A Girl Walking Down the Street — and the Cops. Twice.

When szaddzfkrs
does it make sense for the cops to stop kids and make sure they’re safe? A  mom in Maine writes:

Dear Free-Range Kids: My daughter, 9, wanted to hang out with a friend of hers that lives about 2 miles away.  Because neither set of parents could take them, the decided to walk to the middle and then come back here.  Seems like a good way to get some exercise, doesn’t it? Well her friend was stopped TWICE by police in the less than a mile it took her to meet up with my daughter!

Are you KIDDING ME???  There was NOTHING wrong!!  They just wanted to check that she wasn’t a runaway.

Because, you know, all the kids walking on their own MUST be runaways because that’s just how it is, right???

Come to think of it, this same thing happened to my own son last year, here in NYC, when he was 15.  He was at the bus station early one weekend morning, eating breakfast before taking the bus to go snowboarding. He had his snowboard WITH HIM and yet the cops took him into the precinct and then called us, to make sure he wasn’t running (snowboarding?) away.

Anyway, I asked the Maine mom for more details:

We live in a fantastically safe neighborhood in a very small university town where, supposedly, families are encouraged to walk and bike everywhere.  There are sidewalks and bike lanes everywhere. Our town playground is behind the police station, for crying out loud!!

Anyway, children are allowed to walk to school unaccompanied starting in grade 3.  Whether or not you think this is reasonable, the child in question was in grade 4, 

Google pedometer puts our two houses 1.52 miles apart.  She lives on one side of the central part of town and we live on the other.  The girls wanted to meet in town and walk back to our house.  It was broad daylight, about 40 degrees.

Child A (9) began walking towards town while my daughter (also 9) did the same thing from this side.  Apparently concerned that my daughter would be faster, Child A began jogging along on the sidewalk.  Police see this child (who *gasp* didn’t have a hat on) and stopped her to ask if she was okay and if her parents knew where she was.  She said yes to both questions. They asked her if she knew where she lived (which she did–shocking).  The officer let her keep walking.

Apparently, at this point, he went to her house and knocked on the door.  Nobody answered because her stepdad was in the shower and her mother was out on a run.  This officer, thinking nobody was home, called another officer who rushed back to Child A and stopped her again.  This officer asked her the same questions and held her until he was able to contact her stepdad who confirmed that yes, he did know where she was and no, she was not running away.  Oh, and also, yes, he was aware she didn’t have a hat on, but that he had figured she had a hood on her coat and it wasn’t really that cold (that, and she’s 9…she can figure these things out).  Finally, Child A was allowed to meet up with my daughter and they walked back here without further incident.

Her mom and stepdad were over for dinner and her mom said, “On one hand I’m glad I live in a town that is so safe that the police have nothing more to do than pull over my child for not wearing a hat, but on the other hand…WOW.  My child was walking on the sidewalk, in the daylight, happy as a clam.  What gives??”

I can hear all the “Yes, they were just checking…” and “Aren’t you glad they stopped to help?”  and I think maybe they are right?  Shouldn’t I be happy I have such cautious police officers?  I mean, they aren’t mean and nasty.  But I feel like it is always one step too far.  – A Mom in Maine

Were the cops wrong to stop this girl? I’m not completely sure about the first time, but I am positive they did not need to “corroborate” her story by going to her home. It’s as if they were checking out an alibi…BUT THERE WAS NO CRIME. 

We cannot keep treating unsupervised children as if they are either runaways or the products of neglect. Kids deserve their freedom. “Walking While Young” is not a crime. – L 

The cop asked the dad: "Do you know your daughter was out walking WITHOUT A HAT?"

The cop asked the dad: “Do you know your daughter was out walking WITHOUT A HAT?”

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71 Responses to A Girl Walking Down the Street — and the Cops. Twice.

  1. caiti December 29, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    In light of the current national debate about cops and race and deadly force, I have to wonder how this situation would have ended had the girl been a dark skinned boy. I’m not suggesting that the cop would have pulled a gun, but would the child have been allowed to continue walking or would he have been escorted home and a report made with CPS?

    Also in light of recent events, if have to say I would not feel lucky. I want my son to have as few interactions with cops as possible.

  2. BL December 29, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    Real criminals can be dangerous. Much safer for police to confront 9-year-old girls.

  3. tana December 29, 2014 at 9:54 am #

    First stop, reasonable. Maybe she was jogging for help. Follow-up? Too much.

  4. Puzzled December 29, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I wonder what would happen if children received training from the ACLU.

    “Are you running away?”
    “Am I being detained? Am I free to leave?”

    “Why aren’t you wearing a hat?”
    “I invoke my right to remain silent.”

    “Do you know where you live?”
    “I want a lawyer.”

    The safety folks think it makes sense to tell kids not to talk to strangers. Statistically, the officer is more dangerous than the stranger, and there is a Constitutional right not to talk to the officer.

  5. Erica December 29, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    This is so bizarre to me. I remember hearing about missing kids as a child. As the local news reported it they always interviewed a police officer who would state that it is their policy to give the kid 24 hours to return home because…wait for it…”They’re probably *just* a run away”.

    What the heck happened that cops are now assuming any kid without parental supervision is a runaway who is going somewhere other than their friend’s house? (I don’t have any stats to back this up but I believe that’s where many run-aways run to.)

  6. Donna December 29, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Assuming that the girl was not dressed in typical workout clothes, I think the first stop was somewhat within reason. I can see where they would check to see if someone running down the road, who was clearly not dressed for exercise, needed some help. Child or adult. Checking her story and detaining her until it could be confirmed is over the top and unconstitutional.

