“Is That Police Chopper Following ME?” Wonders a Dad

Hi Readers! Another day, another report from the frontlines of our obsession with predators. Allow me to make a strange analogy.

As the storm Sandy approached us this weekend (I’m in New York), Mat McDermott at the blog TreeHugger  wrote a post, “What if New York City Invested in Climate Change Adaptation Like it Has in Combating Terrorism?” Says Mat:

New York has pulled out all the stops in preventing another massive act of terrorism—going so far in some cases that it has trampled civil liberties….—but has done far less to mitigate the effects of a much longer term, slower moving, but the frankly far more existential threat of sea level rise, extreme weather and climate change.

That’s how I feel about our focus on child killers. Yes, predators are a danger and we should stop them if we can. But to focus laser-like on them means spending massive amounts of time, money and manpower, often fruitlessly, on a very rare problem, and even trampling some civil rights in the process. When if we REALLY wanted to help kids, there are a lot of better ways to spend — and spread — our resources.

With that in mind, here’s a letter I got this weekend:


 Dear Free-Range Kids: I am an Indian male living in Austin, TX. I am 36 and have been in the US since I was 20. My wife of six years is white and was born and raised in Austin. We have a daughter who is almost two and a half. I take my daughter hiking along a short greenbelt trail near where we live. Today when we left for the hike she decided to test some boundaries just as she left the car. She yelled at the top of her lungs and started bawling that she did not want to go hiking and just wanted to get back in the car. Having seen this tactic from her for the past few months, I helped her put on her backpack and calmly asked her to try to hike with me for a few mins first. Couple minutes later she was totally immersed into the hike and enjoying it.
Soon we noticed a chopper go above us. We both got excited and spotted it, then we realized it was staying over us. This made me nervous since it looked like a police chopper. It was strange, but it was time for us to head back anyways.
On the way back, we ran into four cops. I asked them if they were looking for anyone and one of them said they were looking for me. I thought it was a joke, till I realized he was serious. They had received several reports of me with my daughter (from back when I was trying to calm her down as she got out of the car) and were investigating with a chopper and three cars!!
My daughter clung to my jeans while the cops questioned me and luckily I had my driver license on me so the interview ended quickly. (They needed my I.D. to fill out their official report.) The cops were professional and I assume the lady with them was from Child Protective Services. She was calm and made comments like, “She clearly trusts you” (looking at my daughter). I did not know what to do with this — yes she trusts me, she is my freaking daughter!
The cops were just doing their duty. I completely understand, but I am still stunned that this happened. I am grateful for the cops’ responding quickly and for concerned citizens calling them because they thought a little girl was in trouble. At the same time, I feel violated. I am a dad who took his daughter out for a walk in the greenbelt.
Maybe I am just the price that is paid to make sure kids stay safe. No system is perfect and maybe I am just the false positive. But it sure does not feel good to be challenged  because of unnamed “concerned” people. I sure wish there was a way for people to realize the difference between a toddler being stubborn versus abduction.
Strangely enough, I just filed my application for naturalization (got tired of living on my Green Card) . Today was the first time in the past 16 years I have truly wondered if I am treated different because I have brown skin.

I would love for suggestions on how to get past this and not let this affect my behavior.
Hoping for a safer society with less paranoia. – A.R.

As I wrote back: The problem, as far as I can tell, is mostly that people think that abductions are very common, even though they’re very rare. So they are poised to interpret any child-adult encounter as, potentially, a terrible crime. This is what I call “worst first thinking” — the way we’ve been trained to imagine the worst case scenario FIRST and proceed as if it is the MOST LIKELY thing that is happening. The onlookers called the cops out of an overabundance of terror, and the cops responded with their own terror overabundance. It’s all so lopsided — the chances were so much greater that a 2-year-old was screaming because 2-year-olds scream. That’s why it’s called the “terrible twos.” But in a panic, common sense goes out the window, and this country is in the grips of predator panic. So sorry you went through this. – L

You, with the Goldfish crackers! Unhand that girl!


134 Responses to “Is That Police Chopper Following ME?” Wonders a Dad

  1. Sheeple Herder November 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Wonder what that cost in chopper fuel?

  2. MidwesternMom November 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Parenting while male is extremely suspicious behavior these days I suppose. I feel like karate chopping women at the park that give my husband weird looks. He’s a dad. He takes his kids to the park. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

  3. Anne Campbell November 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    I’ve heard of the crime of “driving while black,” but this sounds like a case of “hiking while brown.”

    If we were all followed by police helicopters every time our two-year-olds screamed bloody murder, there’d be no resources left to fight *real* crimes!

  4. Sheri November 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    This makes me sad as it’s in my, usually, fair minded city. At least in my corner of the woods, it’s not unusual to see children out on their bikes alone, getting themselves to school (even across – gasp – busy intersections). We have a summer program that staffs teen volunteers in city parks where parents can drop kids off during the day – a safe place for the underprivileged kids to be so they aren’t latchkey, they have interaction and they aren’t alone. I suspect it had to do with the conflux of different skin tones, the greenbelt – isolated location, and screaming toddler. But to automatically jump to kidnapping and nefarious intent and the racist undertone of that move, rather than the more likely answer of willful toddler hood and parenting challenges,…just makes me unbelievably sad.

  5. Becky November 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    My guess is that this had less to do with his skin color and far more to do with his gender. Men are a threat to kids, you know. *eyeroll*

  6. TaraK November 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Try to look on the bright side. Someone thought a child was in danger and called to report it. While stranger abductions ARE VERY RARE people are still reeling from those which have been in the news lately. I would say that it had little to do with skin color since I assume your daughter is also brown.

  7. marie November 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    The cops were just doing their duty. I completely understand…

    I don’t understand at all. “Just doing their duty” is a terrible excuse for what they did. They had no proof that it was an abduction, only some vague suspicions. When all you have is suspicions, you investigate. Four cops and a chopper? Overkill.

  8. derpdedoo November 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    That’s not the bright side. Did the police wait for an actual report of the abduction? All they knew is there was a man with a child who was screaming that she didn’t want to go on a hike (well, lots of observers may not have understood a two-year old’s screams the way their parent’s do). It sounds to me like the police in Austin have solved the crime problem and there are no new crimes being committed. Let’s shut down the police department and have a party.

  9. Warren November 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    Let’s face it we are no in an era, where all men are child molestors. Unless we are tossing the ball, on the front lawn, under the watchful eye of our wives……..we are acting suspiciously.

    What ever happened to women”s lib, equal right and all. If a man was to say it is the woman’s “job”, to raise the kids, we would be labelled as a male chauvinist pig. Yet, more and more, men are looked at with suspect when out and about with our kids.

    Society, for years, battling the single parent family, has preached about positive male roles, in the family. Yet more and more, they act like their is no male qualified to be a positive role model, or for that matter be alone with his own kids.

    Background checks for all men wanting to be Dads, and mandatory wearing of ID badges stating they have passed the background check. Seek permission from CPs for all Daddy outings, and report back to them upon return. Would that help these busybodies feel better?

  10. David Veatch November 1, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    My wife and I (now pregnant) were previously going through adoption paperwork. When asked what ethnicities we were willing to adopt, I was firm on ethnicities that physically resembled my own. I was concerned about things exactly like this happening. That is still a concern. I have no doubt that this happens, and it makes me sad and frustrated.

    Now I have another concern… how often do things like this *really* happen? Am I falling prey to the very hypersensitivity that this story illustrates? In taking a stand against Worst First Thinking and Helicopter parenting, have I become hypersensitive to hypersensitivity? Is it really as rampant as I’ve come to believe, or are events such as this as relatively rare as stranger abductions? Are the filters through which I view the world becoming too clouded with assumptions of suspicion?

    I want to steel myself against charges of “Parenting While Male”, but I want to do it in the right way so that I provide a good solid example for my own child.

    Just like this man seems to have done.

  11. Andi Bez November 1, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Something similar happened to my father a few years ago. We used to live on a dirt road that bordered an elementary school; parents would park on the dirt road to pick up their kids and some children would walk home with on the shoulder (mostly with their mothers right next to them). Now where this is a dirt road you would expect drivers to slow down around pedestrians for no other reason but to make sure rocks don’t get thrown by the wheels and ridiculous speeds and my father did this routinely. One day an RCMP officer came to the house and explained to my father (who was just making sure he was passing pedestrians safely) that a mother called upset and concerns because he had slowed down and looked at her daughter as he drove by, this woman thought that my father was a pedophile just because he was trying not to run in to her and her child or hit them with rocks as he sped by. People need more common sense.

  12. Nathan November 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    maybe the chopper was already in the air? I know in Chicago and Albuquerque (where I’m from and where I live now) we have police choppers in the air all the time–it actually probably cost less in department resources to send the chopper over than it did for those four ground units to respond–because you know they ran code to the “scene”…I mean…I would’ve…any excuse to drive really fast with the lights on. The thing that bothers me though is that they had a CPS agent WITH THEM. That’s just silly. I’m not even a parent (yet) and I know 2 year olds can’t be reasoned/negotiated with.

  13. LRH November 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    I have not posted in quite awhile, this inspired me to.

    I am completely of the mentality that this man has EVERY right to feel violated, and frankly, I am not particularly sympathetic of “the police were just doing their job.” Excuse me, but so was the father, and he didn’t need anyone poking their nose into his private family matters over a 1 in 3 trillion chance that something was going wrong.

    As Lenore said (to the effect), the child was screaming because–well, children scream. I have noticed this: whenever a child screams, people ALWAYS assume something is WRONG, even when the people KNOW you, they still assume something must be wrong. Something needs to be fixed. Sometimes, a child is just being a brat, and they don’t need a sweet response, they need a “get over it, stop being a brat” response. Dare I say it, they might even need a swat to the behind, and the parent shouldn’t have to hide in the dungeons to do it like they’re doing something wrong.

    I can relate–on one occasion, someone called the police when we were at a McDonald’s and my son kept acting up. He kept standing up in his high chair, after I had repeatedly and GENTLY told him to stop. Finally, I said out-loud “sit your ass down!!” and when he cried I said “oh, you want to do THAT huh, well I think it’s time we go to the bathroom.” I was quite animated.

    The police were polite, no guns drawn, no “STEP AWAY”” drama or such, and I was polite as well, although I did say “I’m sorry you had to be bothered on account of some nosy meddling type”–and they left with nothing further coming from it. However, once they were gone, my wife was wanting us to go, and I said outloud, “no, I’m not leaving just because some nosy meddling busy-body can’t mind their own business” and I stayed until our food was finished.

    And yes, I mean it–that was NO reason to call the police. I was simply being a parent–maybe not the exact kind people smile upon nowadays, where you’re supposed to be all sweet & sugary-like even when your kid is just plain being a brat, but a parent nonetheless, and I shouldn’t have to answer to someone else just because they don’t care for my approach. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what they think of my approach.

