From my mailbox on Tuesday, Letter #1:
7 seven year old son has demonstrated to me that he can lock and unlock the car by car by himself from inside, initiate conversations, and look before walking across streets. I did not see anything wrong with leaving him in the car while I go grocery shopping where the parking lot entrance has speed bumps. I have been doing so over the last year with the result of my son gaining confidence and maturity, sometimes reading, petting the dog, doing homework, or just looking around.Â .Just yesterday I came out to the car to see 2 police units by the car talking to 2 individuals near my car. The officers then approached me and asked me why I felt it was alright to leave my 7 year old in the car. I responded that it is not hot out, he can get himself out, and the family is dog is also in there with him. The officers accepted this but informed me that I could be charged with neglect because of the possibility of him getting taken from the car..Luckily I wasn’t [charged] and they did let me go, after running me through the database , verifying my son could actually lock and unlock the doors, and admitting that they were left in the car at that age without incident.Â .While the officers acted professionally and reasonably it makes me shudder to think that I could actually be charged as a criminal for leaving my son in the car for 20 minutes. The very individual who is supposed to be protected — my Â son — could have had his future destroyed. My son is thriving at the private school he attends, which I would have trouble affording if I had huge legal bills to deal with let alone the likely employment issues I would face. Being a single parent could also bring even more issues which I will not get into here.Â .I had to explain to my son that it was basically against the law for me to leave him in the car prompting him to cry and say he hates the police. I had to explain to him that the police were not bad guys and were doing their jobs. I also had to tell him that the people who called them thought they were doing the right thing and that they weren’t in fact bad guys (I found it hard hard to tell him this last bit).Â .This whole thing reinforces what I’ve always said about the threat of busybodies outnumbering the threat of abductors, pedophiles, etc. by more than 1,000 to 1..
True that. But I depending on where you live, what you Â did was NOT against the law. Here is a list of those laws, state by state. (For future ref, these are at the tab “LAWS” at the top of this blog.)
I just left my kids in my locked, turned-off car for 2 minutes while getting their prescription at CVS. My car is only a year old and well insulated (at least to keep the kids warm for a few minutes) so I figured no big deal.
As soon I I get get home, cop shows up, and asks me if I was just at CVS and left the kids in the car. I said, yes and explained what I just explained to you above. Someone must have come out and complained, called cops and gave them my license #. I asked him if itâ€™s against the law, and he said no, but sometimes safety for children can be a concern. To the best of my knowledge, and after some research there is nothing illegal about what I did in Ohio.
Luckily, the cop was less feisty after I explained everything to him. But in principle, Iâ€™m not a fan of a cop being able to come to my house and tell me what to do when nothing I did was illegal.
EOD [End of day], he said to leave this between us and nothing to see here. But he still came to my house even though I legally did nothing wrong. In my opinion, that behavior (even though the cop wasnâ€™t a prick) is still; in principle, harassment.
I tweeted at you because Iâ€™ve followed your movement after I saw some videos on Reason and really got into your movement about being Free-Range. Itâ€™s the principles that are most important to me, and one day my wife and I can pass our principles onto our kids. I followed you in the first place because your principles aligned with mine but also brought up unfounded fears about numerous issues.
EOD, I want to bring this issue to light with my local mayor. Obviously, youâ€™ve dealt with situations like this in the pastâ€¦any recommendations on how to address this to raise public awareness and also let the authorities know that they canâ€™t harass people?
John Young, MayfieldÂ Heights, Ohio
I would be thrilled if John talks to his mayor, and I’d recommend him proposing that the town go “Free-Range,” Â — that is, the town declares itself to be proactively in favor of kids playing outside, walking to school, and being allowed some unsupervised time when the parents believe it is safe.
This does not endorse or ignore real neglect. It just assumes that kids are fine doing the things kids have always done on their own — including waiting in the car — unless there are exceptional circumstances in which the child is in immediate and serious danger. (Those words were written for me by a lawyer!)
A Free-Range town is attractive to parents because they know that they are not going to be second-guessed by a busybody with the power to disrupt their lives. It also would be a place where kids play outside, and when they do that, other kids join them. Heartwarming. Healthy. Happy. Property values would go up.