  7. Ann December 29, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Wow. I would feel very safe and love if the police officers had the time to look out for my child like this.
    Why do you hate cops or mistrust them so much? Past experience?
    Police officers are there to serve and protect and check on the well being of children. Do you know how many runaways give the same story to police officers as this child did? Quite a few and if they were to leave it alone then people like you would be the first to throw stones and complain about them not doing their job?

    I think I would find other more important things to raise a stink about and stop teaching your child to mistrust police officers. One day they may be in a situation when they need their help and be to afraid to seek help.

    Get a life.

  8. Don Waggoner December 29, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    This is a difficult scenario. I agree, the first stop was reasonable. The second stop, not so much. The question about the hat was none of the officer’s business. In some cases the officers are just looking for reasons to stop kids and search them. They do the same to adults. It is important that children and adults know how to respond to officers’ questioning. Name and address should be sufficient, Anything more, ask if you are free to leave or under arrest. Volunteering information frequently causes problems that are not needed. In the scenario here, it’s probably benign and the cops were just trying to make sure she was safe.

  9. Bill In Upstate NY December 29, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    I would think this cop deserves praise and maybe a free coffee rather than criticism.

    I understand the point, but what if the cop doesn’t check, the girl is running away, and she is kidnapped, killed or dies.

    How would he ever live would that and how quickly would the parents file suit?

  10. Warren December 29, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    You get a life.
    No we would not be whining if this kid indeed was a runaway. Because we do not believe every kid on their own is in danger, is a runaway or up to no good.

    No I do not need the cops stopping kids for doing nothing. The moment a cop stops anyone, adult or child, that person automatically feels as if they have done something wrong. It is human nature to do so, when a person in authority questions what you are doing.

    We have also seen cops that disagree with parental choices, have CPS called, arrests made and the like. So take your self righteous crap and shove it.

  11. Warren December 29, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    Get a grip. How many runaways are there, how many kidnaps are there, how many murdered kids are there, in comparison to how many kids are and should be outside playing?
    I would rather the cops do their jobs than harass kids doing everyday activities.

    One little comment from the kid, like “I couldn’t find my hat.” could have the whole thing turn into a nightmare for the family. Over nothing. Like the cops you should mind your own business and not inflict your paranoia on others.

  12. Sara December 29, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    Donna, no. Just… no. A 9-year-old does not have to wear “work-out clothes” to be allowed to run down the sidewalk. It’s a frickin’ 9-year-old. Children run. That’s what they do. Assuming that something must be wrong when you see a child running is extremely paranoid and far from reasonable.

  13. BrianK December 29, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I gotta agree with Bill. I think our news and entertainment media have everyone so scared and paranoid that I can understand why the cop did what he did.

    It’s that whole worst thinking… my cop “intuition” fired, what if something happened, how could i live with myself? What would local news say if i didnt check and she is kidnapped?

    I highly suspect that a lot of specialized cop training consists of slanted fear pieces.

  14. Russ December 29, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    I’m stunned that anyone thinks the first stop was reasonable.

    I could see stopping pre-school aged kids because it might be reasonable to assume a 5-year old doesn’t know his address or phone number and if lost may not even know that a police officer could be helpful. Of course, it is the police officer’s decision on whether to be helpful and leave it at that or to also be a scolding lecturer (which means spending time reprimanding parents that could be better spent looking for lost children). But a 9-year old should reasonably be expected to know where they live and how to get there – and to ask a police officer for help IF THEY NEED IT.

    If a police officer can’t figure out a 5-year old from a 9-year old he should probably not be allowed within 5000 feet of a child. If the default viewpoint is that minors are always troubled, then there can logically be no way a police officer can possibly be regarded as a responsible adult until age 40.

  15. BrianK December 29, 2014 at 11:19 am #


    I understand your point of view. You swallowed what you were taught without questioning.

    I have a challenge for you. Go into your local police station by yourself. Go to the front desk and ask how you file a complaint regarding a police officer. Be polite and nice as you can be. Do not volunteer why you are asking. If they ask why, politely respond that the reason will be in the report.

    Let us know about your experience in talking with a police officer after that.

  16. Papilio December 29, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    I agree that, from the cops’ perspective, the first stop was somewhat understandable (but only because kid was running!). The downside is that this is just awkward for that poor kid! If I were her I’d feel like I couldn’t do anything without worrying adults or getting stopped by police or whatever. It feels sufficating, and I could imagine if she’d rather not go outside by herself next time just to avoid this kind of situation.

    @Lenore: They couldn’t call you without taking your son to the precinct?? What if he was just a bit early to meet other people and catch the bus to some organized snowboard trip? Those cops would’ve messed up everything…!!

  17. Papilio December 29, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    And now for something completely different: New Year’s Eve.

    Since we commenters live not just in the USA, but also in Europe and Australia and New Zealand (and that’s just that I know of), wouldn’t it be fun if we would all post a little ‘happy new year’ or whatever around our own midnight, so that we can see the new year arrive across the planet?

  18. Donna December 29, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    “Assuming that something must be wrong when you see a child running is extremely paranoid and far from reasonable.”

    A cop doesn’t actually have to believe that something “MUST” be wrong before he stops you. That something “MIGHT” be wrong is sufficient. In fact, a cop can ask you to stop and talk to him anytime he damn well feels like it for no reason whatsoever as long as he does nothing if you ignore him and continue on your way. I might wonder if something MIGHT be wrong if I saw ANYONE running down the street who was clearly not out for a jog. I might ask if they need some assistance. I wouldn’t follow up if they said that they were fine, but I might ask.

