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So per this question- a month before the Police Officer meets the Runaway Child 'magic' suddenly appears in a 90s era Earth. Roughly 1 in 10,000 people start demonstrably using 'magic' and they can be anyone: man or woman, child or elder, no difference whatsoever between given humans.

Some of these magic-users have hidden, some reveal themselves and offer to help, and some promptly start trying to abuse these new powers. The abusers are especially eager to seek out and kill other magic-users because they can steal spells and raw power that way.

Now with that all said- I have a question, "What are the Police Officer's legal responsibilities for dealing with a runaway child and what he should do about them?"

There are, for this prompt, no unique laws to consider beyond typical 90s New York City law.

The Police Officer and his issue:

  • He's a regular street cop, not any inherent child-based part of the force, he happened across the situation accidentally
  • He has encountered a child who clearly does not belong to the family the child is living with- the family has absolutely no legal connection to the kid: not blood relation, not godparents, etc.
  • The family (a married man and woman in their 20s) admits the above point after some prompting
  • The child is 12 years old and doesn't want to cooperate with the police officer or any other person that isn't the family
  • The child refuses to give any hints about where he's from: no real name, no real home, no names of real parents- his possessions have no hint either
  • The family doesn't know where the kid is from and he refuses to tell them too
  • The family is willing to feed and take care of him and the kid is willing to stay put with them
  • The family is willing to cooperate with the police officer but maintain the child will run away if he gets upset and they cannot stop him from doing so
  • It is understood by all parties that other magic-users will hunt the child down on-sight
  • There are no magic-users at this point in the 90s NY police force or any other NY city 'authority' position like school-teachers, doctors, government, etc.

Somewhat related but the child can use magic to shatter brick walls, throw cars hundreds of feet, and tear apart metal plates. The magic functions (for him) as single instances of produced force on objects and/or people. The policer officer knows this but I don't believe that changes his legal obligations.

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    $\begingroup$ Legal responsibilities depends on the local laws, so it all boils down to what laws you decide are in place. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jan 22 at 7:45

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I believe the laws of New York City in the 90s (our timeline) would work very roughly like this for a normal stray child (who can't use magic and isn't known to be a target murderous magicians) who somehow was unofficially taken in by an unrelated family:

  1. The child is not in any obvious danger from the family. The family and neighbors are not in any obvious danger from the child. This is good, but I believe the child not being identifiable by the family is enough to obligate the officer escalate the issue instead of saying "Have a nice day." and walking away. Instead:

  2. This child must be evaluated and more attempts must be made to identify the child. Child Protective Services (or whatever NYC calls it) would need to be called to the scene. Most likely, the officer would be required to remain on the scene until CPS arrives and takes over.

But your scenario adds two more factors:

  1. The mystery child has a power that could be a grave risk to others in the household and the neighborhood.

  2. Anyone with magical powers may be targetted for murder by a known subgroup of those with magical powers. If one or more of these other users of magic show up, the family and neihbors may end up as collateral damage.

Let's assume that an attempt at preparing rational policies to respond to situations like this was made. After all, NYC should have started out with hundreds of people able to use magic and have seen its share of magicians killing magicians. I would think the procedure would (more or less) be to call CPS as well as for significant police backup (hello SWAT team). If at all possible the child (possibly with the family) should be moved to a safe house in an area that is both secure and has few, if any, civilians who could be endangered if things go bad. From there, effort to evaluate and identify the child could begin. It would also be a good idea to try to determine if the family was just kind hearted or if they were magically influenced to take the child in (by the child or by some other magician). Notifying state and federal authorities might be able to get some magical assistance within a day or two.

If you need an excuse to keep the original police officer in the story, the magical kid might start getting upset (dangerously upset) if the officer attempts to leave. This results in the officer being assigned to the group protecting the child.

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Whatever the child says, this looks like kidnapping or child trafficking. The child is very much a minor, and might have been abducted long enough ago for brainwashing to set it. So once the cop officially takes notice that the child does not belong into the family, and if no explanation is provided, the cop has to act.

As long as the child is well cared for, a bold claim of "oh, just the stepson of my cousin's sister-in-law, staying over here while the parents are on a world trip" might deflect further questions. But if both the child and the adults refuse to lie, that option is gone. The police might also notice and question if the child is enrolled in any school, and again the school would want the right signature of a legal guardian on the right dotted line.

The appearance of magic might matter insofar that the NYPD could have orders to (a) put non-magic-related minor incidents on the back of the priority list and (b) report anything magic-related at once. So if the officer understands that the child is a mage, that fact should be passed up the chain of command. Child protection issues then become just another lever for the police and DA to make all sides cooperate. "Talk to these nice guys in lab coats, or your host parents go to jail for the rest of their life."

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If a child is living with a family obviously not his own, but both the family and the child appear to be healthy and happy with the arrangement, and no laws have been broken, a police officer may very well have better things to do than pry into what may very well be a perfectly legal custody or care arrangement... or the kid may just be visiting. Unless specifically told that the kid doesn't belong where he is staying by the kid or the family, it's unlikely that the cop will bat a proverbial eyelid... Unless he is really bored and feeling particularly belligerent or officious, then all bets are off.

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    $\begingroup$ Usually, I'd agree, but no one in the family even knows where the child is from, which should trigger a call to Child Prorective services. In this case, the officer is somehow aware the child has dangerous telekinetic abilities and could be targetted for murder by other magicians. Magic or not, a lot more lives are in danger. $\endgroup$ Jan 22 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ Why would the officer even ask? Did someone volunteer that information? Or is there something else going on tha has raised his suspicions? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 22 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ If I read the question correctly, mages hunting mages is known and the officer is specifically aware of the child's telekinetic abilities. Even if this imposes no additional obligation to the child, if the officer walks away, the family and others will be in danger. $\endgroup$ Jan 22 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ I can confirm Lunatic read the question correctly. $\endgroup$ Jan 22 at 14:41
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None. The police have no legal obligation to the public, whether the individual is a minor or not is irrelevant.

What the officer has is POLICY and ORDERS, and failure to follow either can lead to unemployment.

Policy will be for the officer to contact Child Protection Services, or the local equivalent, and inform them of the situation. Policy may be that the officer stays until someone from CPS show up and then to provide reasonable backup for such actions they take that are not clearly illegal (policy and orders may be such that even illegal actions are to be supported as long as they appear to be somewhat in the interest of the child, although it wouldn’t be stated that way).

What CPS would do could be anything from helping the family to foster the child to turning the child over to a person that is know to drain them dry of magic and life.

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