Or so says me.
Meantime:What does it mean when the cops act as if they are being exceptionally kind to let us off the hook when someone reports us as “negligent”?
It means the cops don’t have to do that. It means we can be judged and even charged if we make a rational, reasonable decision about when our beloved children are and aren’t safe.
Anyway, this Thanksgiving I’m grateful that neither of these dads got charged. And by next Thanksgiving I hope a whole lot of cities and states will have declared themselves Free-Range. I don’t think that day is far. – L.
What you have here is the system working as intended.
The police are notified that a possible crime is in progress, they show up, investigate, determine that there is no danger and therefore no crime, and move on when they determine that there’s no crime that needs their attention.
“The officers accepted this but informed me that I could be charged with neglect because of the possibility of him getting taken from the car.”
((Face-palm!!)) Could I be charged for neglect for the possibility of my children getting taken from my home? Because that’s exactly how Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped. Let’s just arrest all parents for the possibility of their children getting kidnapped from anywhere. Yeesh!
The police are contacted (911 calls) about pizza not being delivered promptly. Should the police investigate everything? In interviews, we have advanced the following protocol by law enforcement and CPS when receiving calls about children perhaps being hurt or in danger, ask (1) does the child appear hurt? (2) does the child appear to be in distress (3) does the child appear to be in imminent danger of harm from an identifiable risk and, if so, what is the risk of harm? From this information, the dispatcher or supervisor or the CPS investigator can determine how urgent the situation is or whether it is a POSSIBLE violation of the law calling for investigation (by police or CPS).
We exist, in part, to push back against the irrationality of the protocol that has been followed for too long by law enforcement and child protective agencies. As Parent #1, above, correctly observed: “The very individual who is supposed to be protected â€” my son â€” could have had his future destroyed.” In many cases, parents are arrested and children placed in foster care until the parent is released from being booked (and making bond) or a relative can retrieve the children. As Parent #2, above, notes, “Itâ€™s the principles that are most important to me, and one day my wife and I can pass our principles onto our kids. ”
We entered an appearance in the criminal case against Susan Terrillion, the Mom charged when her 9 year old was spotted (gasp!) walking the dog not on a leash while she ran out to get food to go (Rehoboth Beach). The charges were dismissed, likely, only because the criminal charges were being defended by the National Association of Parents.
We hope to grow so that, more and more, we can push back and so that we can initiate legislation and policy changes across the USA so that the protection of children is unwavering, BUT is done without being stupid about it (such as by following the protocol stated). Please join other parents as members and help us do so. https://www.parentsusa.org
@James Pollack It’s harassment when a busy body calls the cops when no crime has been committed. Cops did their job, but said busy body possibly destroyed a family. Remember, never talk to the cops: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8z7NC5sgik
Might be a little off topic here but yesterday I was watching an episode of Judge Judy when a gentleman launched a claim against his neighbors to receive his money back from a motor home he was renting from them via a contract (his claim was eventually ruled invalid by the Judge). But at the time, after his neighbors refused to give him his money back (rightfully so) he turned them in to Child Protect Services because he claimed they were doing meth in front of their kids.
Well after his claim was turned down by the Judge, his neighbors then launched a counter claim against him for the amount of $3,000 for the emotional distress of being turned in to CPS for something they didn’t do. Judge Judy then asked the man how long he’s known his neighbors to which he replied something like 10 years. Judge Judy then asked him if he ever had any interaction and communication with their children to which he replied that he did. The Judge then asked him why he, all of a sudden, decided to report them to CPS when he had plenty of opportunities long BEFORE the motor home controversy. Of course, the man was tongue tied and Judge Judy then told him to fork up and awarded his neighbors the full $3,000! She scolded the man for inflicting emotional harm on the parents and their children and informed him that CPS’s resources are low and are there only to investigate authentic cases of child abuse and that they are not to be tied up investigating frivolous cases and false cases brought on for vindictive sake.
So the guy went into court hoping to receive a substantial amount of cash back but instead, he ended up forking over a substantial amount of his hard earned money, deservingly so. I thought, way to go Judge Judy!!
