    A film location crew, exploring out in the desert, came upon this abandoned house. The house had a cistern, and in the cistern was a badly burned human body.

    So badly burned that somehow when a family said "that could be our missing family member" the coroner said "why, yes, it seems that it is" even though it wasn't. The body remains unidentified pending a DNA test, but it clearly isn't the missing person it was thought to be, since another city in the region informed the distraught family that it clearly wasn't their person since he had recently been in their custody on a vagrancy charge.

    Now the family, who has been on a serious emotional roller coaster is again searching for their missing family member, who may or may not even know that he has been reported as dead and then miraculously reported to not be dead. It is true that if the family were to be well informed, reasonably skilled, and willing to make the effort, it is possible to scan booking reports from all the various counties and cities for a lost person, and those booking reports might even be updated fast enough in many cases to know the person has been picked up on some petty charge like vagrancy before they are cast back out. You'd have to be lucky and on the ball, but maybe.

    Anyway, this is the question...

    If a person obviously of no means is picked up for vagrancy or some other "get the homeless off my lawn and keep them for a few hours" type charge, should law enforcement be expected to make an effort to contact their people whether the person being charged wants them to or not?

    It isn't technically any kind of legal "invasion of privacy," since as noted the booking record is available on-line anyway. It's just a question of going out of the way to call attention to a piece of already public information.
     
  2. AmazonQueen

    AmazonQueen Virago

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    Not if they don't want 'their people' contacted
    One of my friends left home at 15 because her father physically abused her. She was lucky enough to have people she could crash with until she got a job and a place of her own
     
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  3. Synsensa

    Synsensa Warlord Retired Moderator

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    If they want friends or family contacted, do so.

    If they don't, don't do so.
     
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  4. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    If a fifteen year old gets picked up, unfortunately "their people" are not only going to get contacted they are going to get the 15 yo directly handed to them unless some fast action by DCFS prevents it. For an adult, "contacted," if it happened, would just mean contacted. There isn't any provision for "handing them over" or even releasing information on the time/date/location of their end of custody.

    While this makes sense, I do sympathize with the people who have no idea whether their family member is alive or dead.
     
  5. Synsensa

    Synsensa Warlord Retired Moderator

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    If your relationship with a relative has degraded to the point that you are incapable of sussing out whether they are dead or alive, it's probably best to just treat them as dead and move on. They are functionally deceased to you anyways.
     
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  6. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    This I can't agree with at all. It doesn't take a "degraded relationship" to lose contact with someone in another city if they become homeless. It doesn't even really take a degraded relationship to lose contact with someone in your own city if they become homeless.

    When my parents were still alive I was their primary caretaker and showed up at their house every day. If I had taken it into my head to "make" my siblings shoulder some of the load and just stopped showing up they would have had no way to know what became of me for however much time passed until I got around to showing up again. Would you describe that as a "degraded relationship"?
     
  7. Synsensa

    Synsensa Warlord Retired Moderator

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    You disappearing on them? Absolutely.
     
  8. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    That would have been irresponsible on my part, but how would that have been their fault?
     
  9. Bamspeedy

    Bamspeedy We'll dig up the road!

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    Is there a national database of missing people?

    Edit:
    https://www.namus.gov/

    I know there is of children, but I'm not so sure there is for adults, unless there is evidence of foul play. A database could be updated to say they have had contact with police, so it's a 'left on their own free will' situation. I think family should be informed of this, but for them to get more detailed info they should get a court order justifying why they need that (concerned they are a danger to themselves or others for example).
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
  10. AmazonQueen

    AmazonQueen Virago

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    That was part of the problem. To get any help she would have had to accuse her father which would have made her mother very unhappy and she got on with her mother.
    That help would've been putting her in local authority 'care' which in the UK has an awful record.
    She was lucky that her mother gave her some cash from time to time and she had friends who could lend her a sofa until she was 16 and could legally get a job and a flat (not a council one as she'd made herself intentionally homeless).
    Any involvement with officialdom would only have made her situation worse.
     
