“Good Samaritan” Sees Girl, 2, Having Tantrum at Park, Calls Cops. They Grill Nanny Half an Hour.

.
How about we all take this pledge:
 .
“The next time I see a child who seems upset, I will not immediately assume I’m witnessing either an abduction or abuse. If I am  worried, I will watch a little longer, or politely inquire as to what’s going on. I will not dial 911 unless I see the child is in immediate, obvious and grave danger. Signed in non-hysteria, ______________”
 .
Deal? So spread this pledge around. It was inspired by this note I just got from Austin:
 .
Dear Free-Range Kids:
.
Someone just called the police on my 41 yo nanny who had the kids (3.5, 2, and 8 mo) at the empty park. They had been there for 2 hours after she bought the girls slushies at Sonic (with her own money). They were leaving the park and the 2 yo began screaming because she didn’t want to leave.
 .
She was running a few feet behind her after the nanny pulled the classic, “Okay, we’ll see you later then.” She buckled the other kids into the car and as she was finishing up, 2 police cars pulled up behind the van and blocked her in.
 .
At first she thought she accidentally parked in a handicapped spot. They said someone called because “There was a young girl crying at the park so she must have been abused.” My nanny said, “No, she’s a 2 year-old throwing a tantrum because she doesn’t want to leave. Man, a kid can’t throw a tantrum outside the house anymore without someone calling the police?”
 .
They kept her there for 30 min (kids happy with slushies), ran her license and did a “mini background check.” Then they told her she needed to leave for a minute so they could talk to the kids and said, “Man, you have 3?” (as if THAT is any of their business).
.
They knew she was our nanny and had been with us over 2 years. No one called me or my husband. They asked my 3 year-old what happened and she said “Our nanny said it was time to leave the park and my sister didn’t want to leave the park and she [the little sister] got fresh with her.”
.
It is possible that my toddler just saved me from a CPS evaluation with her brutal honesty. Let’s hope!
 .
Police apologized only after they talked the the kids. They reiterated several times that they “have to take these calls very seriously these days” and “were just doing their jobs.” I’m infuriated that neither my husband nor I were contacted.
 .
The nanny said they used leading questions like, “Did someone hurt your sister or hit her? Is that why she’s crying?” Again, all become some invisible person heard a 2 yo screaming. It’s like calling animal control on someone because you hear a dog “barking like they’ve been abused.” Zero visual evidence at all…just a “hunch.” A hunch is enough these days to get 2 police officers. When a drunk driver ran into a parked car and then drove his car into our neighbor’s house last week, we only got one police officer. Go figure!
It ended with cop apologies and stickers for the kids (who had quite the story to share when they arrived home), but I am so glad I didn’t have a 16 year-old sitter who may not have handled it so well, or who would be afraid to take my kids out of the house going forward.
 .
Gee thanks, “Good Samaritan,” whoever you are. You spent 5 times as long filing a police report as it would have taken you to look out the window and see a little girl who was enjoying the outdoors instead of being shut up in her safe, padded house. — Emily Porter, M.D. (Board-certified emergency physician and mandatory reporter so I know what REAL abuse is)

.

I hope they police put you in nanny jail! I want to stay at the park!

I hope the police put you in nanny jail! I want to stay at the park!

.

, , , , , , , ,

49 Responses to “Good Samaritan” Sees Girl, 2, Having Tantrum at Park, Calls Cops. They Grill Nanny Half an Hour.

  1. Heather March 6, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

    This exact thing happened to our au pair, in the UK. Except we had a male au pair, so he got arrested. Nobody even both to interviewed him, they just held him for 5 hours, and they didn’t even ask our son what happened because they didn’t have a member of staff trained to interview children available. All their info came from two ‘concerned citizens’.

    When my husband came to collect our son, he asked what happened, E said “I was being naughty” and, asked if he was kicked (a claim by one of those concerned citizens, who later admitted they saw nothing), “no, that didn’t happen” in a voice of utter amazement.

    Au pair was bailed and told not to come home to the only place he had any of his stuff, and we got a load of grief for choosing not to press charges when they decided not to do it themselves. And Social Services called.

    We now have a girl au pair, in the hope that the next tantrum will inspire someone to offer help and not call the police.

    H

  2. Warren March 6, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    Considering the time spent by the cops, this will go in the system as an incident report that will haunt this nanny for years. Possibly costing her future employment.