    Not only should they not be able to call the police, I think they should even be charged with harassment for doing so. I’m sorry, I don’t buy all of this “what if you had been an abductor” or “they’re just doing their job.” The point is, I was NOT an abductor, nor an abuser, and while I realize I don’t live in a vacuum, I don’t care for any interference in what I’m doing. That man had every right to the same–to be LEFT ALONE to do his job as a parent. Neither that guy nor any other parent owes other people any explanations as to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

    And yes, people–you have heard of temper-tantrums, have you not? Not every 2 year old screaming is being abducted–99.97% of the time, they’re being a brat, and the parent is being a parent. Leave them alone, live your own life and leave them to theirs.


  14. Linda Wightman November 1, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    I know it’s hard to separate the race issue, but honestly I think it had more to do with general hysteria, particularly thanks to high-profile, recent tragedies.

    My daughter, who is white and female, and her children, who are also white, received a nasty tongue-lashing from the police, who were called by an interfering busybody … er, concerned woman who didn’t agree with what nearly everyone here would consider perfectly reasonable and responsible free-range parenting.

    I suspect that whoever reported this dad has no children. There’s a huge difference between a two-year-old tantrum and, say, a six-year-old screaming for help. Perhaps the better course of action in this situation would have been to take note of the time, place, and maybe license number of the car, and keep a closer-than-usual eye out for a missing person report. If a child were missing, the information would then be invaluable, but if not, a law-abiding citizen, and more importantly, his little child, would have been spared a nasty encounter that would make them less inclined to turn to the police — or neighbors — for help in a real time of need.

  15. Warren November 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Maybe these busybodies should be held responsible, for their false alarms. If you pull a fire alarm falsely, you can be charged, and or billed for the cost of the response. Why not the same for these holierthanthou busybodies?

  16. Emily Guy Birken November 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    I’m speechless. This is such a horrifying violation, not to mention an incredible misuse of public services. Why is it so easy to mobilize a helicopter, four cops and a children’s services agent, when as a teacher I saw NOTHING done about children who were actually being abused at home?

  17. KD November 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    It sounds like the police were doing their job, the issue is with the person who called the police for what sounds like a relatively mild tantrum. Who knows how much the person exaggerated the situation, or what they said. The police were simply responding to a call, I’d be upset if they didn’t.

  18. Captain America November 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    I like the “Parenting While Male” expression above.

    I doubt it’s a skin color thing. It’s the basic set-up: protesting child, parent being parental.

    The HORRIBLE thing here is that the man’s Chief Judge and Jury was the female DCFS person: what if the daughter had opted to tell everyone that her dad was being mean to her?

    The man’d be hauled up, put in jail, sent before a judge. No Joke.

    (Shouldn’t we be exploring the child psychology theories being used by DCFS staff and policies? This is a pretty young field of research and it’s pretty clear there’s no real consensus among psychology theorists).

  19. Becky November 1, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    Growing up I was a pretty good kid, so my parents tend to tell over and over those stories of the rare events when I was NOT a good kid. One of these involved my grandfather taking me to a nearby amusement park. My grandfather was crippled as a teenager and would occasionally have trouble walking for a long time. After several hours at the park, he was in pain and decided it was time to go. I firmly decided that I was not done enjoying the park. Apparently I cried, screamed, kicked and fought him all the way to the parking lot.

    I think of what would have happened to my grandfather today in that situation. My wonderful grandfather, who cared so much to take me to the park even though he was in pain. I shudder.

  20. Melissa November 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Sadly, if this crazy distrust of men does not stop, it is going to get to the point that fathers will be unable to leave the house unaccompanied by a female with their own children. Children throw temper tantrums, many times for no reason. Would the “concerned citizen” have called the police if the girl had been hiking with mom and thrown a fit? Highly unlikely.

  21. Steve November 1, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    TaraK, said: “Try to look on the bright side. Someone thought a child was in danger and called to report it,”

    The problem is the people who reported it didn’t care enough to invest a couple minutes to watch the child/adult interaction and discover if criminal intent was involved. And, my guess is – this is another case of cellphones being way too handy.

    On top of that our society is so hyper-irrational about the number of child abductions, that ANY negative interaction between a child and adult is suspect.

    A child and parent in a very heated debate is extremely common, but our society may also have fewer people who realize that these kinds of interactions are everyday in families With Children. This kind of knee-jerk over-reaction is like someone getting upset ANY time a parent hugs a child because she thinks the man is a pedophile instead of The Father.

    Or…. it’s like reporting a possible car theft ANYTIME a person is seen “pausing” before he or she gets into a car…

  22. Kimberly November 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    If I see a child screaming no, struggling to get away and most importantly not addressing the adult by name – I’m going to pay attention. Usually I just ask the child who the adult is. It startles them and they say Mommy, I smile at the parent, the parent usually smiles at me and tells the child – “She thought you were being hurt because you were putting up such a fuss.

    Notice I said Mommy – because every time I’ve done it – the adult has been a woman. One time I came very close to calling 911 – because 2 women were trying to force a child into a car and she was biting, kicking, and scratching. Turned out the child was autistic and didn’t like being in the car seat.

  23. Nagaisgich November 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Another thing people seem to forget when they are doing their First Worst Thinking is that a two year old who is abducted is unlikely be screaming and making a scene. The abductor would surely make sure of that one way or another. Why would an abductor pull a child from the car at a public hiking trail and then drag the child kicking and screaming down the trail? I suppose a really stupid one might. And although the police do have to do investigations… if they thought this way, only one would need to show up to “investigate”.

  24. Kelly November 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    I’m with Kimberly. There’s nothing wrong with being observant to people around you. That’s how the whole village taking care of itself thing works. But it’s really best to just go up and talk with them. That being said, you can normally figure out what’s going on if you just watch for a minute.

    (Plus the parent might be happy with you for distracting their kid from the tantrum)

  25. Katie November 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    I am surprised at the people who don’t seem to think race has anything to do with this. Imagine: not only are you male, which is already suspect around unhappy children, but you don’t appear to be the same race as your child. Obviously if the child appears to be white and the man is not, that just ratchets up the paranoia. This isn’t all that uncommon for multiracial families, although usually helicopters aren’t involved.

  26. Suze November 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    I’m shocked that these so-called “well meaning” types can’t tell the difference between a child throwing a hissy fit with a parent and a child abduction. I’ve never, in all my years ever interpreted that type of thing as anything but what happened. Your child just decided to get unruly at the hiking issue and acted out. I can’t believe we’ve gotten to a point in society where people can’t make the distinction. Where did these people think you just snapped this child up from? You got out of a car with her not the other way around…. there are some pretty obvious things here these people aren’t noticing and deciphering correctly. Just beyond the pale, imo.

  27. Slawebb November 1, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    I personally assume they meant well.

    I am white and a mother. I used to walk my daughter to and from school when she was younger. One day my 3yo had been napping in the car on the way home from errands. When we got home it was time to go and pick up my 7yo from school. I could have driven but decided that we had time so we would walk. As we started off, my 3 yo dd started screaming that she didn’t want to walk to pick up her sister. I gently took her by the arm and guided her as we walked to the school.

    I noticed at the end of the block a woman I didn’t know stopped and observed us. I kept moving forward towards the school and her and she moved on. As I approached the school I say her standing in the door way. I let go of my daughter for a moment and she decided to “walk home” by herself. I quickly grabbed her and we approached the door. I began talking with other mothers that I knew as we waited outside for school to be dismissed. She disappeared inside.

    I have to believe that she was concerned for the safety of my child. She stopped and observed and waited to see what happened. At first I was a bit taken aback. How could anyone think that *I* would kidnap a child. But then I realized that that is why I moved to a small community. I wanted to raise my kids in a place where others are concerned about each other. Better to err on the side of caution then to feel guilty that a child was snatched and you could have stopped it.

    I wonder if you hadn’t been hiking into the mountains if they would have called so quickly. If it had been in a city park or down the street, if they would have waited and observed longer.

    But it doesn’t just happen to men of color or men in general.

  28. Manisha November 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    I get a lot of scrutiny when I head to the park or am at a playdate with my daughter who is bi-racial. I use to say it can’t be a race issue, yet I can definitely say it is a cultural issue. My brown skin marks me as incompetent for some reason, perhaps the assumption that my cultural background indicates a different parenting style, one that is more permissive. I get people commenting on whether I’ve dressed my child warm enough or comments on what my child is eating and how I comfort her, though nothing as severe as being followed by a helicopter.

    I do think this was issue regarding the color of the Dad’s skin.

  29. Morghan November 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    It’s not your skin, it’s your penis.

    I’m mixed race, but look as white as can be, an I get the same reactions when my out with my daughter.

  30. mollie November 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Emily said: “Why is it so easy to mobilize a helicopter, four cops and a children’s services agent, when as a teacher I saw NOTHING done about children who were actually being abused at home?”

    Wonder what the stats are on kids who perish at the hands of their parents, at home.

    As an adoptive parent who doesn’t “match” my kid, my heart goes out to this parent who was guilty until proven innocent. What a waste of resources.

  31. Mike November 1, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    Tried posting the link twice, it didn’t go through. A White man had a huge police response (10+ officers, ready for war) when he walked down the street with his Black granddaughter.

    Google “babysitting while white” for the story. It’s horrifying.

  32. Maegan November 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    I really can’t believe people don’t pay closer attention to situations they consider sketchy. If you really are concerned, then watch the parent-child interaction. Abducted children don’t calm down in a matter of minutes. Furthermore, abductors don’t calmly help their child and then go about their business in a public place. It’s really as if they haven’t seen children before, ever. And of course race played a part, which is aggravating and alarming. I saw a young Hispanic male with a pale, red-headed 2-year-old boy in the park over the weekend. The child was obviously at ease with the man and happily exploring piles of leaves. It’s as if we’ve forgotten about inter-racial parents, adoption, foster care, step families, and, frankly, the science of genes.

  33. Nik Edmiidz November 1, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    Happened to me once too. I ran with my two-year old to get back to the car before the parking meter ran out… The four of us were already in the car and half a block away when the cops stopped us. I don’t think they even looked at my license once they took a look at my wife and two kids and I…. Looking on the young side to be a dad, and not exactly the same race as my kids might have played against me from a far… but up close the cop wasted no time in realizing we were a family…

  34. SKL November 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    This is an interesting situation. I mean, you hear about the horrible cases and you picture how things could have been different. If only someone had noticed a child in distress. So then when you’re driving around and notice a child going off into the woods with a man after screaming, you wonder. You think, what would be worse, briefly harassing a great dad who does things with his daughter, or taking the chance that a child is left at the hands of an abuser?