  19. Stacy December 29, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    This happened only because it’s so unusual to see a 9-year-old doing something perfectly safe and reasonable, traveling alone a short distance, that the officers immediately became suspicious. I don’t mind the officers stopping and talking to this girl only because kids walking alone is less common than it used to be. I do think it’s unfortunate that they didn’t believe her and insisted on following up, especially when she was willing and able to provide her home address. That doesn’t sound like a child in trouble or a runaway. But the best way to combat this is to make it more normal for kids to be walking on their own. My 10-year-old is reluctant to walk home from school because not many children travel the path she’d have to take, which requires crossing semi-busy road without a traffic light, and she’s afraid someone would stop and ask her if she’s okay. Her best friend in the neighborhood is very sheltered, so that’s not an option. This motivates me to encourage my daughter to walk home. Maybe she’ll start a trend.

  20. Michelle December 29, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    I’ve mentioned this before. The police not only stopped my daughter, but BROUGHT HER HOME because she was walking “on the curb” and occasionally “put her foot in the street.” She was walking two houses down, on a quiet side street in our own neighborhood, to her best friend’s house. The house between ours and the friend’s has no sidewalk beside it, and the old man who lives there yells if kids walk in his grass. When I asked if there were any cars coming, or whether she seemed to be not paying attention to her surroundings, the cop asked if he needed to call CPS.

    I later found out that this was the second time he’d stopped my daughter, but the first time her friend’s dad had been standing in his front yard and rescued her.

    The following year, another cop brought the same daughter home for being at the school playground (also in our neighborhood) by herself (actually with her older brother, but he walked home ahead of her). That cop did call CPS, who told me I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I ought to not let her out alone anyway, because if the police keep bringing her home they’d “be forced to do something.”

  21. David DeLugas December 29, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    Similar to what happened in Maryland (children walking home from the playground), the question again is why are police and CPS intruding into situations where no one is hurt or in imminent danger of being hurt? If I, as an adult, am walking and decide to break into a jog in a suit and tie, does that being unusual to most give a law enforcement officer a Constitutional basis to stop me and to ask any questions? Does the analysis change just because the person is a child? Please, can we keep our limited resources (law enforcement and child protection services) focused on probable cause to believe a crime is being committed or a child has been harmed or is imminent danger of actual harm? @Free Range, similar to the Maryland case, the National Association of Parents is interested in bringing legal action to enjoin law enforcement and CPS from intervening except in such cases (harm, imminent danger of actual harm). Please connect us to this parent (or the parents of both children walking, jogging to rendezvous). Thanks. https://www.parentsusa.org

  22. Donna December 29, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    “If I, as an adult, am walking and decide to break into a jog in a suit and tie, does that being unusual to most give a law enforcement officer a Constitutional basis to stop me and to ask any questions?”

    As a lawyer, you should know that the answer to this is a resounding “yes” and it is not even a remotely questionable under Constitutional law. It alone doesn’t give police a basis to FORCE you to stop and talk to them, but a police officer can always ASK you to stop and talk to them. It doesn’t matter if what you are doing is unusual or not. Whether you choose to stop and answer their questions is up to you, but they can ALWAYS ask.

  23. Roberta December 29, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I totally see this happening nowadays. After my kids (ages 12 and 7) we’re stopped by police for waiting together at a bus stop (on their way to a friend’s house a short bus ride away), I feel like I have to be extremely cautious about where they go in public any more. I see police and nosy neighbors as the most worrisome threat to our children and our whole family’s welfare.

  24. Erik December 29, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    Actually the police exceeded their authority. Without there being any evidence of there being a crime being committed (9yo walking or jogging does not constitute a crime) he had no reasonable cause to stop he in the first place.

    If the officer interferes with your liberty to move about, he or she should first have a reasonable suspicion that you have been involved in a crime. The officer would need to support this suspicion later (should the matter should wind up in court) by referring to specific facts that prompted the suspicion.

  25. SOA December 29, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Stopping once just to ask if she is okay does not bother me since there is always that chance she is in some kind of trouble or could be an autistic child or something. But after she confirms she is fine they need to move along.

  26. ARM December 29, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    I’m surprised so many people think the first stop was reasonable. As a kid I would have been totally freaked out and I would have either been scared to go anywhere again or been nervously looking over my shoulder for the police all the time. I walked or took the bus to all kinds of places alone by nine – school, piano lessons, friends’ houses, and I think that was just as it should be. I would like to think my son will be able to do the same. . . though it seems like I’m probably hoping in vain, given stories like this.

  27. pentamom December 29, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    You people who think that there is no constitutional authority for a cop to verbally address a person in public without probable cause amaze me. Donna is right — when he attempted to detain the kid, that was unacceptable. But do you honestly believe cops are not allowed to TALK TO PEOPLE without probable cause?

  28. SOA December 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Just as a frame of reference- I as an adult used to have people stop regularly when I was out walking in a normally non pedestrian area, and ask if I was okay. It was never actually cops though. It was usually nice ladies or even men. Sometimes it was the men trying to pick me up by offering me a ride. Sometimes it was nice ladies asking if I was okay or did I need a ride somewhere?

    So apparently even adults can have this happen to them. I never took it as “They think I am incapable of walking somewhere”. I took it as they thought seeing someone walking was odd since in this high car area it is and they just wanted to make sure I did not need a ride or was in some kind of trouble.

    I just politely waved them on and told them I was fine. So I don’t mind any adult or officer pulling up beside her and saying “Hi there do you need any help?” and if she replies “I am fine just walking to see my friend” they can just go on. That is almost just considered being polite.