    There has got to be some way we can start making these idiot callers held responsible for their actions.

  3. Gina March 6, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

    How utterly ironic that the mom is a mandated reporter!
    Can you imagine if we sent police officers to investigate every toddler tantrum? We’d have to have a separate police force for MY house alone!
    OY.

  4. Beancounter Eric March 6, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    Similar thing happened to my sister and brotther-in-law several years ago. Their oldest, around 5 at the time, got cranky while they were out to eat, so brother-in-law took her outside to settle down. She continued to pitch a fit, so someone called police. Officer showed good sense, and appatently had kids of his own – he pulled up, lowered his window and asked if there was a problem. Upon hearing the story, he said “I know what your dealing with, good luck” and departed.

  5. Emily Porter March 6, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    Worst part is, the park was empty. No one even walked by the whole time they were there. So they didn’t even SEE my daughter having a tantrum, they just HEARD it.

  6. Donald March 6, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    I thought of an idea for a new police show. It’s a reality REALITY police show.

    On most of the episodes, the cops are following up busybody calls like the one described above. They have to. If something were to happen (real or trumped up) the headlines would read, “AUTHORITIES WERE INFORMED BUT WERE IGNORED”

    The news and public LOVE headlines like this! A story like this can become 50 – 500 re-writes of the same story! Drama junkies cling to it like a heroine junkies.

    People see what they want to see. If they want to see abduction, all a stranger has to do is to talk to a young girl, “Do you know where I can find a bank?” and they will see this as grooming. An APB will be put out for an attempted child abduction and schools on a 10 miles radius will be put into lockdown.

    You can’t be too careful

  7. pentamom March 6, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

    And you know, this argument that once you call the police, they have to investigate — malarkey.

    People in my city have called the police to report they eye-witnessed a drug deal on the street. Police response: “Ma’am, there are drugs all over the city.”

    My husband had personal knowledge that his former employer was withholding their employees’ health insurance payments but not paying the premiums. Police response: “We can’t investigate without proof.”

    Call the police and say you heard a screaming child so there must be abuse happening — they show up and harass the nanny.

    It’s insane.

  8. Bella March 6, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

    I had a similar incident at least 25 years ago. I was walking with my 3-year-old near my parent’s home. Half a block from the house, the kiddo decides he is not going to go back to Grandma’s house with me, and starts throwing an Oscar-worthy tantrum. I say to him, “you can come with me, or stay here by yourself, or walk back by yourself.” I walk away, thinking he would follow me, but he just stands on the corner howling. I watch him from my parent’s yard, and he just stands there yelling. Pretty soon a cop car pulls up (called by a concerned neighbor, who apparently finds it easier to pick up the phone then walk outside and talk to my screaming brat.)
    Fascinated by the cop car, the kid stops yelling. Cop tells me that he understands the situation, and lets the kid try out the driver’s seat of the cop car. Kid goes back happily to Grandma’s house to tell everyone how he got to sit in the cop car. To the best of my recollection we never had that problem again, even though I was worried that the kid might have thought that the reward for a temper tantrum on the street was getting to play in the cop car.

  9. David March 6, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

    The caller needs to be sued into the poorhouse.

  10. Paul Bearer March 6, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    @pentamom: Drugs and white-collar crime don’t make it to the news, child abuse does. I’ve seen three cars, six officers within, arrive to speak with a man who was talking with kids at a park near my home. They left 10 minutes later, apologizing to the man who was simply making conversation. They were probably hoping to nab a pedophile and be glorified on TV.

  11. Karin, mother of 3! March 6, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    Nosey busybodies need to back off! Unfreakinbelievable!

  12. Cassie March 6, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    Leading questions scare me the most.

    A person in an official capacity (that can exercise the right to ask my child questions) without good training (and even trained pyschologists fuck this one up) can mess with a kids memories.

    What are the rights of the parents/carers in these situations? I think I would want to be absolutely present and have everything recorded (by me). I want to make sure that questions are planting seeds in the minds of the kids.

    “Did someone hurt her”… far out.

  13. Cassie March 6, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    Heck, I would want all questions pre-approved by me.

  14. That mum March 6, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

    Geesh Walmart must keep these cops busy. It’s not a trip to Walmart withiut a tantrum or two….