    I don’t think the right answer is to “always mind your own business.” There have been times when I moved in a little to assess a situation. I can’t remember ever reporting anyone, but I won’t say it’s always the wrong thing to do. Instinct does come into play here. My most likely response would be to kind of follow the pair until I either got comfortable or got alarmed. But I wasn’t there to see how this particular incident went down.

    There is no perfect world, so we have to shoot for a happy medium. Sometimes that means a dad is questioned. Sometimes it means a child is hurt. Just as it’s wrong to err too much on the side of fear, it’s also wrong to err too much on the side of blind trust in fellow humans.

    And no, I don’t think it had anything to do with the man’s skin. Except that since his child is mixed-race, a passer-by might have thought there was no family resemblance and thus had a hightened sense of concern.

  35. Donna November 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    @slawebb – I agree that the person meant well. “Meant well” is not an excuse for bad behavior. “Meant well” doesn’t make this man less harassed. “Meant well” doesn’t make this child less scared. “Meant well” would not have made it okay if this had gone much worse for the man, say if he had not had ID. “Meant well” doesn’t mean that the reporter didn’t think before she (and I guarantee you the busy body was a she) acted and caused this man harassment he didn’t deserve. “Meant well” doesn’t mean we should excuse her behavior.

    Since the reporters SAW him remove the child from the car and head out down the trail, what kidnappers take their prey hiking on the greenway? With kid backpacks? Their theory of this case is that this man kidnapped a toddler, bought a kid backpack, hauled said kid during broad daylight, very awake and vocal, down a short (clearly well traveled if their were many reporters) trail to what … kill her? Rape her? Really, this makes sense to anyone?

  36. Jenna November 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Maybe this is why I have a hard time getting my husband to take our kids anywhere!

  37. Tsu Dho Nimh November 1, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Wouldn’t an abductor be dragging a screaming child FROM the trail TO the car?

    Would an abductor stop to put a backpack on a screaming child before dragging said child onto a popular walking trail?

  38. Maegan November 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    “…that a mother called upset and concerns because he had slowed down and looked at her daughter as he drove by,…”

    And what if he had been looking at her? What if she was a beautiful little girl? Reminded him of his own daughter? What if he looked at someone’s son and reminisced about his own childhood? Children are fantastic and I adore watching them, regardless of age or gender. Is that to be taken away from us?

  39. Pierre November 1, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Dear Lenore,

    Thank you for posting this story and others like it. My wife is about 4 months pregnant, and one of the first things I thought about were situations just like this one. Because our child will be mixed, there’s a good chance I won’t look a lot like him/her, so part of me worries how often things like this are gonna happen to us.

    At the same time, I’m a firm believer in Free Range Kids, and fully support your cause. My wife agrees, but I also don’t want my family to be vilified for choosing to do so. Keep up the good work, and I hope that in our parenthood, we meet more parents like you and your readers than the opposite.

  40. BL November 1, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    I wonder if this happened on a weekday or a weekend. Isn’t it just accepted fathers only see their kids every other weekend these days? :-(

  41. Chihiro November 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    I don’t feel that it is so much that his skin was dark. He mentioned that his wife was white, so there is a chance that their daughter looked like her mother and possessed few Indian traits.
    If this is the case, the concerned person who called the cops probably saw “little girl crying, guy who doesn’t look related to her trying to force her to go somewhere, yaddayadda…”
    I know that in a situation like this, one can be nearly certain that it’s something innocent, but I’d hate for an ACTUAL child abduction to occur just because bystanders didn’t want to intrude.
    Though four cops and a chopper is excessive, to say the least.

  42. SKL November 1, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I could be wrong, but I’m remembering that case of an abductor killing adult family members and abducting the young son and daughter. The children were molested, abused, and the boy eventually killed. The man was caught and the little girl rescued when someone stuck their nose in when the man and girl stopped at a truck stop for some dinner. (I’m sure you’ve all heard of this case, but the names escape me.)

    It’s not black and white, is all I’m saying.

  43. Donna November 1, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    My guess is that the child looks more like him than the mother. Genetics can do fun things but most mixed race kids more closely resemble the darker skinned parent than the lighter skinned parent.

    My guess is that race played a small part if the reporters were white. White people in general are less trusting and more likely to question people of color. Something that would accepted as innocent if done by a white man will be less accepted from a man of color. But we see enough stories about white men being harassed for being out with their own children to know that it is not all racial. While they may not have called the police on a white man, they almost definitely wouldn’t have called on a white or Indian woman.

    I can’t tell from the letter but this could have been a child abuse call and not a potential kidnapping call. In which case, skin color was the predominant motivation. People of color are FAR FAR FAR more likely to get reported for child abuse than white people (followed by poor whites with middle/upper class whites being able to do damn near anything and get away with it).

  44. Donna November 1, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    @SKL – My guess is that there was much more to that story. Something UNUSUAL that tipped the person off.

    Here we have absolutely nothing unusual. Toddler was throwing a tantrum as toddlers are notorious for doing. Parent talks to the child, places a back pack on her back and encourages her to walk down a trail. Child was not dragged kicking and screaming, she walked WITH the adult begrudgingly, but willingly. Parent didn’t seem nervous and stressed by kid making a ruckus, as a kidnapper would because kid is attracting attention. Doesn’t sound like parent even went out of his way to stop the tantrum, but rather let it run its course while trying to distract the child. Nothing unusual about the situation at all except parent has a penis instead of a vagina.

    It is not always cut and dry but you should have some reasonable articulable suspicion that something untoward is possibly occurring. Something unusual that you can articulate. Not based solely on common, expected, albeit unpleasant, behavior of the child and the genitalia of the adult.

  45. Warren November 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    What gets me is these busybodies, are the same people that when questioned by police, do not want to get involved. But they are all to willing to pick up their cellphone and call 911, on a Dad and his kid.

  46. Donald November 1, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Police respond according to what gets reported. If they get a report that a man is trying to drag a two year old into the woods, they have to investigate.

    The problem is the worst first thinking and how this innocent situation got reported as an incident that would require 3 cops and a helicopter.

    Lenore posted an article a few moths ago about breaking news and a manhunt for a possible kidnapping suspect. When you read the story of why the man was suspicious, I couldn’t help wondering if he asked for directions while seated in his car to a girl on the sidewalk.

    The news is teaching people to sensationalize how they report things. After seeing so much crap on the news channels, Harry Potter and Gilligan’s Island is starting to look more realistic.

    Their isn’t a limit on how much to news can sensationalize things. And we think smoking is hazardous.

  47. Maegan November 1, 2012 at 9:41 pm #


    Unfortunately, what you’re suggesting takes way more effort than people are willing to put in. Which only shows that they’re probably not concerned at all. Paying attention to a situation for a few minutes is too much to ask. So, instead, the police are called. Out of laziness, basically. And based on the “Just to be on the safe side” mentality. But if we just err on the safe side every time we do something, then we wouldn’t drive, go on blind dates, share photos online, buy alcohol, use prescription (or even many over-the-counter) medications, eat at restaurants, get married, or even reproduce. What about car accidents, date rape, stalking, teen drinking, side effects, food poisoning, divorce, and pregnancy complications? We’d never leave our houses. Of course, houses catch on fire, get gas leaks, and are even driven into sometimes by intoxicated or underage drivers. So, we can either live in fear or we can try to remain rational. And if we really are worried about a child in a seemingly sketchy situation, then we should use common sense and try to determine whether there is cause for alarm or not, which only takes a minute or two, not a rash 911 call.

  48. Beth November 1, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    @Meagan..”Paying attention to a situation for a few minutes is too much to ask”, especially with, as I think Steve mentioned above, the immediate ready access of a cell phone.

    We are so conditioned now (well, at least many people are) to grab the phone whenever and wherever, that it’s the first thing someone does, and not the 2nd or even the 3rd. Before cell phones, we had to find a payphone, or even wait til we got home, and during that time we could actually observe a little longer, give some thought to what we saw, decide if there was another interpretation than our first impression, and determine if it was truly a police matter.

    Now we just see something, grab the phone, and press those three buttons.

  49. Maegan November 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    “And no, I don’t think it had anything to do with the man’s skin. Except that since his child is mixed-race, a passer-by might have thought there was no family resemblance and thus had a hightened sense of concern.”

    Right. That’s exactly what we’re saying. And, of course, having a heightened sense of concern over a mixed-race family is racist. And, frankly, are we really prepared to throw childcare workers under the bus? What if I hired a black man as a nanny for my two white twins? What about trusting neighbors and uncles as babysitters? If I had a Hispanic niece, should my white husband not take her to the park? This conversation may make some of us uncomfortable, but I’m proud to say that if I do have a knee-jerk reaction to a mixed-race adult/child group/pair, then I acknowledge it as wrong and correct myself. And we have to be committed to doing this is a wide range of situations that we may have been programmed to think irrationally about.

  50. Julie November 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Stories like these make me nervous to go to the park–and I’m a white middle-class female! But more than once, I’ve had a child pitch an all-out fit because they didn’t want to leave yet. We’re talking screaming, back-arching, trying to undo the child seat or safety belt, yelling things like, “I’m not going! I’m not getting in the car!” It looks like someone trying to force a kid into a car–because that’s exactly what it is! But sometimes we have to leave the park on my schedule, not theirs and that’s the way it goes. (Thankfully, this has only happened a few times and it happens less as the kids get a little bit older.)

    In my situation–and in the situation of the original poster–I don’t really mind if someone says something. I can understand that. I DO mind them calling the police with no further information. Stop and assess for a minute before calling 911!

  51. CrazyCatLady November 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    SKL, I know the case you are thinking of – the guy was apprehended in ID or maybe WA, near Spokane. The guy was caught when he thought that he had the girl so under his control to not say anything. But, she did ask for help of a person at the convenience store. Who acted appropriately. No, the guy in that case was not acting concerned about the girl – he thought he had her cowed.

    Yes, this is a judgement call in a case like this. I fear for my sons when they have kids because of this mentality. Actually, I fear for them when they start dating, but that is another story entirely.

    In this case, no, the father was not acting concerned about the tantrum, but want to bet that he will be concerned the next time? Maybe allow the girl to get back in the car, setting up a reaction where she learns how to get anything that she wants when she is public?

  52. Earth.W November 2, 2012 at 12:14 am #

    It’s the all Dad’s are Pedos fear. Everytime I took any of my children when their were infants to the playground, you were watched by every woman there. Often, a few of them would speak to my children to make sure I had not kidnapped them.

    Then there was the time at a shopping centre when a young girl approached me, telling me she was lost and couldn’t find her mum. She was very upset yet right on cue, a woman came up screaming at me and accused me of being a pedophile.

    And they wonder why men won’t work with children.