    Where they went too far was asking her address and phone number and calling her parents and showing up at the house and stopping her again. That went way too far.

  29. Maggie in VA December 29, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

    Well, granted, we lived very close to our elementary school, but I think I walked to school by myself from the first grade on. As for cops checking up on kids, I think maybe I would be more comfortable if the approach was more outreach than an assumption that something was amiss. That’s community building, and it’s a positive thing.

  30. Puzzled December 29, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    Erik, that depends on the meaning of “stop.” I would like a rule like you suggest, but the reality is, the police can stop you whenever they feel like so long as you are not detained without cause. So far as we know, the girl didn’t have to answer questions and could walk away, so she wasn’t detained.

    However, a person is detained if they have reason to believe they wouldn’t be allowed to leave, such as a display of force, removal of a gun from a holster, etc. This girl almost certainly believed she wasn’t free to leave, but legally, as far as I can tell, had no reason to believe that. IANAL, though.

    None of that makes stopping her a good idea – and Lenore’s case was certainly a case where a person was detained without suspicion.

    Ann – police officers are there to enforce laws, not take care of your children, and we forget that at our peril. Their job in interactions is to look for crimes, and thinking they’re there to be kind opens you up to them finding something. That’s why the ACLU tries to educate people about these things. No one, including the police, may detain you without cause, even if it’s to be ‘helpful.’ You can be stopped and made to give your name and address.

    Frequently, the police will ask questions under the pretext of being helpful, while actually seeking out a crime. “Where are you going? You seem lost,” is sometimes used after a stopping a car, in the hopes that the answer will be a place known for drug use, or of finding out where the person came from. “Where are you coming from” seems like an innocent question, but can lead to an arrest if a crime happened to have been committed near the area you came from. Failure to know and use your rights doesn’t just hurt you, it erodes them for all of us.

    “People like me” would not be the first to complain if a police officer didn’t investigate a case of – wait for it – a 9 year old walking down the sidewalk – and that 9 year old turned out to be a runaway. That’s because “people like me” know the rule of law enforcement and don’t expect them to solve every problem in society.

    Bill – why stop at coffee? Surely they have donuts there also. But to answer your question – he can “live with himself” because the problem was not his problem. How do you live with yourself without stopping every child you see outside to see if they’re going to be killed later that day? Right, but you’re not a cop – but being a cop doesn’t make it his job to ensure that nothing bad ever happens, it makes it his job to enforce the law.

    You could be right that parents would sue if a police officer didn’t investigate a 9 year old walking down the street and the child was a runaway. That’s a sign of a sick society, and of exactly the same social decay that let a police state be built around us. It’s also a sign of a broken legal system if that case was not thrown out immediately.

  31. ARM December 29, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    SOA (and also Pentamom) I agree: It wasn’t asking the girl if she was okay that was out-of-line. But according to this account, it sounds more like it was an interrogation – the fact that he went to the kid’s house to verify everything confirms that the cop was treating it as such. There seems to have been a presumption that the girl and/or her parents were committing a crime, making it incumbent on them to prove otherwise. That’s what seems out of line, even in the first police stop, as recounted here anyway.

  32. Michelle December 29, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    Not too long ago, I watched an episode of Andy Griffith that involved a runaway boy. When the report came through, Andy recognized the name and description as that of a boy who he’d seen playing with his own son. He’d actually been having a conversation with the boys earlier in the episode.

    That’s the kind of community where I want to live. One where people notice problems like wandering autistic children or runaways not because they stop and question every passing child, but because they know and speak to each other. I’m ok with cops speaking to and getting to know the kids in their community. I’m ok with them asking questions. (I am not ok with “didn’t want to stop and have a friendly chat with the police” being a cause of suspicion or a reason to detain someone.)

    I still think the initial stop was odd. A child running down the street is not something that would even turn my head. Children run everywhere. It’s as strange as stopping someone because their coat is too big. And yet, what if their coat is the wrong size because they stole it? Or because they’re homeless and that’s the only coat they could get? Or because they’re hiding something under it? OMG, all the reasons why an improperly sized coat could be a sign of trouble!

  33. Donna December 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    “Police see this child (who *gasp* didn’t have a hat on) and stopped her to ask if she was okay and if her parents knew where she was. She said yes to both questions. They asked her if she knew where she lived (which she did–shocking). The officer let her keep walking.”

    What part of this is an interrogation? It sounds to me that she was asked 3 pretty mundane questions. The fact that the police asked the questions thinking that maybe something was amiss (that is generally why they talk to people) or didn’t believe the answers and followed up on them, doesn’t actually make asking 3 mundane questions an “interrogation.” Even if it was an “interrogation,” as long as you are not being held against your will, the police can
    “interrogate” you all day. If you confess to killing the Lindbergh baby in the course of that conversation, the police have still done nothing wrong.

    Folks, you simply do not have a right not to be spoken to by people you don’t want to talk to. You can choose not to join the conversation and you can tell the person to bug off, but the other person has done nothing wrong by trying to talk with you. And they can continue the conversation for as long as you are willing to chat and ask whatever questions you are willing to answer. Whether that person is a police officer or not.

  34. Beth December 29, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    Hey Ann? Allowing your 9-year-old to decide if she needs a hat on outside does not indicate the lack of a life. It really, REALLY doesn’t.

  35. Trey December 29, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Brian – I wish I could up vote your post.

  36. lollipoplover December 29, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    Does anyone teach their children to give a wave to police officers? I give a small wave when I see them out and about, especially when they are around my neighborhood. They always wave back.