  15. diane March 6, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    This is crazy; I’d be hopping mad, too.
    Funny story: when I was a kid, my cousins and I were riding with my grandma somewhere and fighting the whole way. She was a notorious lead-foot, so we weren’t surprised when the policeman pulled her over for speeding. When he asked her why she was going so fast she exclaimed, “It’s these kids, Sir. They’re fighting and I can’t think straight!” He nicely asked her to roll down the rear window (she was the only person I knew at the time who had automatic windows, lol) and when she complied, he proceeded to rip us a new one, chewing us out for being inconsiderate and disrespectful.
    Then he told her, “I don’t think you’ll have any more trouble, ma’am,” and sent her on her way without giving her a ticket. We were scared to death.

  16. David DeLugas March 6, 2016 at 9:57 pm #

    Lenore or Emily. please get in touch with us. @NatlAssnParents https://www.parentsusa.org

    David

  17. andy March 7, 2016 at 2:49 am #

    @Heather I feel sorry for the dude. I guess he is not working with kids anymore. The way people sometimes push boys from caring about little ones or being teachers is bad enough, arresting them is way over the top.

  18. LRH March 7, 2016 at 4:42 am #

    About 5 years ago we were eating at a McDonald’s. My 2 year old kept standing up in his high chair. I kept telling him “sit down,” very gently and politely. He would, but 2-3 minutes later he’d stand up again at which point I would repeat “sit down,” a little more firmly each time. Finally I’d had enough and with a loud booming voice I bellowed a loud “sit your ass down!!”. He started crying at which point I said a loud “keep that up, Mister, and I can take you to the bathroom and tear your butt up.” Sure enough, about 2 minutes later, a police officer showed up. He was polite enough and even apologized for having to check things out.

    My response–as he was doing this, I set aloud “no, I don’t blame you one bit officer, I know you have to answer every call even the ones from the nosy busybodies.” After he had left, my timid wife said “we should leave,” again in a strong a loud voice I said “no, I’m finishing my food, I’m not leaving because of some noisy busybody, THEY can leave.”

    You don’t back down from these people. Even so, as one said, it’s too bad they aren’t held accountable for it. Reform is badly needed here.

  19. John March 7, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    Actually, I don’t blame the police in this situation. They were just doing their job. Because if it turns that this girl really was being abused and they brushed the situation off, they would have lost their jobs and actually committed a crime themselves. So basically, the police were just covering their butts and I don’t blame them.

    Who I do blame is the idiotic “Good Samaritan” who thought he (she) was being a hero by calling the police. The person probably thought, better safe than sorry because a child might be at risk. They don’t realize that the police have very strict procedures to go thru when investigating child abuse cases. Procedures that could put innocent parents in jail. I also made this point under another issue that I would NEVER contact the police unless I was absolutely sure my good friend or good neighbor or loved one was indeed sexually abusing a child. Same here with physical abuse.

    People need to start realizing the damage and harm they can cause by reporting these type of incidences involving children. Damage and harm not only to the parents but to the children too. Now if the kid really is being abused, then no harm, no foul but they’d better make damn sure!

  20. Dan Smith March 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    They can pull kids aside and talk to them alone? I don’t think so. If I were parent id go nuts. Having some shady retarded cops speaking alone w my 3 year old. Whose to say they know how to talk to kids anyway. Ridiculous. The police should her a call like that and be like get the hell out of here with this call.

    And the lady should’ve called the police on giving two year old a sonic slushy. That’s like 100g of sugar. That’s the child abuse.

  21. Dean Whinery March 7, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    Are there any toddlers who don’t throw tantrums?

  22. Curiuos March 7, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

    Wasn’t that cool to read to the end and find out how the cops knew who the Mom was!

    A little good old fashioned common sense would go a long way. Why is it never even tried?

  23. MichelleB March 7, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    LRH — I think I might’ve been tempted to call the cops on you myself. More likely, I would have come over and asked what on earth was going through your head. If your two year old can’t sit still in his high chair, why does everyone else trying to eat their dinner have to deal with it and you? “Tear you butt up” sounds pretty damn bad when addressed to a TODDLER. A way more appropriate response would have been to remove him from the high chair and swat his butt long before it got that far. What makes you think it’s any more acceptable for you to yell in the middle of a restaurant full of people than it is for a two year old to stand up in a high chair?