  53. Jynet November 2, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    My friends were stopped in a shopping mall for baby-sitting while black.

    My very blonde, very blue-eyed daughter was 3 years old, and not crying, but being carried by her African American godfather and his Latina wife.

    That is obviously suspicious behavior!

  54. Tism November 2, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    Giving them your ID was stupid ! Now they know where you live and can cook up a child abuse case, get warrant to raid your place with the CPS saying lying through there teeth to steal your child for profit, think I’m crazy look it up. Further learn the laws of your state ;

    2004 Texas Penal Code

    Sec. 38.02. Failure to Identify.
    (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.
    (b) A person commits an offense if he intentionally gives a false or fictitious name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has:
    (1) lawfully arrested the person;
    (2) lawfully detained the person; or
    (3) requested the information from a person that the peace officer has good cause to believe is a witness to a criminal offense.


  55. Stacey Dawe November 2, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    here’s an idea, let us never allow men near children without women present. Don’t even let dad’s live with their children. I am of course being sarcastic.

  56. Ali November 2, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    Way to stay classy, Texas. A helicopter, really??

  57. Bacopa November 2, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    I do a monthly gig in Austin and I usually crash at my brother’s place in Travis Heights before heading back to Houston. My Bro says the cops in Austin are out of control with the choppers . He’s been lit up while walking his dogs. I think they just want to be seeming to be doing something.

    Austin is not as chill as most people outside Texas think, and other places here seem to have a much more professional attitude. I was pretty active in Occupy Houston last fall and winter. Turns out that Occupy Austin was infiltrated by Austin Police detectives and one Austin detective who pretended to be an ex-military guy brought five Occupy Austin members to Houston to participate in our D12 action. He set us up for felony charges. But I kinda like the guy, because now all my buds are getting their felony charges thrown out of court because dude was both entrapping and operating outside his jurisdiction. Thank you for making D12 such a success. We were the largest and most effective other than Oakland.

    But what does all this have to do with Free Range other than establishing that Austin cops are no good? There may come a day when Free Ranging requires the support of nonviolent mass protest.

  58. Donald November 2, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    @Tsu Dho Nimh

    …..Would an abductor stop to put a backpack on a screaming child before dragging said child onto a popular walking trail?

    You’re using common sense. However, that’s not applicable when hysteria takes charge.

    The human brain is hardwired so that when is gets stressed in a fight or flight situation, it makes a reflex action and overrides logic because it is too slow. This worked well when we were at risk of being run over by a chariot.

    Centuries later the human race has become easily stressed. The old program that fires when it gets stressed gets used in inappropriate times.

    Giraffes have long necks because the longer the neck, the less likely the animal starved. Over the years the necks got longer.

    The same is true with TV. The more emotional that you can make people , (stress included) the less likely that the show will get canceled from poor ratings. Over the years, TV has become better and better at sensationalizing common things.

  59. hineata November 2, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    @Jynet, sad that your daughter’s godfather was stopped. We had some fun once with people when we were babysitting my friend’s blond-haired blue-eyed baby, and my Chinese husband pushed him around the supermarket in the company of another Chinese female friend of ours. Fortunately no one stopped them, but they got plenty of openmouthed stares!

    Along with others I think colouring probably did play a part in this. As a mixed race family our kids don’t look like either parent, so we’re just lucky our country has almost no history of abductions, and people just assume kids have tantrums (also, we probably have a lot more mixed race families here per head of population than many countries – it’s always been pretty normal here, so people are maybe more used to kids and parents not matching).

    Personally if I was an abductor, too, I think I would at least grab a kid that looked a bit like me. To stop just the sort of speculation this dad seems to have suffered from.

  60. Donna November 2, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    I’m not sure why everyone is jumping to the conclusion that his child looks nothing like him. It is possible for this to happen but the normal course of genetics means that the child probably looks a whole lot more like him than her mother. There are many halfcast (half samoan) kids in A. Samoa. They all look more Samoan than they do white, a little bit lighter skinned than the Samoan parent most likely but otherwise pretty identifiable as being of Samoan decent. They look like they’ve been kidnapped when out with their white parent but not when with their Samoan one.

  61. SKL November 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Maegan, fyi, I adopted interracially myself, so I am well aware that the mere fact of different skin color should not be alarming.

    HOWEVER, when you look at the series of events witnessed by strangers in this case, it is understandable if they subconsciously asked themselves “does he seem to be her dad”? Along with, “does she seem to feel safe with him?” and “Why would a man force a screaming tot into the woods?”

    Actually, I wish there were video because based only on the verbal description, I could really see this from both sides. Car stops next to woods, screaming child is forced to accompany man into the woods, man doesn’t obviously appear to be child’s dad. That’s the way I read it. Some of you assume that every passer-by should have known that that particular spot is totally safe and highly populated etc. However, even if that’s true, not every witness is going to know that.

    As mentioned on FRK in the past, some time ago, a young child was seen on the roadside and the passersby were afraid to offer assistance. Later the child was found dead, and someone stepped forward and said he’d seen the child alive but been afraid to stop lest he be attacked for his involvement. We at FRK thought that was so sad because we want people to believe in the basic goodness of the vast majority of people. However, apparently that kind assumption doesn’t extend to people who report a screaming tot being forced into the woods. We’re supposed to just assume that’s her kind-hearted father because it’s politically incorrect to wonder about it.

    Again, I wasn’t there. I go by instincts and my instincts may not always defer to political correctness. Without knowing more, I can’t say whether the individuals who reported the incident jumped to idiotic, racist conclusions or simply felt a deep concern for a helpless little girl.

  62. Amanda Matthews November 2, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    “I would say that it had little to do with skin color since I assume your daughter is also brown.”

    Not necessarily, since his wife is white. I’m mixed and look Asian, and my husband is a white redhead. The oldest kid is a redhead that looks exactly like my husband, the next kid is blonde with straight hair, the next has brown curly hair, and only the youngest looks Asian but with curly hair. If you see me with any kids other than the youngest you wouldn’t assume any of them are mine – I get a LOT of people assuming I’m a nanny. If you saw my husband with any other than the oldest you wouldn’t assume they are his. It is only when you see the kids with both of us that it starts to make sense, but even then we have had people assuming the middle kids are adopted.

    I look exactly like my sister, but my brother gets mistaken for Mexican. My sister’s kids, which are half African-American, all look different too. The oldest looks very African-American (and my sister would get asked all the time if he was adopted), but the middle looks like my brother, then the youngest looks like me/my sister but has African-American hair.

    My husband’s sister has a daughter that is half-Egyptian, she’s tall and dark and looks nothing like her tiny blonde mother (who looks nothing like my husband).

    Our family knows many mixed-Asian families; were one parent is totally Asian, where one parent is mixed Asian, and where both parents are mixed Asian; and the children vary GREATLY in looking Asian, looking a little Asian, and not looking Asian at all.

    Even when the child isn’t mixed race, they don’t necessarily look like their parent. And I’ve also known some Asian people adopted by white parents that get told they look like their parents and siblings (that were bio-kids of the white parents)! You can never tell by looking.

  63. Maegan November 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    It’s clear you aren’t understanding the story correctly. The father did not drag a screaming child into the woods, at least according to this account. The father waited until his child calmed down and agreed to take a hike with him on a public hiking trail. No parent in their right mind would drag a screaming child on a hike just for recreational purposes in a normal situation. Furthermore, your account of the young child on the roadside draws no parallels to this particular situation.

  64. DH November 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    “No parent in their right mind would drag a screaming child on a hike just for recreational purposes in a normal situation. ”

    I wouldn’t say that. I’ve picked up my child and hauled him from the car to the trail then deposited him on his own two feet. He usually calms down and stops screaming that he’s tried and doesn’t want to go about 200 feet up the trail.

  65. Donna November 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    @SKL – Exactly what story are you reading? There was no screaming child dragged into the woods in Lenore’s story. The child pitched a fit getting out if the car but had calmed by the time they went down the trail. The father helped his child into a back pack and she walked down the trail with him but if her own volition.

    And, again, my mind is boggled as to why some are assuming that his child looks nothing like him. It is remotely possible that she inherited all her mother’s characteristics and is a blue-eyed blonde (although “white” in no way means blue-eyed blonde). But odds are she has dark brown hair, brown eyes and a skin tone a shade or two lighter than his because those are dominant genes. Up close she may have all her mother’s features, but from a distance, she is not going to scream “doesn’t belong to him.”

    Further, why are we justifying interfering because a child doesn’t resemble it’s father? Many people produce children that look nothing like them, even if the same race. But for the fact that my daughter and I have very similar coloring, we look nothing alike. My best friend, a blue-eyed blonde, produced 2 kids with dark brown hair and brown eyes who look absolutely nothing like her. Her third is her clone and looks absolutely nothing like the father. He is the primary caregiver of the children during the day (or was before they went to school). Should it be okay for police to stop him every time Victoria pitches a fit simply because she looks nothing like him?

  66. SKL November 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    From the OP: “She yelled at the top of her lungs and started bawling that she did not want to go hiking and just wanted to get back in the car. Having seen this tactic from her for the past few months, I helped her put on her backpack and calmly asked her to try to hike with me for a few mins first. Couple minutes later she was totally immersed into the hike and enjoying it.”

    Dad says *he* was calm, but does not indicate that the child calmed down until “couple minutes later.” I read that to mean that she continued to protest visibly/audibly until after she was taken on the hike against her will. Also, he does not state how he got her to come along. The child is two and wanting to return to the car. Most likely he at least took her hand and led her physically in the direction of his choice. I didn’t see “of her own volition” anywhere in the original story. Later, yes, but that is not what the witnesses saw when they decided to report.

    And Donna, again, you are a smart woman. You know I am not saying color differences should be a trigger for suspicion. But there were other factors here, by the dad’s own admission. The child was screaming “at the top of her lungs” and wanting to go away from the direction in which her dad was taking her. I know 2yos sometimes holler for no good reason, but that does not mean passersby must always ignore the screams of a little girl.

    And also, even a child with her mom or dad could be in trouble. We all know that parents are the most likely suspects when a little child is abused or killed. Nobody comes when those babies scream either. This is not something to feel superior about.

    I’m not picking on this dad at all. I think it’s wonderful that he takes his daughter for hikes. I’m sure he’s a very gentle soul (that could be why his daughter dares to scream in public like that). But that does not mean that the people who reported what they saw were rotten or racist.