    I tell my kids to wave at police officers to let them know that all is good. A two handed wave is what you use when you need them to HELP you. Years ago, a police officer on a motorcycle stopped to give my son a coloring book and crayons. My son was 3 and obsessed with anything on wheels and the officer put his lights and siren on and I think he just about crapped his pants in excitement. He told them about waving and that police are who you call when you need help.

    That said, stopping a capable kid for “Walking While Young” is perfectly ridiculous. Kids in 4th grade are doing powerpoints, reading the Hunger Games, and competing in high level sports, but walking short distances without hats is grounds for concern? Runaway because…running?
    Gosh, my son took his long board to our local shopping complex yesterday (in the 40’s) in shorts. And he got frozen yogurt! And rode home holding the frozen yogurt and eating it too. But I’m pretty sure he would give a police officer a wave and all would be good.

  37. Trudy December 29, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    I’m on the side of I’m glad they care enough to check. In a 10 yr old girl went missing (never recovered) and she was only walking 4 blocks. I’m pretty sure her parents wish a cop drove by and checked on her.

    As for the hat, could they have been asking because if she didn’t own one they might have one to give her? That was my first thought. We don’t know how the officer said about the hat. It doesn’t sound like she was “pulled over” for not wearing a hat. It sounds like they stopped to make sure she was ok. Did they actually ask if she was “running away”? Maybe they went a little overboard but it sounds like the writer and the parents are overreacting to me.


  38. Trudy December 29, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    P.S. in this age of the internet and online child lurings, can we ever be too safe?

  39. tesyaa December 29, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    My parents used to walk to and from the local mall, about a mile from their house along a non-limited-access highway. You would not believe how many times well-meaning acquaintances would pull over and ask them if they had car trouble or needed/wanted a ride home. No – they just liked walking. And this was back in the 80s! So I’m not shocked that a cop would stop a kid.

  40. Warren December 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    You are using a disappearance that happened 5 yrs ago. That only proves how rare they are.

    And there is no where near enough kidnappings, lurings or whatevers to warrant a child being stopped by police, for simply being out and about.

  41. Michelle December 29, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    “P.S. in this age of the internet and online child lurings, can we ever be too safe?”

    Yes, yes we can. That is, in fact, the entire point of this whole website.

  42. Elin December 29, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    An outsider’s perspective. I honestly believe that even the more careful parents here in Sweden would think that it was utterly silly to stop a 9-year old in no distress and that absolutely everyone would think it is madness to go to the parents’ house to check out her story. Then again, we do not have that many cops and most of the time they do not have time for things that are not actual crimes so I don’t think that would happen unless it was a 9-year old with a bleeding head wound or one running frantically in the street or one that was running around in a t-shirt at freezing temperatures.

    As an example, my daughter’s friends from preschool that are 4 and 5 are quite often outside on their own without the cops ever rounding them up and taking them home. They walk or bike around the area which is not high in traffic and cars have to drive at a very low speed. I don’t think they are at great danger and I would not see it as a reason to call the authorities but I don’t think it is ideal to let a 4-year old walk around that freely. I think letting them play outside within an area which can be seen from the window is fine or while the parent gets dressed but not for hours with no supervision. At 6-7 I would think it is more appropriate.

  43. Michelle December 29, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    Actually, let’s deconstruct this:

    “I’m on the side of I’m glad they care enough to check. In a 10 yr old girl went missing (never recovered) and she was only walking 4 blocks. I’m pretty sure her parents wish a cop drove by and checked on her.”

    I gather from the article you linked that Lindsey had permission to walk home from her friend’s house. So let’s say a cop stopped to check on her. Then what? She tells them where she’s coming from and where she’s going. She has permission. Let’s say the cops call and check with the parents, and they say, yes, she has permission. How would that stop her from being abducted later in her walk? What do you think, she’s going to tell the cops that she’s planning to be kidnapped in a few minutes?

    Obviously the cops can’t check on her after she’s been kidnapped, when she’s with her kidnapper. If they could, she wouldn’t still be missing. Checking on her before the kidnapper shows up does nothing. Unless the cops just happen to check on her right at the moment that the kidnapper was thinking of approaching, what good does it do? And if they do, that’s not really something we can build policy on, is it? It’s just as random, unpredictable, and even MORE unlikely than a stranger abduction is in the first place.

    The only real “solution” would be for the cops to stop and escort every child they see walking alone. That’s the only way to ensure that all children get where they are going safe and unharmed. And that — the loss of freedom and independence it would require — is the very definition of “too safe.”

  44. ChicagoDad December 29, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with a police officer, or any other adult , asking a kid if they want help if in fact the kid looks like s/he may need it. That is actually a good thing.

    Beyond that, it is intrusive with potentially significant consequences.

  45. Trudy December 29, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    I used that story because it was one in my state that happened to a child doing the same thing in the story.

    Human trafficking is real and it’s scary. It’s far more common than you think. Traffickers lure kids online. It’s not “rare”. Or maybe the kid wasn’t running away but was going to meet someone who turns out to be a trafficker? And if the kid was running away would she tell the police officer that? “Oh yeah, but I guess that’s not a good idea.” The officers cannot know what is going on unless they check it out can they?

    The bottom line is that if it was my child I wouldn’t be irritated. I would be grateful that someone is watching out for my kid. I used to be a bit more hands off before my 6 year old daughter was raped by a neighbor kid several years older than she is (a kid her brother’s age). I imagine I have a little different perspective. Who would have known it wasn’t safe to let the three kids play outside in their own yard with the neighbor kid without constant supervision. I certainly didn’t think anything of it. And you can say it’s rare all you want but when it happens to your child it doesn’t matter how “rare” it is. And the police in my town didn’t bother to even communicate this with the child’s parents until a month and 4 phone calls later. This was despite the information from the ER that confirmed what happened. So damn straight I’d be glad to have officers who care enough to stop.