  24. Regina S March 7, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

    I’m just amazed that they showed up so fast (and of course it utter BS that they were called at all in this scenario.) When my dad passed away in September 2015, we had to wait from 8:30pm till nearly midnight for the police to arrive and by wait I mean, my family and I had to take turns getting in and out of an ambulance (3 people at a time at most) to visit with my dad because he died on a stretcher in front of him home on the way home from the hospital to begin home hospice. They refused to bring him inside, so in and out of that damn ambulance, we went half the night.

    I know it’s not exactly relative to this situation posted, but my Dad was retired police himself (20+yrs). A toddler throws a tantrum (a daily occurrence in my home), the police are there in 5 mins; but one of their own passes away, and they make his widow & family wait 3 1/2 hours in the cold weather at night? None of it makes any sense to me. It’s like backwards world.

    Sorry, for the slight derailment and doom n’ gloom, folks. I’ve always looked up to police with my Dad being one and all, but hearing about leading questions being thrown at 3yo’s, false abuse allegations made by invisible “Good Samaritan’s”, and millisecond response time for a toddler tantrum ; clearly rubbed me the wrong way in an already very raw place.

  25. Alanna March 7, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

    Warren said, “There has got to be some way we can start making these idiot callers held responsible for their actions.”

    I say take away their damn cell phones. This didn’t happen back in the day when everyone did not have a phone constantly hooked to their heads.

  26. sexhysteria March 7, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    I’m glad the cops have nothing better to do with their time paid for by our tax money.

  27. Workshop March 7, 2016 at 3:03 pm #

    Never back down. Never apologize.

    Apologies are signs of weakness. I won’t apologize for letting my son grow up to be a capable adult. It’s not weak to want strong and capable children.

  28. Brian W. March 7, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    Is there any way we can confirm with the family as to the specific precinct that responded to this call? Any time and date stamp on this event? I would love to interview the cops, their PA folks, or both, and try to walk this back to the 911 reporting source. A private (non-attributional) email with some initial info would be helpful to get the ball rolling, if anyone is willing to share. Thanks much. BW

  29. Emily Porter March 7, 2016 at 9:29 pm #

    Brian, I have requested a copy of the incident report and will keep you apprised. -Emily

  30. LRH March 7, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

    MichelleB I haven’t read enough of your other posts to know what position you come from, but the way many of us raise our kids, what I did was nothing unusual. Not that this is a pro or con spanking discussion, but I once spanked my son at age 1½. It didn’t involve as much of a “scene,” granted.

    As for why I felt it was appropriate to do what did, I honestly don’t see the problem, other than “making a scene” a little bit. To me, that’s a small price to pay for getting an unruly child to obey. We’re talking about a McDonald’s, after all, and in fact it was in the playground area. That’s hardly the same as doing it in a “wine and dine” restaurant. I’m not a constant yelling type by any means, but I have found that a few well-timed booming voice deliveries can make the point and do so quickly. If that’s what it takes, so be it.

  31. Vaughan Evans March 7, 2016 at 10:07 pm #

    I am 67.
    I am angry because when I was a kid, adults were blamed for things that children themselves were guilty of.
    I made an obscene gesture to my father once. I should have been spanked. He never did anything obscene to me.
    I once threw a stone at a man’s care. The man was very reasonable to me.
    -No adult EVER did anything obscene to me. It was a minority of young teen and pre-teen boys who did obscene things to me-and assaulted me and vandalized my belongings.

    Adults were good and kind to me.

    No adult every did anything to be that would be considered abusive. The period 1945-1965 was an old boys’ network-where society treated veterans as the centre of the Universe-just like children are today.
    The things that made me angry were as follows:
    (a)I was supposed to be seen and not heard
    b))as an adult I was told to forgo childlike activities
    (c)Boys and men were supposed to be “tough”(a useless word)
    And now I am angry about having to be politically correct and culturally sensitive.