I am glad to see that both parties pushed back against this encroachment on parent rights and that within this are the beginnings of a new social movement. If we all write to our mayors and local governing bodies (perhaps including these stories as a reference) we can ask for clarification on this and also urge that our towns go Free Range. My fear, never having experienced out and out Fascism but having read extensively about it, is that Fascism creeps in in small steps that we don’t question at first or we don’t speak up about because it’s minor. But it happens incrementally and as we start to think the latest thing at “the new normal” the bar keeps getting pushed back just a little bit farther.
I am hoping we all can stay awake and ready to question anything that does not smell right.
When I was a child my mother left me alone in the car from a young age, maybe 4 years old. I wouldn’t have minded it at all except that frequently she would leave me in an illegal parking place(!) and tell me that if a police officer comes to tell him she would only be a minute. I was terrified! I don’t think I would ever leave a child that young alone in the car, but if they were 7 and mature I would have no problem.
It means you talked too much.
There is a small but strong and growing movement among defense lawyers concerned with today’s deterioration of civil liberties, which advises “don’t talk to cops, anytime, for any reason.”
In the link above, Professor James Duane of Regent Law School will tell you why, and how to decline talking to cops.
Always be polite. Truthfully identify yourself. Move very slowly, talk very slowly, breathe deeply and do not display anger, and keep your hands in sight at all times.
But politely decline to answer any questions besides truthfully identifying yourself.
You can’t distinguish honest cops from lying rogues by looking.
“@James Pollack Itâ€™s harassment when a busy body calls the cops when no crime has been committed.”
Not in my state (ref: ORS 166.065), and probably not in your state, either.
“Cops did their job, but said busy body possibly destroyed a family.”
If your family is “possibly destroyed” by talking to a cop for a few minutes, you have serious problems that needed to be addressed.
I live in the same town as John Young and I will be at any town council meeting that this issue is bought up at to support John and the Free-Range town movement. There are so many nice play grounds in out city that sit unused because people don’t want to let their kids play without them. The local elementary school just took out a play ground because it was unused.
I am grateful the dads did not get charged.
I think it is lame that dad #1 defended the police and the rats that ratted on a kid and a dog.
James, I think you read statement from #1 differently than intended. It is not that the conversation DID destroy a family but that it COULD have. If the officer had decided, he could have seen that the child was removed immediately from the parents’ care. An actual serious crime does not have to have been committed if he thought the child was neglected by being in the car. Do you not think that lives are damaged by a family having to get a lawyet, sit in court every month, and having their child in someone else’s home? If either parent has any type of care-giving job (nurse, teacher, day care provider and even law enforcement) depending on the state, they lose their job as soon as their name goes on the registry. I have a friend who lost his job as a peace officer because his school-aged son was found playing two blocks away from his home unattended. Yes, this can ruin lives!
I’m with En Passant; the moment the officer said no law was broken was the time for Mr. Young to ask, “May I leave now?” I know it seems paranoid, but when the police are asking you pointed questions it’s usually because they are thinking of arresting you, and you do NOT want to give them anything that helps make a charge stick.
What on earth is EOD? I’m assuming in the above context it does not mean Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
@James Pollack “Not in my state”? I’d feel harassed in any state, regardless of what the law says.
“If your family is â€œpossibly destroyedâ€ by talking to a cop for a few minutes, you have serious problems that needed to be addressed.” If you watched the video you’ll see how easy it is to be convicted of a “crime” if you talk to the police. Or talk to any inner city single, non-white, low income parent.
I’m with the lawyers who say don’t answer any police questions. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask them questions. Once it was stated that no law was broken, I’d have asked, “Then why are you here? If someone called in that the new curb at the grocery store was a quarter inch too high and someone MIGHT trip, would the investigate it as a crime? If someone called in and said a bird feeder was hung on a branch and it MIGHT fall and hit someone on the head, maybe even a child, would you investigate? If someone saw a teenager walking to school in the morning and called in they MIGHT be abducted, would you investigate? When all the answers came back, properly, “No”, I’d repeat, “Then, why are you here?” As a taxpayer, I don’t think police should be spending time investigating non-events that are non-crimes. If the police have that much time on their hands, then maybe we have too many on the force.