  46. Jill December 29, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Walking without a hat is a violation of article 41C, section 12 of the Maine Criminal Code. It’s punishable by a fine up to $10,000 or six months in jail, or both.
    Running without a hat while not wearing “workout clothes” carries an even heavier penalty.
    Everyone knows children belong indoors, where it’s safe, as opposed to being outside where ANYTHING might happen to them, particularly in Maine, where there are bears, moose and quite possibly, Sasquatch.

  47. Vicky December 29, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    Unless the cops know something we don’t know, this is just crazy. It almost seems like they have nothing better to do.
    Here in N Fl there are so many cops, who ride one man to a police car I might add, that when someone violates the speed limit or has a minor traffic infraction, oftentimes three or four cop cars show up making it look like a murder scene. Really, is that an efficient way to spend our tax dollars?

  48. Warren December 29, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    The movie “Taken” was a work of fiction, as are all the episodes of Criminal Minds, Law and Order, and all the other crime dramas.

    Human trafficking? Really? If this is something that you worry about happening to you or someone you know, then you should seek out a mental health professional immediately. That level of fear and paranoia is unhealthy.

  49. Sara December 29, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    Donna, there could be about 500 other reasons why somebody is running down the street that have absolutely nothing to do with them needing help. They’re most likely just late, and you stopping them to “offer assistance” is just making them get to their destination even later.

    But you’re right, to a cop, a “might” is sufficient. That doesn’t make it less paranoid to think that something “might” be wrong when you see a child running down a sidewalk. It just shows how removed from reality you have become when you associate a running child with danger.

  50. ARM December 29, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Trudy: I’m so sorry – that’s horrible, and you’re right that it doesn’t matter how rare it is, it’s still horrible. I hope your daughter is doing okay.

    But at the same time, I don’t see how the police stopping kids on the street actually helps against the real danger here. A scary thing about most molestation (like your daughter’s) is that it happens among people who know each other, not between strangers out on the public street. I would be interested in hearing what specific precautions you would advise to other parents.

  51. Dhewco December 29, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

    I don’t have a problem with the kid being stopped. I, too, think it’s nice that they cared enough to do it. I’ve known nice cops who’d give you their shirt or a tank of gas if you’re in need. However, there are the others that think they don’t have to be human to be law enforcement officers. If you’re not a lawbreaker, it doesn’t mean anything to them. Being lost isn’t a crime, they don’t get ‘points’ for that.

    That said, in the 80s, from the age of 10…I walked or biked to school. (Unless it was raining or below forty)

    Fourth and fifth grade…1.5 miles
    Sixth and Seventh……..2.6 miles

    Everywhere was walkable to my parents, and I was a chubby kid from about 11 on. I can remember being 9(maybe younger, but at least that) and walking 1.5 miles to the arcade on the town square. 2 miles to the TG&Y (think K-Mart, but got bought out in the late 80s.)

    All that is my way of saying that kids in my town walked or biked. We just did. It was expected, unless your parents had money.

    Those cops should have (and I hoped they did…not clear here) praised the girl(s) for walking and being independent.

  52. Buffy December 29, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    “P.S. in this age of the internet and online child lurings, can we ever be too safe?”

    How does anything happening online, on the Internet, affect a child walking to meet her friend? Good grief. Trudy, I think you’re on the wrong site.

  53. Trudy December 29, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    Warren, do refrain from telling me that I need mental health help. That is not constructive and it really is insulting. Though I imagine you meant to insult me. I assumed that this was a forum for discussion not a place to insult people. I expressed my opinion and told you my perspective as a parent of a child who was raped. Does that color how I see the world? Absolutely. Is my opinion less valid? Nope. I never told anyone else on this post that they were wrong or called them mentally ill.

    Buffy, I would not tell you to go to a different site because your opinions are different from mine. In fact I agree with a lot of the Free Range parenting ideas. The question was what we thought about this. I gave my opinion. I’m sorry it’s not the same as yours. Actually, I’m not. I don’t have to feel the same way you do.

    ARM, I have no ideas what to tell other parents. To be honest at first I wanted to hold her tight and never let her be away from me. But that wouldn’t be healthy for her or me. We’ve always talked a lot about how the kids should tell me or their dad (or another adult if that felt more comfortable) if something ever happened that made them uncomfortable. We don’t harp on it. We just mention it periodically. I thank God that she felt comfortable talking to me and telling me what happened. I got her in counseling and I made everything be the same. Same rules, she had to go to school, etc. I kept everything as close to normal as I could because that was how to help her feel safe and confident. And just so you know, (not you ARM-this is more for the Warren’s of the site) I’m not interested in hearing what you think I did wrong. I did what I thought was best and took the advice of the therapist who deals only with child sexual assault and probably knows more about this than you or I do.

    I’ve never seen Taken. I’ve not heard of that movie. I don’t watch CSI. I do have a friend who volunteers at The Genesis Project in Seattle which is a resource for people who have been trafficked for sex. I would encourage you to read this post on their site: http://gpseattle.net/the-problem/
    There are many facts on the site. The one that struck me was “The average age of a traffic victim in the US is 11-14.”

    I believe I’ve been respectful. I ask you to be respectful to me as well.