  67. Jeff November 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

    Well said, SKL. I read it the same way and can see where this has a greater chance of being a situation that indeed looked suspicious – regardless of skin color. After all, everyone on here would have to admit, you don’t see many toddlers screaming to get BACK into the car into a restraining car seat when running around outside is a choice. That in and of itself I’m sure made this guy look a bit suspicious, LOL. :)

  68. LRH November 2, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    You can say what you want, but I’m with Donna 100%, as I tend to be. This father was needlessly harassed & it shouldn’t have occurred. Yes I know it’s not a perfect world, but that someone else kidnapped doesn’t mean I should be subject to the 3rd degree when trying to parent my child who happens to be acting bratty at the time. I deserve to be left alone to do what I need to without someone coming alone & meddling in it.



  69. Krista November 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    SKL, I concur.

  70. Jeff November 2, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    LRH, I can see what you are saying, but I just don;t know if we want to encourage community that we should all just stick our heads in the mud and ignore a situation that looks suspicious. I’m not talking about a kid throwing a fit in the check out isle or at the park because they don’t want to go home. Those should be met with a sympathetic smile at the parent. But to arrive at a park and see a toddler kicking and screaming that she does not want to go with the adult into the woods on a trail, (when most toddlers would be happy to get out their car seats and run), I just don;t know turning our heads would be wise. A better way to handle it, would of course be to talk to the guy. (But if the person reporting it was a young female alone, I could see why she may be hesitant if she really thought this could be a criminal.) But no harm was done. The officers only questioned him – not handcuffed him or harassed him. I know it was a bit embarrassing, but I just don’t see how this was a blown out of proportion reaction by the bystander. LHR, let me ask you, would you EVER see a circumstance to intervene when it involves a toddler? (Besides obvious beating going on, of course.) Should we always turn our heads simply because they are two? Just curious.

  71. LRH November 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    Jeff it would take a really extreme situation before I would intervene, as in seeing someone clobber a child with a baseball bat–not that such a thing is likely to occur in all of broad daylight, but it would take just about that much.

    No I don’t want to go to the extreme of never reporting anything & abuse gets unchecked, but I would actually rather have that happen, as horrible as that prospect certainly would be, than for parenting to be to where every little thing a parent does in public that isn’t wonderfully nice & sweet is subject to scrutiny to such a degree that a parent is scared to be a “strong” parent if need be to get a child in line. It certainly shouldn’t be to where normal parent-child tussling of the “terrible twos” variety gets this level of scrutiny.

    And yes, the police went too far. A helicopter? Come on. Having lived in a large city before, I can tell you that, to me anyway, the police WAY overuse those things. They’re noisy and aggravating to have around all of the time, and they seem to want them to be around people ALL of the time. They’re pejoratively referred to as “ghetto birds” for a reason. If I still lived in the city & were rich, I would seriously try & see if I could somehow claim the airspace around my home as well as the land itself, & forbid any chopper activity over my house whatsoever.


  72. Donna November 2, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    SKL – There may certainly be situations where a passerby should not ignore the screams of a toddler. This does not sound remotely like one of them to me. Toddlers pitch fits for no good reason. Toddlers are frequently oppositional and want to do whatever is the complete opposite of what they are being asked to do, even if what they are asking to do is a whole lot more fun. This is actually such common toddler behavior that there are many books written about it and how to deal with it. A fit by a toddler is not remotely unusual and should never, alone, be a cause for concern. The actions of the adults in relation to that toddler may be. The interaction between the two may be.

    The dad reports that he calmly talked to his child and tried to convince her to go with him down the trail. What part of that implies to you that she was being dragged kicking and screaming along the way? Unhappy still, certainly, but that is not a description of a kid being dragged kicking and screaming down a path.

    Also, the adult was perfectly calm. Do you honestly believe that a person who has just kidnapped a child is going to calmly drag her kicking and screaming through the woods? He’s gonna do everything he can to shut her the heck up and is going to be very nervous about the potential of attracting attention.

    Further, a quick glance at the car should tell you that the man HAS A CHILD. Kidnappers don’t actually purchase car seats, back packs and the plethora of other kid things that generally float about when you have children. Dad is not aggravated by the tantrum of the child so there is no reason to believe that he will suddenly decide to launch the child into a ravine for throwing a fit.

    I certainly am not proposing that intervention is never called for. Maybe we should use common sense, observation skills and rational thought processes BEFORE we waste the time and resources of 3 police officers, helicopter pilots, and CPS and harass our fellow citizens.

  73. JJ November 2, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    Why do we act as if every passerby should know what typical 2-year old behavior is? Yes “oppositional” behavior is normal, yes the twos are terrible. But we are on this site because we are parents. They are actually lots of people who aren’t parents and some who haven’t been around toddlers since they were toddlers. Sure, the person who called this in could simply have been an evil busybody, but isn’t it more likely that they thought they were helping? My objection is the overreaction of the police. They are meant to be trained in sussing out a situation and reacting properly. Not bring in half a squad, a helicopter, and social services when there are all kinds of clues that this is just a guy and his kid on an outing.

  74. Donna November 3, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    JJ –

    So there are all kinds of clues that this was a guy and his kid on an outing and it is still okay to you that someone called the police? Took up the time of the police, even if just one officer had been sent out? Interrupted this guy’s time with his kid? Scared the kid?

    I agree that they thought they were helping. I don’t think they were evil busybodies set out to destroy families. Few people who meddle like this are. They still engaged in knee-jerk reaction without taking the time to truly evaluate the situation and their reaction resulted in a man being questioned by police. Where do we draw the line at saying any “helping” is okay because there was a good heart behind it? This luckily resulted in a few minute delay. What if the guy had not been able to produce ID – or really did look so different from his child that they didn’t believe he was related – and he had been taken into custody and his child removed from him until someone could confirm his identity and connection to the child in question (a realistic possibility), are we still okay with these people just being “helpful?”

    We, who know the facts, think the police reaction was overkill, but we have absolutely no idea what was said to 911. The reporters clearly overreacted in general and easily could have been absolutely hysterical on the phone, causing the show of force.

  75. Warren November 3, 2012 at 2:35 am #

    First off, Donna keep it up. Everytime I want to post on this one, you have beaten me to the punch. lol

    @JJ, people who do not have kids, have no experience with kids, and are that dull to not see what is really going on……….should just leave their cellphones in their pockets. If you do not know what is actually happening, then you are reporting on your own assumption, not an actual act.

  76. SKL November 3, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    We teach our kids, as part of the FRK lifestyle, that if anyone tries anything with them, they should holler and try to get away. Right? And here we’re saying that a child who is hollering and trying to get away should be ignored. Anyone notice anything illogical about that?

  77. LRH November 3, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    Warren I agree about the “people who have no experience with kids” portion. In the past I’ve observed that parents could be a little self-righteous with the whole “if you have kids, you don’t understand” bit, but where it regards this, it’s applicable. If you don’t understand how kids are with regards to their tendency to be a brat on occasions, and how often-times that’s what you’re seeing vs an evil adult, then you have no business calling because you’re meddling in affairs of which you are ignorant of. You’re ignorant NOT just regarding the specifics of the given situation, but about such situations in general to any extent at all. Educate yourself, or stay out of it period.


  78. SKL November 3, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    For the record, I do agree that the cops’ reaction was over the top. One or two officers could have taken a stroll down the path to see what was going on. A helicopter? Maybe they needed to do a practice run anyway?

    Or maybe there was a child reported missing around the same time?

    I have been stopped both on my bike and on my car because of a resemblance to someone whom the police were looking for. If there in fact was a child reported missing, then I’m glad the cops were doing their job.

  79. SKL November 3, 2012 at 3:29 am #

    I would note that reporting what was seen is not the same as accusing someone of a crime.

    People ask the cops to check on things all the time, just to make sure all is well. It is often done when neighbors or family members notice something unusual or the person isn’t answering the phone/door. If a door is standing open for no apparent reason. And sometimes when a baby is crying way more than usual or a child isn’t going to school.

    I’ve been known to call the cops when I saw someone driving erratically. I didn’t know why it was happening, but I thought the cops ought to check it out anyway, because someone could get hurt or killed.

    Now to the present situation. Of course I did not hear the calls that were placed, but let’s pretend they went something like this:

    “I saw a man and a child at the side of the road. The toddler was screaming at the top of her lungs and resisting going with the man. The man took the child into the woods. Could you look into it to make sure everything is all right?”

    As others have noted, no harm was done. The incident reaffirmed to the cops that a man and girl combo usually means an involved dad and lucky child. Something they already knew.

    Speaking of cops and dads and little girls. Just tonight one of my facebook friends posted a photo taken before her little girl’s first dad-and-daughter dance. Her dad is a cop who also happens to be an involved father to a little girl. I doubt he’s out there breaking up families just because he can.

  80. Jeff November 3, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    The problem is, Donna, we don’t know all the facts or even that the ones given to us were 100% factual. If the observer had seen them get out of the car they could have noticed the toddler’s belongings. But the father admitted it took a couple of minutes before the child calmed down. He did not indicate if this happened before or after leaving the car. This could have been a person walking back from a nearby trail as the father and child were already 50 feet onto their own trail and the child could have been screaming, “No! I don’t want to go with you! I want my Mommy!” as he held her hand and firmly pressed on, trying to get her interested in the walk. This situation wouldn’t have been so black and white, even to an observant person then. We just don’t have enough clear details to accurately judge that this was a knee jerk reaction. The fact that he said the police had “several” reports tells me that several people had serious doubts, and I’m inclined to think most people use common sense, and therefore the situation probably did look suspicious for whatever reason that we may not be aware of because we do not have all the facts.

  81. AW13 November 3, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    I have a very part time retail job and I work there in the evenings. As a result, I come across parents with screaming, crying, or whining children on a regular basis. As the mom of a 3 year old, I generally assume that they are throwing a fit, not being kidnapped (particularly since the vast majority of the time, the parent is speaking calmly to the child, and pushing the cart along). But: I also make a point of catching the parent’s eye (if they’re close enough) and offering a small smile and some sort of aside comment about how “I have a little one, too, it’s a challenging age, isn’t it.” I know that it raises my blood pressure when my kiddo acts up in public, and I know that when a stranger makes a commiserating comment, I feel calmer. I also know that it oftentimes has the effect of giving my kiddo someone new to focus on and frequently stops the tantrum. And I suppose, if a child were being kidnapped, it would give me a chance to assess the situation more closely, although, as I said, my first assumption is that it is a tantrum, nothing more.

    Interestingly enough, people are so concerned about men with children, but the people I hear saying the meanest and most hurtful things to their children are the mothers. The fathers are generally more stern in their bearing, but nicer – or maybe more gentle – in what they say to their children.

  82. JJ November 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    @Donna and @Warren, I guess I understand what you are saying, and it has merit–butt out unless you have the knowledge or took the time to investigate the situation. However, I feel better about letting my kids roam, and frankly about my own well-being living in a sometimes dangerous city, knowing that bystanders might be willing to risk embarrassment and/or the natural inclination to “not want to get involved” to potentially protect strangers. This particular person’s call may have been misguided but in general, isn’t looking out for others part of what a community is about?