Children are currency. Until they are 18, they are well sought after. If a parent takes their eyes off a child for one second, this is the same as leaving a roll of bills on the street! Someone will surely take it/them! This is the case even if they are protected by a family dog or a group of several trained guard dogs.
â€œthey show up, investigate, determine that there is no danger and therefore no crime, and move on when they determine that thereâ€™s no crime that needs their attention.â€
If course it needs their attention. They have to bully/harass the father but let him off with a warning of child endangerment.
By the same token, the kid COULD have been abducted from the car. That nice old man down the street COULD be a pervert. Your child COULD get hit by a car crossing the street. Your child COULD die falling out of a tree.
Frankly, I would put the risk of the cop destroying the family at an equally low probability. But it COULD happen! Thus, you shouldn’t talk to the cops.
If some kid were abducted out of a car on the other side of the country, would you not leave your kid in the car? Of course not! It’s so rare that it becomes headline news when it happens! And while there are headlines (around here) about ridiculous police and CPS workers deciding that letting your kid go down the street to buy an ice cream is neglectful parenting, I’d argue it’s pretty rare. Once again, you’re letting the media scare you.
I’ll agree that I can think of better things for the police to do than follow up on this crap. Yes, I think that police training needs to be revamped (they spend something like 10x more time in pistol practice than they do on peaceful resolution training). David Delugas has a good list of things that police dispatchers should be asking when they receive a call like this. And I’ll agree that a visit from the police, even if you’ve done nothing wrong, can be upsetting or offensive.
But the whole, “Don’t talk to the cops” thing is really ridiculous.
On a related note a mom I know personally just related a similar story. She went to pick up a Rx, left child in car which was in sight the whole time. She saw a couple people gather near her car and waited bemused to see what would happen. A couple minutes later the cops arrive. Cop looks around for parent (from the car), mom waves and is IDd as the parent. The cop asks if there’s a problem, mom says I don’t think so. Cop leaves. Dumb do gooders leave without the satisfaction of punishing a perfectly normal caring patent. Yay!
Still think it’s laziness to leave the 7 year old kid in the car. Take him with you or leave him at home if you think he’s responsible enough! But to take him and pretend that he’s actually not bored sitting in the car – please!! The Dad is just asking for trouble. Leave him home, or have him shop with you. Just thinking when my son was 7, no bloody way he’d be happy sitting in a car for 20 or 30 minutes, who is this Dad kidding?
There is a lot of talk about how it affected the dad. All these are valid points. However, I think there is a more important subject to focus on. Children are PEOPLE.
They are not pets
They are not subhuman
They are not helpless things that are not smart enough to look after themselves.
When they grow up being treated as if they are, the children start to believe it. The danger of this is often ignored.
Often kids would rather wait in the car and play on their phone then go inside. However that’s not the point I’m trying to make. So what if they’re bored? This is part of life. Adults have to wait all the time. All too often we forget that children are in training to become adults. If they reach the adult age without this training, this is when the stress really starts!
I don’t consider the dad is lazy because he’s giving his child this training.
Actually Donald, part of life training is that they learn to do stuff that is not always fun – i.e. grocery shopping. There is plenty of time for them to be on their gadgets and look outside on a family vacation or errands within the city. I know in this situation I’d be telling my kid that I don’t like to grocery shop either, but that’s life – now get out of the freaking car and help me out inside!!
“Still think itâ€™s laziness to leave the 7 year old kid in the car. Take him with you or leave him at home if you think heâ€™s responsible enough! But to take him and pretend that heâ€™s actually not bored sitting in the car â€“ please!!”
This is one of those cases where different children have different preferences.
When my child was seven I was not comfortable leaving him home for the thirty to forty minutes minimum that shopping would take. I was fine leaving him in the car outside the store. His preference, given the choices of come inside the store with me or stay in the car (reading), was to stay in the car.
Unless there is a law that prohibits this, you and I are allowed to make different choices for out individual children.