  54. Bert Cattermole December 29, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    I would feel better to have police checking on my child.But a child of mine aged 9 would not be allowed by herself to go that far.In the first column it states that both sets of parents were unable to accompany them.When the police checked dad was in the shower and mom out on a run.Doesn’t sound too busy to me.Imagine the uproar if the girl had been snatched after the cops let her go on her merry way.

  55. Emily Morris December 29, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    I have little issue with the cop checking the first time. Perhaps an awkward conversation, but I have nothing against building a community that includes law enforcement.

    But the follow-up is ridiculous.

    Trudy, I’m sorry about your daughter.

  56. Beth December 30, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    But that’s the thing Bert, if anything had happened to that child all the uproar would have been positive. The police would have started a search; heck, the whole town would have organized search parties. They would have made posters, brought casseroles, and given the family whatever support was needed. The child’s photo would have been all over the news.

    It’s only when a mom or dad makes a considered parenting decision (such as, my 9-year-old is able to walk 4 blocks to meet her friend) and NOTHING HAPPENS, that the parent-shaming uproar begins.

  57. Beth December 30, 2014 at 7:12 am #

    And Trudy, I’m sorry about what happened to your daughter, but if your constant number one worry is that she will be sex-trafficked, you do have a lot more learning to do about the free range philosophy.

  58. Trudy December 30, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    Beth, I did not say my number one concern was about my daughter being sex trafficked. I was pointing out that since it happens maybe the police checking up on the girl was ok. I never said a thing about my daughter being trafficked. I actually tend to be pretty laid back. My 10 year old bikes to the convenience store and walks around the neighborhood.

  59. Warren December 30, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    The thing is you brought up a worry about human trafficking. The only way this cop could have done anything to prevent human trafficking in this situation, would to have stopped the child, and drove her home immediately. Though taking her home is statistically more of a risk to the child than leaving her alone.

    By your logic, the police should stop everyone they see, because their is the chance they are are at risk, or commiting a crime, be they adult or child.

    Living in fear is no way to live, and the police should not be instilling that fear in anyone, especially children.

  60. pentamom December 30, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    Bert, the child was not walking alone because her parents were “too busy” and therefore “unable to accompany her.”

    She was walking alone because it’s perfectly reasonable for nine-year-olds to walk a mile alone in many situations. The fact that you would not allow your daughter to do so does not make it any less true that it is perfectly reasonable for a normal nine-year-old in a safe neighborhood to do so.

  61. Sean December 30, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    From a police perspective…

    I am a retired police officer with 20 years on the job both in a high crime municipality and a rural country town. It has been my experience that most folks only have contact with the police during a traffic stop or when they have been victimized. That having been said, please try to look at it from a police officers perspective…try understanding that WE the police generally speak to you after finding out that your child has been abducted and sodomized by a pedophile, or taken by your ex because you both use the child as a bargaining chip!

    Police officers usually experience human nature in it’s basest and most evil form, even if you don’t hear about it in your nice and safe bedroom communities!

    Ask yourselves if how you would feel if the officer had the opportunity to prevent the aforementioned tragedies and DIDN’T take the 5 or 10 minutes out of your EXTREMELY BUSY AND HARD DAYS to verify the safety of YOUR CHILD!

    The public is so wrapped up in their “Rights” and listening to the race baiting politicians and public figures that they have forgotten about what is actually RIGHT!

    A police officers go to work to protect YOU with NO guarantee that they will go home to THEIR families at the end of the day! Can YOU say the same? This last week alone 6 were murdered across the country while protecting YOU!

    Try being a little GRATEFUL if the only thing that your police officers have to do is check on your children…I PERSONALLY know parents that would love to have those officers in their communities. Officers that have the TIME and DEDICATION to look after their children!

    And as for me…although I lived in one of the most safe communities in the country, I OR MY WIFE(BOTH FULLY EMPLOYED) ALWAYS PUT OUR CHILDREN ON THE BUS AND TOOK THEM OFF OF IT!

    Hey America! Try being grateful to our military and police for a change instead of being the whining babies that you have become!

  62. Tiny Tim December 30, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    How does stopping a 9 year old on a street prevent him or her from being kidnapped and raped or being used as a bargaining chip by an ex?

    It doesn’t.

  63. Warren December 30, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    I live in an area with a great police dept. And if they saw the child trip and fall, or looked in distress they would be more than happy to help and go above and beyond. If they were walking a beat they would always say hi to the kids. They would never stop a kid for no reason to check up on them. They take pride in the fact they do their job well and provide an enviroment where kids can be out and about having fun.

    There is a big difference between a friendly cop saying hi in passing or talking to kids while they are both in line waiting in a store or somewhere, and actually stopping a kid, and questioning what they are doing, and then double checking with the parents. The double checking is assuming the child is a liar.

    So you can take your overinflated sense of importance and put it to rest. Because being friendly and being intrusive are two different animals.

  64. Puzzled December 30, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Police officers are, statistically, more likely to come home at the end of the day than roofers. Furthermore, the fact that police officers tend to see bad things (by virtue of occupation) doesn’t make your judgment better, it makes it worse. But it’s pretty indicative to me of what we’ve become to see a police officer put rights in quotes, and claim that the society is a bunch of spoiled babies whenever we assert that freedom is better than a police state, when in fact the police state is the result of a childish demand for protection and perfection at all times.

    And, by the way, we all like to go home at the end of the day – including teenagers and people who sell loose cigarettes. It’s far more dangerous to have a toy gun, or to be mentally ill and steal a soda, than to be a police officer.

    But, I’m ready for the recital – “breathe easy and do as we say,” the Patrick Lynch dictatorship mindset. We are not here to do the bidding of police officers, police officers are public servants and disobeying an order from one is not a capital offense, nor is selling cigarettes.