  11. Tee Kay

    Tee Kay Howdy

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    I think the responsibility is on you to reestablish contact, not for law enforcement to force that decision.
     
  12. Robo-Star

    Robo-Star Chieftain

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    Would you only have been able to get a message to them by showing up at their house?
     
  13. Bamspeedy

    Bamspeedy We'll dig up the road!

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    If it already isn't the case, it should be like this:

    "You reported your family member (age 18+, as child cases should be handled with a bit more care) as missing on xx/xx/xx, just to let you know police in Ohio have made contact with them on xx/xx/xx, so they are alive and seemingly on his/her own. We now consider the case closed." (and no further updates will be provided, unless something like a death happens).

    If the family doesn't report that person as missing, the police won't know who their family is. When arrested the person is typically asked if they have family to contact, so if they don't want that family contacted they just won't tell the police who they are. The one time I was arrested I told the police my 'parents' was Jesus to ensure my real parents were not contacted. Got an eye roll from the officer, but they didn't force me to provide the real information.
     
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  14. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    Bamspeedy got my answer. But I think the puzzle is a good one. It's public information, updated in (somewhat) real time. Ostensibly a relatively simple piece of software could trawl the data. i.e., there's not an app for that, but there really could be. Are the cops, who took jurisdiction of your report, responsible to the people who made the report initially? I think they are. But the missing person still has the right to privacy. So, I think "we found your loved one on XX/XX/XX, and they asked to not tell you where they are" is the answer.

    I actually liken it to my inability to bring a recording device into court. I think that this is actually a travesty, because I already am. My brain. It's just that my brain has all types of limitations that a recording device can help ameliorate. So, I'm allow to record the proceeding, but in a disempowered way. A person with a good memory or a good reputation has the 'right' to a superior recording device to mine. So much for all being equal under the law.
     
  15. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    Well, an actual court proceeding is recorded, or more often transcribed, and in theory everyone involved should have equal access to that information. There are still a lot of interesting aspects here, regarding just why the memory of a person "of good reputation" would have a "superior recording device," but to explore that would be ditching off the topic. Tempting, but...


    This brings up some things that are also interesting, but more on the subject at hand.

    First interesting thing is the assumption of police involvement, other than the detention of the person in question, that is, some sort of 'missing person report.' I submit that this is certainly not sure enough to just assume, and is in fact an even chance proposition at best. If my person went missing I wouldn't be filing any report because I'm 'missing' myself and pretty intent on staying that way. Of course, that eliminates the initial question because even if law enforcement ran across my person and did have an inclination to let me know they have no way to do so, but it is a point. A more practical point would be that many people who might not be as totally standoffish about law enforcement as I am are still not inclined to submit what many people consider to be a useless 'filed and forgotten' report, especially if submitting the report exposes them to the necessity of talking to a cop. An even more practical point is that in many cases there is a general sense of where the missing person is, or at least what they are up to, and their people might not want the cops involved because of that. Offspring that are on a runner until they run out of dope, run out of friends with couches, or run out of interest in living out of doors might turn up in a less damaging way than being rounded up by the cops and stigmatized forever, so reporting them as missing can be counterproductive in the long run and a lot of people are going to consider that.

    The second interesting thing is this app concept. It IS public information. Different law enforcement organizations have different levels of commitment to keeping it current, so 'real time' is an overstatement. Their commitment to the 'serve' part of 'protect and serve' also varies widely. A lot of them operate from 'if you are someone looking for information about criminals you should be treated like a criminal yourself, at best, so the fact that our public information database is more complicated than flying a space shuttle is not considered a problem.' There is no consistency at all in user interfaces. This seems like it could make data trawling pretty challenging. If such an app could be made, it would eliminate the opening question entirely. It wouldn't matter whether law enforcement felt any obligations to notify their people, their people could just get an alert from an app accessing the information law enforcement already provides.
     
  16. Takhisis

    Takhisis excuse me

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    First, there is still such a thing as vagrancy being a criminal offence?