    _I taught Run, Sheep, Run to six boys at a community picnic. The children carried on the work that I began.
    They didn’t have credentials. They did not know what a credential was.
    They did not know what political correctness meant(or being cultural sensitive)
    (I do not think those terms had even been invented in 1979)
    People from all over the world have come to live in that square known at the West End.
    (It is bounded by English Bay Burrard Inlet, Burrard Street, and Stanley Park.
    The feminist movment can be blamed for creating a more egalitarian society
    Burrard Street coincides with magnetic north(as do the streets in New Westminster.
    The West End was surveyed in 1862.
    Three men pre-empted that area-and started a brickyard
    People from all over the world have come to that area-since 1862.
    Some of the children were Vietnamese boat people.
    But the 6 children I played with-on August 24,1979(and the 290 who watched me-carried on the work I began-imparting this game by oral tradition-just as children have been doing since time immemorial

  32. Steve S March 8, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    Actually, I don’t blame the police in this situation. They were just doing their job. Because if it turns that this girl really was being abused and they brushed the situation off, they would have lost their jobs and actually committed a crime themselves. So basically, the police were just covering their butts and I don’t blame them

    I ca understand if the police felt obligated to drive by and check, but I don’t think the detention was lawful or warranted, so I do place some of the blame on them. What crime do you think they committed? Generally speaking, they have immunity under most circumstances and there is plenty of case law that says they have no duty to protect, except under very limited circumstances.

    Regardless, she didn’t commit a crime and this detention was BS.

  33. Anne March 8, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    I’m thankful the woman who criticized me at the nearly empty mall for pulling the “Okay, I’m leaving then,” on my two-year-old didn’t call the police. She wasn’t there two minutes earlier to see my daughter kicking and fighting when I tried to carry her. I suppose that would have looked like a kidnapping.

    I really don’t get this rush to call the police. I have been slightly concerned about kids before, especially small kids that look lost, but what I do is watch the situation and listen to what is actually happening. If a small child is actually lost and scared, I have stayed with them. The caregiver appears, everyone is relieved, end of story. People who call the police must have no understanding of the kind of mess they may be starting for a family.

  34. James Pollock March 8, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

    “I ca understand if the police felt obligated to drive by and check, but I don’t think the detention was lawful or warranted, so I do place some of the blame on them.”

    You’re doing so with hindsight, however. You know there was no abuse, therefore you don’t think it was ever reasonable to believe that there was. It’s a straightforward Terry stop… a detention to investigate whether a crime has taken place or is about to. They investigated until they knew there was no crime, at which point they apologized for the delay and it was over.

    “What crime do you think they committed? Generally speaking, they have immunity under most circumstances and there is plenty of case law that says they have no duty to protect, except under very limited circumstances.”
    The “crime” probably referred to would be included in the state’s “mandatory reporter” law. Plus, of course, while the officers themselves have personal immunity from suit for torts committed in the course of their duties, the employer does not.

    “I really don’t get this rush to call the police.”
    I do. The alternatives are A) possibly allow a child to suffer or B) interact with the parent, who quite possibly will react with violence at you questioning their parenting. I don’t want to do either one of these things. I don’t have the authority to investigate whether or not the child(ren) are being mistreated, and I don’t have the inclination to deal with angry or possibly violent parents. Who has both? The police.

  35. LRH March 8, 2016 at 3:27 pm #

    The reason why a “rush to call police” is wrong because as a parent it can cause you to edit your parenting from what you think is right solely due to trying to avoid a problem. You shouldn’t have to do that. As long as you’re not evil, you should have full clearance to parent however you feel, without questioning. As for “how can they deal with abuse otherwise,” that’s their job to figure out, it’s not my place to tolerate the harassment.

  36. Brian W. March 8, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

    To Emily Porter; thanks very much! I would love to looped in on any information you may be able to obtain. Take care. BW

  37. Beth2 March 8, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

    @James Pollack said: “It’s a straightforward Terry stop… a detention to investigate whether a crime has taken place or is about to. They investigated until they knew there was no crime, at which point they apologized for the delay and it was over.”

    But that’s not the standard for a Terry stop. A Terry stop requires a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed, has just been committed, or is about to be committed, based upon specific articulable facts. And the law allows for only a “brief detention.” They are not allowed to, as you say, “investigate until they *knew* there was no crime.” Someone stopped by the police does not have to prove or convince the officer that no crime was committed. Refusal to answer questions and/or refusal to submit to a search are not valid grounds for detention.

  38. James Pollock March 8, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

    “But that’s not the standard for a Terry stop. A Terry stop requires a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed, has just been committed, or is about to be committed, based upon specific articulable facts.”

    Yes, thank you. And a citizen complaint can provide any or all of these. There wasn’t one of those, by any chance?

    ” Refusal to answer questions and/or refusal to submit to a search are not valid grounds for detention.”
    Duh.