  65. Sean December 30, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    I am going to address your comments:

    Tiny Tim
    We don’t know the complete circumstance why the officer stopped the child and neither did he at the time. You are basing your opinion on what the PARENT posted. Obviously the officer had a reason and you as an outsider with NO police experience are not qualified to judge him! Did you consider that maybe the child’s family were frequently in contact with the police because of domestic issues? Did you consider that the officer had a radio broadcast describing a lost, missing or abused child.

    I have been both types of police officer that you described and I don’t have an “overinflated sense of importance!” I was simply trying to introduce a police perspective to you; one of the sniveling, complaining, weaklings that I was forced to protect because you were to weak or lazy to do take responsibility for yourself. You are a typical liberal retard! It’s not your perspective so it’s not valid!

    Police officers are NOT statistically, more likely to come home at the end of the day than roofers. They are also more likely to be run over, shot, stabbed or beaten to death by people like you!
    As for a police state…during my career, I bent and twisted the law for the BENEFIT of the public so I would NOT have to use force against them or arrest them! As far as I’m concerned we DO live in a police state and I can say that with certainty because I am a naturalized American that came from a country WITH a police state so I am intimately aware of police abuse of power!
    Americans have the MOST restrained police in the world! You should be GRATEFUL that you live and exercise your “rights” in this country. Try that somewhere else and see what becomes of you!
    As for the cigarette seller and others that in your “opinion” the police have victimized…how about you look at those persons in totality! Criminal records, behavior prior to police contact, size of person, drug or alcohol use etc etc.
    No, it’s easy for you to sit and second guess the actions of men and women who put their lives on the line for you every day…

    WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES THEN YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO JUDGE ME! Otherwise stop complaining and grow up!

  66. Warren December 30, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    Your responses only prove your overinflated ego and sense of importance. I have a great deal of respect for cops, and call many of them friend, and teammate.
    No you don’t have to protect me asshole, as I am pretty sure one on one, you would lose.

    As far as being in a profession that is in danger of being beaten………….then you should know how to fight better. Stabbed? Again, learn some fighting skills, Son.
    Shot? Duck, Sean, Duck.
    You knew the risks when you took the job, so don’t whine about them now. Or quit and take up knitting.

    None of which you spout off has anything to do with harassing a kid out having fun. And cops like you that think they know more than anyone else, are not even respected by other cops, because they give the force a bad rep. So keep diggin your hole Sean, it is fun watching and arrogant asshole squirm.

  67. Warren December 30, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

    Americans have the most restrained police in the world?

    Sorry for the language Lenore and posters, but Sean you are so full of shit your eyes are brown.

  68. SteveS December 30, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    Even a brief search shows that police aren’t even in the top 10 most dangerous occupations in the US. Loggers, fishermen, and truck drivers all face a greater chance of being killed or injured at work. As for police in the US being restrained, the evidence doesn’t seem to show it.

  69. ChicagoDad December 31, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    Sean, I am GRATEFUL every day for my ancestors, friends and family who fought, died, or suffered in POW camps to protect our rights . I get angry when their sacrifices are dishonored to rationalize torture, spying on fellow citizens, or having the authorities destroy a family for letting their 4th grader play in a park, or kill a child because he played with a BB gun in a park. You want to know why I want to exercise my “rights”? Because it is RIGHT, because it cost so much, and because they are worth the fight. Go troll Salon dot com. You’ll find an easier class of targets there.

  70. Puzzled December 31, 2014 at 1:00 am #

    About the response I expected, including the continued use of quotes around rights by a person who took an oath to uphold the Constitution.



    Note #4. Note also what is not on this list.

    Not that it’s relevant, but I have searched in vain for a paramedic, firefighter, or professor who beat a police officer to death, so no, police officers are not generally in much danger of being beaten, shot, stabbed, etc., by people like me.

    None of what you list, criminal records, etc., are capital offenses. Meanwhile, officers with long records of use of force violations are protected by their unions, including after they do kill people – and by DAs who present laws found unconstitutional 15 years prior to juries, among other ways of misleading them. But please, do tell me exactly how dangerous the developmentally disabled young man above was, requiring him to be beaten for over 10 minutes, and why the sociopaths should be free to hide behind the blue line.

    I do note, of course, that the blue line doesn’t protect all cops. See, for instance:


    You might also remember, your statements to the contrary notwithstanding, that a more truthful statement would be that the taxpayers who continue paying your salary after you retired enable you to sit at your keyboard showing what you think of those who you work for.

    By the “walk a mile” principle, you could never have carried out an arrest if you didn’t experience the life story of the person charged with a crime. I’m pretty sure you believe you have the right to judge someone without living their life, and I’m also pretty sure my experiences are closer to yours than yours are to many of those you arrest, not that that matters either. It’s an idiotic standard, especially when you claim to be a public servant and display the attitude you do towards those you claim to serve – and towards the Constitution you swore to uphold.

    Enjoy your pension.

  71. Warren December 31, 2014 at 8:32 am #


    Have a couple cops on my hockey team, and we talked about your attitude a bit last night. And a couple of things were brought up.

    1. That they have known officers like you. Ones that think they are the law, instead of law enforcement officers.
    2. That instead of protecting the rights of the people that pay the salary, you bitch when they invoke their rights, if not violate them altogether.
    3. 20 yrs in a city and rural area combined. Why? Their first assumption was you had enough complaints against you in the city, your career was going nowhere.
    4. By the sound of your ego and comments, not a cop any of them would want to partner with.