Wow! It’s just ridiculous that we have let society get to this point! We are letting the predators, gang members and others run the lives of our children…when do they get to just be kids?????
max, when I was seven my mom often toted all four of us girls along when my little sister went to physical therapy. Three of us were left in the car for the duration of the appointment. We chatted, listened to the radio, read, etc. Does that mean my mom was lazy and should have dragged us all in to get the experience of my sister’s boring physical therapy?
If a seven-year-old wants to stay in the car while his dad runs into the store, so be it. Dad probably got done quicker as well, not having to listen to a kid who wanted more goodies than were on the shopping list. I myself preferred to sit in the car and read.
I once had a cop pull me off a crowded subway because my baby was screaming. The cop was afraid that he was cold (it was January) or otherwise in trouble. I smiled, I was polite and had good eye contact, and I explained that he was hungry, not freezing, and that I was taking him home to feed him. Now, it definitely ruined my day. I’m a good mother, and I felt humiliated by the suggestion otherwise. But basically, the police officer was doing her job. There was no way for her to know whether my baby was being neglected or abused until she spoke to me and got a sense of the situation.
BTW if I had gotten angry and said “Fuck off! He’s my baby! Is crying a crime?? I never answer ANY questions (no matter how reasonable) from cops!”, I am quite certain she could have found a way to make my day even worse. But I was polite, and she was professional (albeit not friendly) and we both went on our ways.
â€œpart of life training is that they learn to do stuff that is not always funâ€
You’re right. That’s part of it.
â€œget out of the freaking car and help me out inside!!â€
Helping out is part of adult training as well. I may have misjudged you. I thought that since you were so worried about the child being bored, you wouldn’t have the authority to make him help you. Authority isn’t a birthright. Respect must be earned. The child often has little respect for the parent because:
The parent treats them like a pet
The parent does not acknowledge that they are intelligent enough to look after themselves
The parent bubble wraps the child
When the child is in their teens, They face other potential such as drug abuse or teenage pregnancy. This is the age when it’s most important for the parent to have authority. ‘No’s’ are almost like currency. You don’t have an unlimited supply of money and you don’t have an unlimited supply of ‘No’ that a child will listen to. You have to budget them.
If you overspend your No’s and have little respect during the teen years, bigger problems are more likely to happen.
I apologize. My comment came out a bit more pointed than I intended. It was meant to be more of a general comment than one specifically aimed at you. Bothe extremes are bad. A too ridged, dogmatic, or an ‘I don’t care anything about you’ attitude will defiantly keep the parent from earning any respect from the child.
We all hate to see children getting hurt. However many parents disagree on what is more dangerous.
I spent 2 years as a telephone counselor on a crisis hotline. I often had 2 – 4 suicide calls on my 4 hour shift! Low self esteem was usually the cause. Helicopter parents are often horrified at free range parenting and often recite ‘lazy parent’ for putting children in danger. However I’m just as horrified at helicopter parents for putting children in danger. It’s naive to be ignorant about the dangers of low self esteem. They lead to ALL kinds of complications.
The ‘lazy dad’ comment got the better of me.
@James Pollock. there can’t be a crime in progress when it isn’t a crime to do what I did.
This is one thing I have hated about cops. They won’t tell these idiots bug off and to only call for real problems.
theresa November 23, 2016 at 10:01 pm #
“This is one thing I have hated about cops. They wonâ€™t tell these idiots bug off and to only call for real problems.”
i don’t think the cops are allowed to say that if they are called about a “safety threat”. I think they are required to check it out. I am not sure though. does anyone know the answer?
~ on another point, as they are picking cabinet positions now, I vote Lenore Skenazy for Secretary of Education.
When I had a similar thing happen to me (the cop was a little nastier but nothing came of it), I talked about it on a kid-oriented forum, and many of the people said, “honestly, I would have called the cops too if I saw young kids in a car. How do I know how long they were going to be left there?” and of course all sorts of bizarre “what ifs” were suggested.
The cops have to respond if they are told a kid is locked alone in a car. They have to at least see if the kid is in danger. I don’t blame them for checking, but we need to better educate “concerned citizens” about what merits a police call and what doesn’t. And also, cops need to be trained to buzz off if there is clearly no danger to the kids.