  83. Donna November 3, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    “I would note that reporting what was seen is not the same as accusing someone of a crime.”

    Actually, no it’s not and that is the problem. If cops go to a location to check out something that you’ve reported it WILL be treated as a crime until proven otherwise. You may not be arrested, but the initial approach from the cops will 100% be “a crime is occurring and you are a criminal until you prove to us that you aren’t.” To assume otherwise is too dangerous to them. If they go in assuming a dad walking in the park with his daughter and it IS a abduction, they end up dead.

    Nobody enjoys interactions with the police in which they are being treated as potential criminals, regardless of whether they last 5 minutes or 5 hours. Nobody appreciates being treated as a criminal in front of their children. Nobody enjoys having their children scared or confused by police officers. Some cops are extremely nice, intelligent people. Other cops are aholes on power trips with the brains of turnips. I deal with both kinds on a daily basis. Getting stopped by the former is likely to end pleasantly. Getting stopped by the latter will definitely not be pleasant and may very well end up with an arrest for something.

    And, THIS time nothing happened other than a guy being questioned by police for taking a walk with his kid – which is enough to have happened and against most of the basic tenets of the Constitution. Police clearly overreacted here (or more likely the callers overreacted and the police responded appropriately based on what was reported to them). What if next time the overreaction is an arrest at gun point before more information is garnered? Okay with having a gun pointed at your children? Because my office did have a case where a police officer saw a child playing in a car port alone (4 years old) and proceeded to pull out his gun, kick in the door of the residence and point the gun at the father who was feeding his baby. This officer is still on the job and well-thought of by his department who saw nothing wrong with what he did.

  84. Donna November 3, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    @ JJ – I’m more than happy to have community and for people to be involved. My definition of community doesn’t involve calling the police on your neighbors for taking walks with their children. I want my community to err on the side of trusting their fellow man and butting out unless they want to take the time to really involve themselves and can think of REASONABLE reasons to be on alert. I don’t want a community where people grab their cell phones and call 911 to make themselves feel better because “well, something might be wrong and I’d hate myself it was” although they know in their gut that it was just a dad out with his daughter.

  85. Donna November 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    “The fact that he said the police had “several” reports tells me that several people had serious doubts,”

    You do realize that police officer lie all the time right? It MAY have been several reports. However, in every case I’ve ever dealt with involving anonymous tips, the police ALWAYS say “several” reports. Why? Because one anonymous tip is completely meaningless in court. A police officer cannot base any arrest on a single anonymous report and have the arrest stand up in court. I will have the case thrown out in about 5 minutes. However, several anonymous reports start to have some validity.

  86. SKL November 3, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Donna, if “they know in their gut it was just a dad out with his daughter,” they would not have called 911. Especially given that multiple people called.

    I’ve been stopped by cops for all kinds of reasons. Other than minor speeding violations, I’ve never actually been doing anything wrong. (And I’ve never been “arrested” as in “taken down to the station.”) The last time I was stopped and yelled at by an obnoxious cop, my kids were right there listening. My kids have also seen cops come in response to my request that they check to see if any squatters or thieves were hiding in a building we were remodeling; my kids were there for that, too. They’ve seen the good, bad, and ugly of cops, and I assume that is not unusual.

    The worst cop incident I personally know of was when a guy was shot dead while trying to climb into his own window after locking himself out. Apparently that cop was into “shoot first and ask questions later if he survives.” So yes, sometimes cops make terrible decisions. But I don’t believe it’s typical and I don’t believe good people should be afraid to report things that seem off just in case a lunatic cop responds to the call. That’s fear-mongering in itself.

    You make it sound like dads are regularly arrested for taking their children for walks. It ain’t so. The only reason the cops got involved here was because of the combination of how the kid was acting and the fact that Dad took the child out of sight in a remote place as she protested. Yes, the reaction was over-dramatic (unless there was a simultaneous missing-endangered child report, in which case the reaction was proper IMO).

    I agree that it would be nice if the witnesses could follow the dad himself until they were sure whether this was a problem or not. However, not everyone has the leisure to drop whatever they are doing to go follow a guy and child into the woods.

  87. SKL November 3, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Donna: wouldn’t there be 911 records to prove whether or not there were “several anonymous reports”?

  88. Jeff November 3, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    Come on, Donna. You don’t expect us to believe that if this guy really had kidnapped the child that just because only one person reported something suspicious he wouldn’t be charged with kidnapping and you would have the case thrown in 5 minutes? Give me a break. If he did something this obviously wrong it wouldn’t matter if one or 100 people reported it. More than one kidnapped child has been rescued because of ONE person reporting seeing something. There is no reason to lie and say “several” in a situation like this. Not to say the officers didn’t lie, but to say they did is pure speculation and really doesn’t make any sense in a situation like this. If your daughter was kidnapped and ONE bystander saw her pitching a fit with an adult trying to force her to go somewhere, I hope the bystander would report it and that police would respond and that the guy would get thrown in jail even if ONLY ONE person saw him and reported it. In fact, I’m SURE he would be in jail – even with only one anonymous report.

  89. David November 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Yeah, the 911 records would show how many calls were made, (unless these people conveniently had the local police department’s number on their cell.) So it wouldn’t make any sense to lie. Besides this is a case of a suspected kidnapping. If it was a real kidnapping, the case wouldn’t be thrown out of court even if only one person reported it.

  90. Sam November 3, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    “However, in every case I’ve ever dealt with involving anonymous tips, the police ALWAYS say “several” reports. Why? Because one anonymous tip is completely meaningless in court. A police officer cannot base any arrest on a single anonymous report and have the arrest stand up in court. I will have the case thrown out in about 5 minutes. ”

    I’m a lawyer, as well, Donna, and no judge in their right mind would throw out a case where a child was actually kidnapped, and the cops find them, simply because only one person reported it. Where do you practice law?

  91. SKL November 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    That’s an interesting thought, that a kidnapper, caught with his victim, could get out of the charge by arguing in court that the cops didn’t have enough cause to search / arrest. I wonder if defense attorneys would dare to try that tactic. That would be horrific.

    Unfortunately, I hear of cases where cops had a right to look around but chose not to (like the case of Jaycee Duggar) in stead of the other way around.

  92. SKL November 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    I meant Dugard, not Duggar.

  93. Donna November 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    No a child kidnapped case involving stopping a person walking in the public woods would likely not get thrown out. A child kidnapping case that involved pulling over a vehicle on the word of one anonymous tip could. Or one involving entry onto private property. Just depends on the case. If the stop of the car or entry onto the property was illegal, everything generated from that is unusable in court. Therefore, it seems like the gut reaction to cops is to always say several calls.

    And, yes, a defense attorney would file a motion to suppress evidence if one is applicable. If the search was illegal, it was illegal. My failure to argue it is a violation of my duty to my client and would get overturned on appeal as ineffective assistance of counsel.

  94. Donna November 3, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    SKL – Most judges are very pro-prosecution. So the fact a cop says 5 phone calls came in and only one is were found rarely wins in motions to suppress. Had the argument with judges a few times in drug cases. A judge is far more likely to believe that the call wasn’t connected to the case or wasn’t recorded or the recording can’t be found than an officer actually lied. My guess is that that is true in some cases. I find it hard to believe that I never dealt with an officer who got a single anonymous tip.

    Now a kidnapping case will be treated very differently. I don’t really think it would be kicked because of one tip barring weird circumstances. I do think there is a natural tendency on cops to always say several instead of one. Maybe to make a point. Maybe to make themselves feel more important. Maybe not to get reamed back at the station for calling out a helicopter and CPS for a father hiking with his kid. But I rarely take the comment at face-value. It may be true that several people called or it may ha e been one.

  95. Donna November 3, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    SKL – If the people aren’t interested in enough to stick around to see if cops show up, they couldn’t have been too worried. If I REALLY thought I just saw a guy drag a kid into the woods and was going to do something horrible to her, I’m gonna stick around – at a safe distance – until I am sure someone has responded and report what I saw and which way they went personally to the officer on scene. Anything I have to do could likely to delayed. I’m not going to just call it in and go about my business. That is something you do if you think it is probably okay but will send someone to check it out anyway.

  96. jeff November 3, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    This case could be argued infinitely. The reason being is that we are all making our own assumptions on what happened. We don’t know that several people called and then all drove off or one person called and drove off. We don’t know if several people called and then a couple hung around the parking lot. If my wife were there with our one and three year olds and witnessed a possible abduction I would hope she wouldn’t take our children and go following after the kidnapper, possibly putting all of their lives in danger, as well. Calling the police would be the smarter thing. And maybe a couple people DID follow the guy from a safe distance. As they did so, they probably realized that everything was OK. But most likely they would not have called 911 back and said, “Never mind. It seems like a dad and his kid from what I can now tell, but since I am following from a safe distance, I really can’t tell what they are saying, so it PROBABLY is OK.” If the call has already been made, most people would just leave it to the police to ere on the safe side. We just don’t have all the facts, so we really can’t judge this particular instance one way or another.

  97. Donna November 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Jeff – I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to FOLLOW someone s/he truly believed to be a kidnapper. That seems pretty dumb to me as a woman who probably couldn’t effectively take down a man who was kidnapping MY child. But wouldn’t you pretty automatically stick around to make sure a cop showed up if you just witnessed what you truly believed to be a kidnapper dragging a child kicking and screaming into the woods? Even with my kid, I’d stick around and call back if help didn’t come quickly. Cops and dispatchers are human beings. Addresses get mixed up. This is a trail head so may not be clearly marked or well known in the area. I’m going to make sure help has arrived before I abandon the situation.

    But you are correct, that could have been done. His lack of mention of a crowd when he got out of the woods made me think that it probably didn’t, but it could have. The cops in this case could have been on scene for awhile, got all the information they needed and told them to go on. We do know from several other reports of similar things happening to dads out with their kids, that the reporters were not around when the police came.

  98. Warren November 3, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    If your wife witnesses a possible abduction, I want you to go straight out and buy some lottery tickets. Better odds.

    This is simply a case of worst-first thinking, and Jeff you are buying into it. So, yes we can judge this case, and the busybody with the cellphone.

    We can also judge the police, in this incident. They could have easily just gone as a pair, walked the trail, and observed casually, instead of helicopters and 4 officers, and a cps worker.

    If this busybody is that paranoid about child abductions, that she couldn’t put the facts together, and come up with what was really happening, then I hope she is not a parent.

    I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but when you call 911 here, you give your name.

    SKL, about the defense lawyers trying to get their client off, even when caught red handed. That is a defense lawyers job and legal obligation. That is the way the system is set up, to try and insure “innocent until PROVEN guilty”.