  39. SKL March 9, 2016 at 10:58 am #

    My 9yo got angry and stormed out of the house the other day. A couple houses down she sat on the sidewalk, pouting and waiting to see what would happen. Another adult in the house nagged and nagged until I went and retrieved the kid and brought her into the house. “Someone will call the cops!” I’m like, she’s 9 and the neighbors know she lives here.” “But what if a car drives by and sees a kid alone on the sidewalk! They’ll call the cops and report a lost child.” Sigh.

    We have to come up with a whole new discipline system because caregivers are so afraid of the people who “serve and protect.” No longer can kids just get over themselves and come home. :/

  40. Amanda March 9, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I believe that if you suspect something is amiss, it’s better to alert someone and be wrong than to try to avoid inconveniencing someone and end up allowing a child to be abused, so if I truly suspected it, even if it wasn’t, as you say, “immediate, obvious, and grave” I would absolutely call the police.

    That being said, I would personally evaluate the situation first, and it sounds as if, had they done that, they would have known it was unnecessary to call, and that’s very irresponsible. Regardless, though, I think it’s absurdly inappropriate of the police to ask leading questions and not to alert the parents immediately.

  41. Beth2 March 9, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    @James Pollack, I’m sorry to harp on this, and I don’t know if anyone is even reading this particular thread anymore, but I feel like this is really important and I don’t want people confused about their basic 4th Amendment rights.

    Under controlling US Supreme Court precedent, anonymous tips are very rarely enough to justify a detention . Even in citizen complaints where the caller identifies themselves, the officer has to weigh the information received for its reliability, specificity, corroborability (sp?), etc. Usually the officer has to at least witness *something* suspicious themselves before it passes constitutional muster.

    Maybe there are facts here we don’t know, but this seems to me like a clear 4th Amendment violation, and I don’t think I’m alone, which is probably why that parental rights group posted above for this person to get in touch with them. If what this woman says happened is true, and “They said someone called because ‘There was a young girl crying at the park so she must have been abused'”, that is very obviously not enough. Even if the stranger had come out and told the police, “I saw a woman of X description at X location hit a toddler,” (hence the leading question follow-up), that is still not enough.

  42. Beth2 March 9, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

    Here’s a useful excerpt from recent Supreme Court precedent, PRADO NAVARETTE v. CALIFORNIA (2014):

    The “reasonable suspicion” necessary to justify such a stop “is dependent upon both the content of information possessed by police and its degree of reliability.” Alabama v. White, 496 U. S. 325, 330 (1990). The standard takes into account “the totality of the circumstances—
    the whole picture.” Cortez, supra, at 417. . . .

    . . . .Of course, “an anonymous tip alone seldom demonstrates the informant’s basis of knowledge or veracity.” White, 496 U. S., at 329 (emphasis added). That is because “ordinary citizens generally do not provide extensive recitations of the basis of their everyday observations,” and an anonymous tipster’s veracity is “‘by hypoth­esis largely unknown, and unknowable.’” Ibid. But under appropriate circumstances, an anonymous tip can demonstrate “sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make [an] investigatory stop.” Id., at 327.

    Our decisions in Alabama v. White, 496 U. S. 325 (1990), and Florida v. J. L., 529 U. S. 266 (2000), are useful guides. In White, an anonymous tipster told the police that a woman would drive from a particular apartment building to a particular motel in a brown Plymouth station
    wagon with a broken right tail light. The tipster further asserted that the woman would be transporting cocaine.496 U. S., at 327. After confirming the innocent details, officers stopped the station wagon as it neared the motel and found cocaine in the vehicle. Id., at 331. We held that the officers’ corroboration of certain details made the anonymous tip sufficiently reliable to create reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. By accurately predicting future behavior, the tipster demonstrated “a special familiarity with respondent’s affairs,” which in turn implied
    that the tipster had “access to reliable information about that individual’s illegal activities.” Id., at 332. We also recognized that an informant who is proved to tell the truth about some things is more likely to tell the truth about other things, “including the claim that the object of
    the tip is engaged in criminal activity.” Id., at 331 (citing Illinois v. Gates, 462 U. S. 213, 244 (1983)).

