13-year-old girl kept in jail for 2 weeks

August 6, 2009 7:40:20 PM PDT
A 13-year-old girl arrested for shoplifting was held in the Dallas County Jail for nearly two weeks before it was determined that she is underage, a police sergeant said Thursday. An internal affairs investigation has been launched to review the matter, police Sgt. Warren Mitchell told The Associated Press on Thursday night.

The girl, who had run away from home, was arrested July 10 at a Target department store for shoplifting. She held no identification and gave a false name and age, Mitchell said.

The sergeant said the arresting officer attempted to contact the police youth division to confirm the information but found no record of her. The arresting officer assumed she was 17 and took her to jail.

An inmate, an acquaintance of the girl's family, recognized her and phoned her father, who came to police with a birth certificate and other records verifying her real identity. The girl was released from custody July 23 and is again listed as a runaway.

Mitchell said investigators want to find out whether the officer who made the arrest followed policy, and what could be done to prevent the situation from happening again.

The officer who made the arrest, Sr. Cpl. Roberto Garcia, told The Dallas Morning News that the information that the girl provided him would have made her an adult.

"It's just the frustrating battle that we have out there in the real world," Garcia told the newspaper. "I just have a heck of the time when these juveniles won't tell you who they are and they have no ID."

Assistant Chief Ron Waldrop, who heads the department's investigations bureau, told the paper that the girl initially identified herself as being 14, which he said should have raised concerns.

"Everybody believes that should have required an intense level of checking before incarceration," he said.