  99. jeff November 3, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    “I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but when you call 911 here, you give your name.”

    Exactly. So a police officer making up “several” calls, wouldn’t make sense because there should be a clear record. All I am saying is that if it IS true that there were several calls, then we can assume, that the situation probably didn’t look as harmless as this dad would lead us to believe. For several people to call, it probably looked bad. You’re always going to have random busybodies, but to have several people reporting something….there’s usually a reason and my guess is he was dragging the kid, kicking and screaming that she didn’t want to go with him and wanted mommy. Maybe he was even embarrassed at the fit she was throwing and tried to cover her mouth to keep her quiet while angrily telling her to keep quiet because others are staring. (Pure speculation, of course, but I’ve seen many parents do this.) And we don’t know that there were three or four people waiting in the parking lot when he returned. It wouldn’t look like a crowd, but it only took those three or four witnesses to report him to turn it into “several” calls.

  100. Beth November 3, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    I apparently live, and am a 911 dispatcher, “elsewhere”. We ask all callers their names, but cannot compel anyone to provide their name, and complainants who refuse are taken just as seriously as named callers. There is, however, a record of all calls whether or not the caller leaves their name, both in the computer and on “tape” if anyone needs proof of how many calls were received about the same incident.

    An amazing number of people not only refuse to provide their names but also refuse to make their complaint directly to an officer, and refuse even a phone call from the officer with the disposition of the incident about which it was so important to call 911.

  101. SKL November 4, 2012 at 2:40 am #

    Regarding the “we received several calls” comment, maybe they routinely say that to make it a little harder for the accused to figure out who fingered them – and retaliate.

  102. SKL November 4, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    Donna, one minute you are insisting that whoever called did not actually believe the child could be in danger, and the next minute you assume they are convinced this dad was a kidnapper. Either way the reporter is terribly wrong in your opinion. There is no scenario you can think of that puts the reporter in a neutral or positive light.

    Apparently you do not accept that people can report ambiguous facts and ask police to check things out and make sure everything is OK.

    This seems to go against the FRK philosophy that most people are basically good and we can and should count on each other to watch out for our kids.

  103. SKL November 4, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    I think we may have a different understanding of the purpose of 911. It seems to me that 911 is called for the purpose of requesting a safety officer to come and help with an urgent situation. The role of the reporter is to provide enough basic facts so the cops know where to go and what to look for. The role of the reporter is not to determine whether a crime has been committed or determine whether an individual is guilty of a crime. Hence we should not be discussing a 911 call as an accusation and hold the reporter to the same standards as a prosecutor. It’s up to the cops to show the proper restraint in a case where facts are vague and unproven. If the cops called out a helicopter and CPS, that isn’t the reporter’s responsibility.

    I hope folks aren’t under the impression that they are not allowed to call 911 unless and until they have enough evidence to convict someone.

  104. Warren November 4, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    Why are you willing to come up with so many scenarios, that are not in the story, to justify the busybody, and the police overreaction. As long as people like you continue to shrug their shoulders, and accept that these busybodies must have had a good reason, to call the police, then we will always have these types of problems.
    The big problem here is that alot of people just do not know when to mind their own business.
    As for the 911 policy. If a caller refuses to give their name, then they should be told to kiss off, and that their call will not be addressed. If you are going to call 911 and get emergency services out, then stand up and give your name. It is called taking responsibility for your actions. The role of the reporter is not to determine if a crime is being commited? No, but it is their responsibility to use their head, and not waste the time and resources of emergency services. If you get caught pulling a false fire alarm, you will be charged and fined to cover the cost of dispatching the men and vehicles. Why not the same for these nosey busybodies. How much did it cost to deploy or divert the helicopter, send the officers and cps worker? Wasted resources, because someone couldn’t keep their nose out of this dad’s business.
    There is no excuse for the reporter/s calling in, and there is no excuse for the actions of the police. They were all in the wrong. False accusations only seem to be acceptable when it comes to kids. Why?

  105. SKL November 4, 2012 at 4:35 am #

    Well, if someone sees my kid screaming and not wanting to go with a guy into the woods, I hope they do something about it.

  106. jeff November 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Warren, I guess I just have more faith in mankind, than you do. It was in the story that several calls were made. I just don’t see several people calling into report something if it didn’t look suspicious. People just aren’t like that, in general. And if a situation does look suspicious, maybe the better reaction would be to shrug your shoulders, say, “Eh. I guess it did look suspicious,” and have a good laugh. A buddy of mine was traveling with his wife and two small children (3 and 5) and they were at a grocery store. It was March and he had a jacket on and his three year old had brought a teddy bear into the store with her. At one point she told her Daddy the teddy was cold and so he played along and stuffed it up his jacket, zipped up. She giggled and they went about shopping, thinking nothing of it. When they went to leave, a security person came up and asked him what he had under his jacket. He was shocked for a minute and then logic kicked in, he removed the tattered bear, realized it DID look suspicious, and they all had a good laugh. He could have thrown a fit for false accusations – since nobody actually saw him shoplift anything. But he chose to take the high road, realize people are people and sometimes situations do look bad and it’s not the end of the world if someone asks you a few questions. Now if this were something happening on a regular basis to all of us, that would be different. But I venture to say that for most people these type of questionings are a once in a lifetime occurrence.

  107. AW13 November 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    @Warren: I don’t agree that if you call 911 and wish to remain anonymous that your call should be disregarded. I once called 911 when I heard my downstairs neighbor beating his girlfriend. I asked to remain anonymous, because I was afraid of retaliation. The police arrived, he lied to them, and she left him that night (with a black eye, numerous bruises, and a cracked rib). I was happy that she finally left, which would not have happened if the police had blown off my call.

  108. JJ November 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    @Warren, wow. Let’s set aside the particular instance that triggered this conversation and set aside in general the topic of child abduction. Do you seriously think that 911 callers should have to give their names? You must live in a much safer city than I do. People living in some neighborhoods in my city live in fear of retaliation of any measures they might take to report or testify against known crimes. I don’t think anyone should have to chose between reporting crime that affects their quality of life (eg drug deals on their corner) and jeapardizing their personal safety.

  109. JJ November 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    And you could argue that the names given to dispatchers are kept confidential but it is a matter of perception of risk not necessaily the reality of risk.

  110. SKL November 4, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    It occurs to me that this dad is “the other kind of” helicopter parent. 😉

  111. LRH November 4, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    I’m with Warren. There may be an occasion here & there for anonymous reporting, but I think, like many other things meant for good, it’s been taking too far. It reminds me of when I was younger & my college friend, who was graduating, was throwing a party in his apartment. The downstairs neighbor called to complain about the noise. Okay, it was understandable that she found the noise unpleasant (although at the time I was saying “hey, the guy’s graduating from college, give him a break), but I said then, & I say it now–why don’t you go to the person YOURSELF to state the problem? Why this need to call the police when most of the time the respective parties can address the issue themselves without having to get the police involved?

    And it’s off-topic, but AW13 I have to say I don’t feel the same about domestic violence as other people do. I am 100% in agreement that it’s wrong, don’t misunderstand me, but I think–call me a neanderthal–but I think it’s a private family matter. The girl you mentioned–I agree, what the guy was doing was wrong, but rather than people calling on her behalf, she needs the backbone to do it HERSELF. If people give her encouragement & “pep rally” her for this, by all means, but they need to be the one to do it.

    I wouldn’t feel that way if it weren’t for the “mandatory arrest” policies they have, which I don’t agree with. Sometimes the women doesn’t want an arrest NOT because she’s scared of retaliation, but because she sincerely doesn’t want outsiders meddling in their private matters. Combine that with how, in some places, simply breaking a drinking glass or a TV remote qualifies as “domestic violence,” and it’s been taken overboard. You could be taken to jail for “domestic violence” simply for breaking a TV remote while watching your favorite sports team loose.

    Heck, I’ve heard of women who are full well & happy to live that way even when they are their mate’s punching bag, their attitude is “I give it back as good as I give it.” Is that a healthy relationship? Heck no, it’s no such thing at all, but if that’s how they CHOOSE to live their lives, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business. (If you’re conjuring up images of Chris Brown & Rihanna–yes, I feel that way too, if she still wants to be with him after what happened, that’s her right & her business.)

    Don’t get me wrong–the one being abused should be strongly encouraged to REPORT it & upon doing so they need all the support & encouragement there is to give them, with full prosecution of the offender. But it’s up to THEM to do it–and if they’re too scared, sorry, but tough tamales.

    Yes, really, tough tamales.I don’t like this tendency we have in society to enable people to report but without giving their name, it only discourages people from getting a backbone. The same thing applies with sexual harassment cases, too. Heck, sometimes, the offender doesn’t realize their behavior is unwelcome, and upon being told it is, they’ll stop with no hard feelings. That some retaliate for reporting doesn’t mean those who wouldn’t should have to have their record at work harmed over a misunderstanding that they can work out themselves.

    Back to the matter at hand–I think if you’re going to suggest that someone is hurting a child either in terms of abuse or kidnapping, you better be able to back that up, because you are potentially opening a huge can of worms even if their is nothing wrong going on. Getting the police involved in private family matters–and this was such a thing–is something that can create many problems of its own, and if you’re going to risk such a thing, you BETTER be able to back up what you say.


  112. Beth November 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Warren, Larry…come on. You can’t possibly really believe that if someone calls 911 about a house on fire, but for whatever reason doesn’t want to leave their name, they should be told to “kiss off” and the house should just be left to burn.

  113. SKL November 4, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    Larry, having been with a guy who found it harder to hold back than to hit (over paranoia, no rational basis), I’ll just remind you that saying “goodbye forever” is not always as easy as it sounds. Remember the man in question is probably twice as strong as the woman, a lot meaner, and knows where she lives, where she works, and the same about all her close family and friends. It’s freaking scary.

    I wouldn’t call just for a scuffle that ended pretty quick, but if it were happening a lot or going on long, I’d call regardless of the genders of the people involved. You never know a person’s reason for staying in a situation. Besides, there are domestic violence murders all the time. Can’t very well leave if you’ve been fatally assaulted.

  114. Alexandra November 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    I think this is a race issue and a gender issue, for sure. I have a good story for you. I was out hiking with my two year old when we reached a small gravel hill. She was torn in a typical toddler connundrum of wanting two completely different things (to be carried and also to walk down the scary hill independently). So, she ended up having a complete meltdown and I had to pick her up and carry her kicking and screaming through the woods. It was then that I noticed a park ranger glaring at me and wondered briefly if he thought I was a kidnapper. He didn’t talk to me about it, not that I could hear him over the screaming anyway, so I was able to return to the car wrestle my daughter into her carseat unmolested.