    In J. L., by contrast, we determined that no reasonable suspicion arose from a bare-bones tip that a young black male in a plaid shirt standing at a bus stop was carrying a gun. 529 U. S., at 268. The tipster did not explain how he knew about the gun, nor did he suggest that he had any special familiarity with the young man’s affairs. Id., at 271. As a result, police had no basis for believing “that the tipster ha[d] knowledge of concealed criminal activity.” Id., at 272. Furthermore, the tip included no predictions of future behavior that could be corroborated to assess the tipster’s credibility. Id., at 271. We accordingly concluded that the tip was insufficiently reliable to justify a stop and frisk.

  43. James Pollock March 9, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    “Under controlling US Supreme Court precedent, anonymous tips are very rarely enough to justify a detention ”
    You’re assuming the tip in this case was anonymous. Don’t do that.

    “Even in citizen complaints where the caller identifies themselves, the officer has to weigh the information received for its reliability, specificity, corroborability (sp?), etc. Usually the officer has to at least witness *something* suspicious themselves before it passes constitutional muster.”
    No. Just, no. That’s not true.
    From the excerpt you provided:

    “After confirming the innocent details, officers stopped the station wagon as it neared the motel and found cocaine in the vehicle. Id., at 331. We held that the officers’ corroboration of certain details made the anonymous tip sufficiently reliable to create reasonable suspicion”

    “Maybe there are facts here we don’t know”
    This is very likely, considering that you have listened to only one side of the story, via double hearsay.

    The law regarding “reasonable suspicion” and citizen reports has two prongs. The first one is, does this person have a way of knowing what they are saying? The second one is, “and if they do, can we believe that they are telling the truth?” Anonymous tips are troublesome on both counts… without knowing who someone is, how do we know they have any way of knowing what they say? And if they are anonymous, how can we assess the likelihood of their truthfulness? That’s not to say it’s impossible. If police are patrolling, and a man runs past them, followed by another one who yells at the police “that guy just threw a brick through a window and grabbed stuff and ran off!”… well, at that point it’s an anonymous tip, but there’s reasonable suspicion. Non-anonymous tips are less troublesome, but still might not form reasonable suspicion. For example, if I go to the local station, walk in, and say “listen, I saw a guy dealing drugs at the corner of such and such.”, and I give my name and contact information, and look at mug shots to see if I can recognize the guy… there still might be questions: specifically, how do I know that he’s dealing drugs? Do I have a lot of experience with drug deals, such that I can recognize it unmistakably? (No, I do not. I might have been watching the sale of a highly-prized and rare Charizard card, for all I know. So, what will the cops do? They’ll send either an undercover cop or a CI to go to the corner, and attempt to buy drugs. With drugs in hand, they have sufficient evidence to form a reasonable suspicion. They know what their CI knows about buying drugs, and they know the CI’s record of truthfulness.

    OK, with that out of the way, how does the law apply?
    The cops have a report that a child is acting like they’ve been abused. The report may even say the tipster witnessed the abuse, or it may have the details that make the tipster think they have witnessed abuse. (And, although I doubt it, the tipster may have actually witnessed abuse (did you consider that possibility?) In any case, there is a result that a child is being/has been abused in the park.

    The cops roll up. There is only one set of children in or near the park. At least one of them is still visibly upset. This is the “confirmation of innocent details”. What did the USSC say about confirmation of innocent details? Oh, yeah, they said “the officers’ corroboration of certain details made the anonymous tip sufficiently reliable to create reasonable suspicion of criminal activity”

    Now, that’s not to say there is no 4th amendment case here. They spent kind of a long time investigating, from the erstwhile suspect’s testimony. A Terry stop must end when reasonable suspicion is dissipated by investigation.

    But the initial detention was clearly lawful. I’m betting that after the parents’ group digs into the paperwork, they’ll concede this, too. I’m assuming they’ll also pull the 911 call (that is, assuming the initial call was to 911) so they can hear was was originally reported to police. (I think you err seriously in taking the triple-hearsay version of what the tipster said at face value.)