    Second, I think that maybe people should be notified, at least that the missing one's been found… otherwise, what happens, say, to insurance claims, parental custody disputes, and so on?
    How long ago was this? It doesn't sound like something that would be possible in the late 2010s.
     
  17. AmazonQueen

    AmazonQueen Virago

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    This was the '80s. As far as I can tell it wasn't possible in the UK before the '80s when the Tories decided 16-18 year olds wouldn't qualify for housing benefit if they left the parental home and that hasn't changed. There was a big increase in homelessness in the '80s in the UK and again since 2010, both times as a result of Tory policies.
     
  18. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    So, as an update and opportunity to take a look at our responses...

    The guy has been found by the family in question, who report that he is now in treatment for "mental illness" (unspecified as to what sort). The family contends that he is "obviously incapable of providing for himself" and should never have been put back out on the street. They also claim that he knows now, and has always known, that he is in need of a "caregiver," and even though he was of no help in identifying just who that might be he did not hide that from the police when he was picked up, or when he was released...police of course say that there is no indication of that in their records.

    So, those who supported his privacy, does any of that change your view, and if so where did the line get crossed?

    And those who leaned towards some sort of notification, how far do you expect those who "protect and serve" to go, when everyone agrees that the person in question could offer no assistance to someone who may have wanted to "find their people"?

    Is it right to hold someone who appears incapable of fending for themselves on a charge that most people would walk away from in a matter of hours? If so, for how long, and on what grounds?
     
  19. Bamspeedy

    Bamspeedy We'll dig up the road!

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    Of course the family will say 'he is obviously incapable', they know him best. The cops have known him for how long, a few minutes? (while in custody for a few hours, they don't really spend time getting to know him, he just sits in the cell)

    My brother had a caregiver, most people meeting him for the first time would have no idea. He had no problem making friends. They might think he's a bit 'odd', but not enough to suspect he needs a caregiver. My wife couldn't understand why everyone else in my family said trying to allow my brother to babysit our toddler or baby would be a horrible idea, and I tell her it's because he can barely take care of his cat.

    Someone with a caregiver should have fewer rights? My brother's case worker could suggest meals for him when she drove him to the grocery store, but he could still buy whatever he wanted. So he had 20 pounds of potatoes and 72 eggs in his refrigerator. Another social worker would stop by to help clean his apartment. If he told her to leave the mess, she had to, even if it turned his apartment into a stinkhole. They could remind him and warn him that he could get evicted, but they couldn't force him to do anything. Same went for his anti-seizure medicine that he was refusing, as they couldn't force him to take it like they would in a nursing home (even then at the nursing home it's common for patients to try and spit it out later).
    'Having a caregiver' helps, but sometimes you have to let them live the life they want to lead....or get them committed to an institution.

    This is where I suggested the family had options to apply for court order for further information, for just this kind of situation. If you just let 'anyone' get the information, it can be used by stalkers. But when it's mental illness, with an assigned caregiver, it's easier to show to the court why you are concerned, and that you are a sibling/parent/whatever.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
  20. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Another drone in the hive mind

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    I don't really think that was the gist. But I guess it comes down to whether you believe that the family is correct (and of course they have no way of knowing) in their assertion that he would have sought help getting home. I'm sure that plenty of cops would say "yeah, we have 'em begging for their mommy on a regular basis, that don't mean nothing," but are we agreeing with that, or assuming the family is wrong, or what?


    Thing is that "anyone" can get the information. Booking is public information. Keeping up to date on booking information across multiple counties and innumerable cities in a sprawling metro area like Los Angeles in real time looking for one name and catching it in time to do something about it would be a massive undertaking, but there really is no privacy involved. So no court order would be required to get notification, except that notification is an action with effort required so doesn't happen. I'm sure when the family found out that their person had been picked up, booked, and released that if they asked why they weren't notified the answer was "we posted him into our inmate database which is available on line, if you were looking for him you could have found him there."
     

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