  115. LRH November 4, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Beth The problem is people call about a LOT of things not limited to a house on fire, things to where they have the potential to cause problems over a false alarm, over suspicions. Such was the case here. Such is certainly the case when you have nosy neighbors calling over kids playing in the yard by themselves.

    So yes, I think people ought to be willing to stand behind their allegations, and quit with the whole “I’m scared of retaliation” nonsense.

    SKL You may have some valid points, and although I said it already, let me make it clear–I do NOT condone partner violence. I do think that if the respective parties are content to relate to each other that way, that’s their right to do so, but I don’t disagree that it’s hideously immature, and someone who absolutely wants out, I certainly support help towards helping them towards leaving.


  116. Joel November 5, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    My wife and I have been a recent victim of an unwarranted accusation of neglect over our newborn (2 day old) son. Our story is disturbing, as is this one. For the people who are defending the “busybody” for calling on the small chance it was an abduction, let me tell you how much an accusation can affect one’s life. Several of you have a “no harm done” mentality. I disagree strongly with that sentiment. Harm can absolutely be done. With regards to children, this guilty till proven innocent philosophy is frightening.

    Our story is long and complicated (and will probably be outlined on FRK soon). But, the bottom line is that a pediatrician recommended we take the child to the ER based on a very small chance that he could have a serious infection. It seems very “worst-first”. We tried to compromise with her and finally just disagreed with her “plan” and told her we would seek a second opinion. She reported us to CPS for neglect!

    It’s very difficult to explain how scary it is to have CPS show up at your door and essentially threaten to take your child if you do not cooperate. We were forced to go to the ER in the end – because it was a “medical situation’ that CPS is not qualified to make a judgment on. We never had a chance to use our own judgment. We were monitoring the child and planned on seeking a second opinion, but that decision was taken out of our hands. NOW – imagine that they did find something wrong at the ER. Then, the CPS report would have been “substantiated” and they may have taken custody of our child. Can you see how a false accusation could end up in a VERY bad place.

    In addition, it severely disrupted our bonding with this new baby, my wife’s recover, our emotions, and now my wife is very paranoid about being judged by others. She keeps thinking about another busybody calling CPS. Today, she was going to go to the bank to deposit a check in the ATM. Before this happened to us, she would have left the baby in the car seat sleeping, because the ATM is only 50 feet away. I have no problem with that and none of us should. Now, she is in fear of another call to CPS. Someone could see the child in the car and make that call. Since we now have a “record” with CPS, another situation could be evaluated differently than it would on its own. They may see a “pattern” and question our choices as parents.

    After following FRK for a while, I was already expecting a lot of issues with busybodies in my future. I will be a 45 yr old white, with a lot gray, with a mixed race 2 year old in a couple years. Now, I have to also worry that I’ve been reported already one time. Can you see how much something like that can haunt you emotionally?

  117. SKL November 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm #


    I’m sorry for your trouble. I don’t want busybodies to call for no good reason. I hope that people have a high threshold that needs to be crossed before they call 911 or CPS. However, just as there will be people who fail to report when something bad actually is happening, there will also be times when rational, well-meaning people will interpret what they see in a way that ends up being inaccurate. The other alternative is that nobody ever reports until serious damage has already happened and can be proven.

    I think the medical neglect matter is different because the doctor actually had all the facts he needed in order to determine what was going on. In your case, the disconnect was over the scope of parental rights. Seems the doctor and CPS need to be re-educated on that matter. Did you consider filing a complaint?

  118. SKL November 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Ironically and sadly, a helicopter crashed and 2 cops were killed in Atlanta while they were searching for a missing 9yo boy. The boy ended up being found safe. I don’t know if he was abducted or not.

    It makes me wonder why they thought the helicopter would help find a child missing in an urban area. Wouldn’t it be more likely that the child was under a roof somewhere? But maybe they were looking for dead bodies in fields. Maybe that’s normal practice, I don’t know.

  119. Warren November 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    To those that feel they should be able to remain nameless, when calling 911. Calling in a false fire alarm is a very serious crime. Set aside the thousands of dollars it costs to deploy the firefighters and equipment, but the firefighters are at risk on the way to the false alarm, and the chance that deployment to an actual emergency will now be delayed.
    As for fear of payback………..sorry……cowards. Did you think that maybe if more people actually stood up, gave their name and got involved, that it would make a bigger difference, than being a nameless voice. If you don’t have the stones to get involved……..DON’T CALL.

  120. SKL November 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Warren, many years ago there was a case where a woman was raped and stabbed over a long time period in an urban neighborhood. Probably dozens of people heard her screams. Many admitted later that they didn’t call the cops because they were afraid to get involved because of retaliation.

    The attacker got scared at one point and ran away while the victim was still alive. He came back something like 10 minutes later to finish the job.

    This incident (which occurred decades ago) generated outrage and is probably one of the reasons you can call 911 and not leave your name.

    However, let’s get real. 911 easily traces calls. I’ve had the cops show up at my door multiple times because someone accidentally misdialed 911 instead of 011 on our fax machine. If someone crank calls 911, they will be easy to find and prosecute. It has been done before.

  121. Warren November 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    I see what you are saying, but it still goes to prove that their are too many people out their that won’t get involved. And these same people will be the first to scream when noone comes to their aid.
    Far too many people need a kick in the butt. Not wanting to get involved is a cowardly way of living. Pure and simple, if one doesn’t want to get involved, than why should someone else get involved on their behalf?
    It is a two way street. The sooner people realize this, the better.

  122. SKL November 5, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Warren, that’s true, but meanwhile, an anonymous call could save a life.

  123. Amanda Matthews November 5, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    “Well, if someone sees my kid screaming and not wanting to go with a guy into the woods, I hope they do something about it.”

    I don’t. Why? Because odds are that man is my husband, or my brother, or my oldest son. The odds of that are so much higher than it being a kidnapper, that I’m going to say: I hope no one ever calls the cops if they see my kid screaming and not wanting to go with a guy into the woods. Nor with a woman, because the likelihood of it being anyone other than me is so low, though women can be molesters and kidnappers just the same.

  124. Warren November 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    True, enough. But an anonymous call can also cause a great deal of hardship, for a family. In some places, this exact incident could have led to false charges, CPS investigation, and a whole lotta trouble for this dad.

  125. Joel November 6, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Warren –

    “True, enough. But an anonymous call can also cause a great deal of hardship, for a family.”

    I fear that only SKL read my example of that very thing…. I came late to this party.

    SKL –

    ” I don’t want busybodies to call for no good reason. I hope that people have a high threshold that needs to be crossed before they call 911 or CPS. ”

    I think that is the essence of what everyone on the other side of the debate are arguing. That the threshhold is too low for many people because of “worst-first” thinking. The damage that can be done by a false accusation is very real. Our case was a small one, but it could have escalated. You are on a site that trumpets the unbelievably rare instance of stranger kidnapping. The odds that this man was kidnapping this child are SOOOOOOOO small, that I find it strange anyone here is defending the phone calls.

  126. Warren November 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    One of the problems with remaining a nameless reporter, is that it removes all accountability. When you remove all accountability, it makes it far too easy for people to report incidents, while under the influence of worst-first, better safe than sorry thinking. They call in as a knee jerk reaction without any thought whatsoever.

    If they knew they may be held accountable for their actions, they may take an extra ten seconds to evaluate what they are witnessing. Once that happens they would get by the knee jerk reaction, and realize what they are actually seeing.

  127. Sally November 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Warren, I’m with you on this one!

  128. SKL November 6, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Well, I tend to think the vast majority of people do weigh the decision to call 911 on someone else carefully and sensibly. You know, that’s another aspect of believing the best about people. There still are a lot of sensible people in the world, despite the recent popularity in some pockets of “worst-first.”

    And also, the people on the receiving end of 911 and CPS calls are aware that not all calls have equal merit. For one thing, there are vindictive people who would purposely ruin someone’s life that way because they are bitter over a divorce or custody decision or even the fact that the neighbor’s dog peed on their lawn. There needs to be policy in place to investigate without prejudice, while making sure everyone is safe. It sounds like that is exactly what happened in the OP’s case. Yes, I still think the helicopter and CPS call were overkill, but the cops handled it right as far as talking to the dad and deciding things were OK before doing anything that could be harmful.

  129. Warren November 6, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    Unfortunately I do not believe that a 911 dispatcher has the authority to dismiss a call, on it’s merits. Even if they did, they never would. That whole lawsuit thing. If they got a call, and didn’t dispatch a unit, and something horrible happened, the dispatcher, and the county, or here province would be sooooooooooooo pooched!

    That is why, we have to have more accountability placed on the reporters. I have personally called 911 several times on what I perceived as impaired drivers. I am on the road alot in my job. I give my name, address, numbers where they can reach me. If you are willing to report, be willing to follow it up.

  130. SKL November 6, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Off topic, but I don’t know where to post exactly.

    I’m about to get expelled from this site, but here goes.

    I just got a notification fo a sex offender moving in within a mile of my house. On closer examination, I find his home is right next to the park where my kids walk to. In fact, his house is conveniently located on the other side of the little woods behind the kids’ climbing apparatus. Where little kids go in and play, out of sight of adults, all the time. (When I say “little woods,” I mean about the size of a typical suburban yard.)

    I check the “victim info” and it says juvenile, female. The charge sounds like kiddy porn. (He’s 30, so no, this wasn’t a high school student receiving a photo from his girlfriend.)

    So. What did I do? I clicked on the link to send a “tip” about this person, and my “tip” was the question: why is he being allowed to live next door to a park where children play?

    What is the use of notification laws if they can live next door to a kiddy park? I’m guessing most people don’t get these notifications, and the ones who do are only going to restrict their kids that much more now.

    Remember when I used to say I was thinking of letting my daughters walk themselves to the park soon? Yeah. Suddenly I’m not so eager to do that just yet.

  131. Warren November 7, 2012 at 3:52 am #


    Might just be time to get a little traditional with this person. I know I would.

    Knock on the door, introduce yourself. Inform him that you received notice of his record. Then inform him that if he even thinks of stepping out of line, looks at your kids sideways, or anything…………he will not have to worry about going back to prison. Cause he won’t make it.

    That is not threatening, that is warning him, that his behaviour will have swift and exact consequences.

  132. Amanda Matthews November 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    The tips are probably overrun with BS like that, and legitimate tips will be lost in the shuffle. Just teach your kids to not make kiddy porn and they should be fine.

  133. Bee November 10, 2012 at 3:33 am #

    Back to the original topic… I really wish the person or persons who thought you may have been abducting your own lighter skinned daughter had just asked you if everything were ok. Then perhaps they would have seen your daughter cling to you pre-hike and you could have said, she’s so-so on today’s hike, but we are going to continue on. Thanks for asking. Instead they wasted time and tax-payer money…and ruined your day. ugh.