  44. Beth2 March 9, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

    “The cops roll up. There is only one set of children in or near the park. At least one of them is still visibly upset. This is the “confirmation of innocent details”. What did the USSC say about confirmation of innocent details? Oh, yeah, they said “the officers’ corroboration of certain details made the anonymous tip sufficiently reliable to create reasonable suspicion of criminal activity””

    No, that is very much not what the Court in White said! You and I are reading that case very, very, very differently. And if your reading were correct, not only would there be no way to distinguish it from the guy-on-a-street-corner-in-a-plaid shirt case (JL) that was ruled unconstitutional, but the rule you suggest would make “reasonable suspicion” utterly meaningless! In the White case, a tipster predicted highly specific *future* events that were going to transpire in the commission of an elaborate ongoing crime. Events that couldn’t be known by someone who just misunderstood innocent behavior that they were witnessing, or by someone who made up a story to get someone in trouble. The fact that some of those *predicted,* *future* *highly specific* details happened to also be “innocent” details was irrelevant in that case, because it supported the whole story of the meticulously-described, ongoing criminal enterprise. But corroboration of innocent details, standing alone, of things that any mistaken or dishonest caller could easily throw in, such as a kid crying in a park, are corroboration of no crime whatsoever! Otherwise, someone could just describe any true thing in the world, and then tack on, oh yeah and a crime is being committed, and it would justify any detention imaginable!

  45. James Pollock March 9, 2016 at 6:20 pm #

    “No, that is very much not what the Court in White said! You and I are reading that case very, very, very differently.”

    That’s because one of us is right, and you are wrong.

    “But corroboration of innocent details, standing alone, of things that any mistaken or dishonest caller could easily throw in, such as a kid crying in a park, are corroboration of no crime whatsoever!”
    Correct. It’s entirely possible to have a reasonable suspicion of crime when no crime has actually been committed.

    “And if your reading were correct”
    It is
    “not only would there be no way to distinguish it from the guy-on-a-street-corner-in-a-plaid shirt case (JL) that was ruled unconstitutional”
    And there is.
    The person who ratted out the lady in the station-wagon provided details about where she was going to go, and details about the vehicle. This provided evidence that the tipster knew the woman well enough to know her habits and/or her plans. The anonymous tipster in the street corner case didn’t provide any kind of statement about how they knew the guy had a gun.

    “but the rule you suggest would make “reasonable suspicion” utterly meaningless!”
    It’s an AMAZINGLY low bar, yes. Courts are routinely quite deferential to law enforcement.

    And, you’re still insisting on reviewing the standards for an anonymous tip. You don’t know that this was an anonymous tip.

    “someone could just describe any true thing in the world, and then tack on, oh yeah and a crime is being committed, and it would justify any detention imaginable!”
    Um, sure, as long as they provide a reasonable basis to believe that a crime has taken place, is taking place, or will soon take place. Let’s try it out.
    “Officer, that Beth person, she’s commenting on the Internet again! Therefore, she murdered six nuns and keeps their remains in the basement! She also has Elvis down there.”

    I stand on what I wrote before, and I’m done talking about it.

  46. Emily Porter March 9, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

    Beth, I’m still reading! And I will try to get the 911 call of there is one. I obviously don’t know if the call was anonymous, but based on what my nanny said, it was a purely auditory suspicion and not a visual one, or at least the person didn’t get close enough to be seen. She said the police said someone said they “HEARD” something. And, knowing that park, and the distractability of my particular 2 year-old, I cannot imagine that the crying lasted more than 2-3 minutes. It would take another 2-3 min to buckle 3 kids into car seats. The slogan is, “If you see something, say something,” not “If you hear something, say something.” I have reached out to the Nationsl Association of Parents per Mr. DeLuga’s suggestion and we will know more when I get the incident report.

  47. Jan smith March 15, 2016 at 5:25 am #

    Spot on! Haven’t we heard this ‘only doing our job’ business before or has attention deficit taken over?

  48. JP Merzetti March 16, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    Here’s what I’d love to see. Well-trained police interrogating the callers (for the same half hour.) Make ’em squirm, a little. Put them on the spot, wondering if there will be…..consequences.
    Anybody can report anything. And then breeze merrily away, leaving a little chaos in their wake.
    Proper tantrum maintenance is part of raising a kid.
    Just imagine the brat factor here: “If you don’t give me exactly what I want, I’ll send you to jail.”
    Parenting while observed…..sort of.

    Sometimes I really wonder about the childed status of informants. Take one liberal dose of child hatred, two parts punitive responses, and add up all the secret glee that comes with that kind of power.

  49. Bert March 18, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    About a month ago our house burned down, we all got out safely(check your smoke alarms). We are now temporarily staying in a apartment while waiting on our new house to close. My biggest current fear is that when on of my 4 children is fighting bed a nosy neighbor will call 911. When you have 4 children under 5 your lucky to get them all out with out one starting a screaming match.