Looking at some of the comments, “I wouldn’t leave my kid in the car because my kid wouldn’t like that.”
Well, when my kids were tots, I never left them in the car because they would holler. I don’t know why, but it freaked them out to be in a car without me even for half a minute. So *I* didn’t do that.
But what *I* do has nothing to do with what anyone else should do. If your kid is happy sitting in the car while you go do something for a few minutes, more power to ya. If your kid isn’t, then figure out how to accommodate your kids’ needs, but don’t tell yourself that has anything to do with other people’s kids.
Are people really concerned about children’s health and safety? This week an eight-year-old walked out of her classroom on her own, and when the teacher realized it she exclaimed: If anything happens to that child while outside class I’ll be blamed for it!
I wonder when Americans are going to realise that they’re not living in the free nation they believe it is. Same goes for Australians.
“@James Pollock. there canâ€™t be a crime in progress when it isnâ€™t a crime to do what I did.”
Thank you for this brilliant insight.
@James, thank you for giving us a few threads off from your bullying.
Whether you should talk to the police or not depends on what your ultimate goal is.
If we were talking strictly about criminal charges, I agree that you should not talk to the police.
However, if your goal is to keep CPS out of the picture, you may want to talk to the police. If the police are called for an issue of child safety and you refuse to speak to them, CPS will be called. They are not just going to ignore the situation and move on. You have some chance of calming the situation without CPS being called if you explain yourself and a 0% chance of avoiding CPS if you don’t.
I’m sorry but maybe they should deal with real problems instead imaginary. They once went out to deal with the fact that a guy wearing clown makeup went shopping. Does chasing after the parents to say your kid was in a car by themselves sound like a good use of their time? Not to me. When it illegal then go chase after them.
The answer to making our country wonderful again is not liberal or conservative, it’s everyone minding their own business and leaving other people the hell alone.
â€œ@James, thank you for giving us a few threads off from your bullying.â€
I must admit, he’s getting better. He made a bad comment at the start of this page. I can’t criticise much about that because I have made bad comments at times. In fact, I’m an expert at putting my foot in my mouth!
However when I do, I usually realise my mistake, shut up, and accept it when other people tell me off. However, James tries to dig himself out but ends up digging himself in deeper. Either that or he argues for the fun of arguing. He’s also done that once or twice before.
I wish I could work out a way to attach a couple of photos I took yesterday to this.Hubby and I are part of a team visiting a school and doing a couple of other things in Cambodia at the moment (the teen girls are at home looking after themselves, as Boy is out of contact in Central China somewhere currently). Anyway, the ‘pick-up line’ at school going home time consists of children hopping on rusty bicycles and dubbing as many younger siblings as they can to head home. Childcare sometimes consists of 6 year olds taking their little siblings along to school to sit by them while they themselves try to learn. Cops only appear to try to extract bribes from foreigners. And actual child abduction is pretty common, particularly of orphanage children, as they’re taken to the brothels in Phnom Penh.
Just ridiculous that we’re worried by kids left in cars.
Oh, and just to add to my personal fun – and as a Kiwi I pride myself on being fairly adaptable and ready for ‘anything’ – I spent bits of several months working on a PowerPoint presentation for some teacher development I was taking at a village school, only to arrive and discover that the school has no electricity :-). Had to use my very rusty drawing skills to get the point across. Fun and games!
Oh! The accumulated hours I spent waiting in the hot car, windows rolled down, people-watching and listening to the engine tick! Kids are so deprived now 😀 and I remain unkidnapped.
“While the officers acted professionally and reasonably… ”
He told the man he could be charged with neglect because the boy “could have been taken?” I don’t agree that this is professional behavior. That means the boy is never allowed out of arms reach from his parents because he “could be taken.” (And who says the parents could prevent a kidnapping even if they are present?) I think threats like this should be followed up with official complaints to the officers management.
I let my kids sit in the car at a rest stop and several gas stations in several states along an interstate last week while I went to the restroom. Guess what happened? Nothing, of course.