Nebraska: A woman taking her niece out of the SUV on Tuesday afternoon was shocked when the wind blew the door shut with her keys and the child inside. The car locked. The aunt, the girl’s mom and two other relatives frantically tried to get the door open using a hanger and screwdriver, and when they couldn’t, they called 911. The cops arrived, broke the window, and got the child out, safe and sound.
Then they ticketed the mom on suspicion of child abuse by neglect.
As The Omaha World-Herald reports:
Lt. Darci Tierney, a police spokeswoman, said the ticket was not an overreaction by the officer who responded to the 911 call.
“We make decisions in the moment with all the information we have available,â€™â€™ she said. “This can be a super dangerous situation. People die in these circumstances.”
That is not true. Children die when they are forgotten in cars, not when they are about to be taken out of cars, the wind slams the door shut, and the family immediately does everything humanly possible to get the door open quickly. That includes calling cops who turn out to be so clueless, cruel or crazy they treat the incident like child abuse.
The girl, just shy of 2, was in the car for about 15 minutes. It was a 93-degree day, and 97 degrees in the un-air-conditioned car. The girl appeared warm to the paramedic — um, of course she’d be warm — so she was taken to the local hospital. She was fine.
The wind, by the way, was gusting up to 40 miles an hour, something that must have been pretty obvious.
To add insult to non-injury, Lt. Tierney is also quoted as reminding people that in a situation like this one,Â “Donâ€™t be afraid to call 911 for help.”Â
Yeah, and a defense lawyer.Â
This kind of idiocy is why some people never call the police, no matter how bad things get. I don’t necessarily agree with the idea, but I’ll note that the family would have spent a couple thousand dollars less if they’d simply broken the front window of the car.
When the mother and other relatives are there and clearly trying to get the door open, how could it be abuse or neglect? This is absolutely insane.
This is part why people don’t always trust cops.they use any stupid excuse to give you a ticket. The other is that they tend to have short fuses which usually gets someone pounded. Maybe cops can be good when they try , I just wish they tried more often.
If this goes before a judge, I hope the judge reams the officer. This is ridiculous. “All the information they had available” included the aunt calling 911 to get the child out of the car ASAP, the fact that they did not act in any way neglectfully or dangerously, etc.
Of course, it’s possible that we’re only getting one side of the story. But as presented here, this is absurd.
Reminds me of when my brother called the non-emergency line for help because our dog had escaped the backyard. He got a ticket for not following the leash law.
The police and courts make money off tickets, citations, and convictions. It’s their bread and butter. Prisons make money leasing their prisoners to corporations for sub-minimum wage labor. Different states’ prisons bureaus actually advertise this service online. NEVER TRUST THE POLICE! See the linked image:
Good grief. I hope to hell and heaven she fights that ticket. Ridiculous.
Bad mommyhood has reached new levels. Remember, folks, good parents are immune to the forces of nature.
One of our family stories was years ago when my brothers, probably around 12 or so at the time, had with their buddies climbed the fence to government property (obviously trespassing) so they could go sledding in the empty reservoir (so illegal!). My parents were at a wedding and had left my brothers at home alone because, as any Freeranger observes, they were 12 or so and had heretofore been generally okay with basic responsibility and survival skills. Anywho, one brother open fractures his ankle with the blood and bone and gore and all that. Other brother hops the fence, calls 911, and opens his call with an admittance of yes we were trespassing illegally on government property and our parents aren’t home.
Not a single ticket, just EMTs and police cutting the barbed wire off the fence to rescue my brother and the sheriff giving my folks a call to let them know my brother was in the hospital.
That’s public service, not a bloody ticket.
Even if the child wasn’t OK, because the cops didn’t come fast enough and it was indeed hot and sunny enough to be dangerous, a ticket would not have been warranted.
Problem is it’s always harder to prove you “didn’t” do something.
What happened to the presumption of innocence? Is that no longer our law? Was there evidence that the adults intentionally left the kid (and the keys) locked in the car?
It seems to me pretty obvious that locking the keys in the car (kid or no kid) is unintentional. So far I’ve never met anyone who did that on purpose. :/
Backroads that the sort of treatment everyone dreams of getting. it would give cops a better rep which they could use. What happened to that kind of common Sense.
It seems to me the real problem here is the police tendency to close ranks and back other police up, no matter what. In a sane society, this woman’s supervisors would simply have said, as soon as this case came to light, “Sorry, she made a mistake, and no charges or tickets should have been issued.” It’s the police’s tendency to close ranks and pretend no mistakes are ever made that’s the biggest fault here, and the reason none of us who aren’t police trust them. The only mystery is why they can’t see that. I suppose it’s because they assume we’re all criminals until proven otherwise, but still. . . can’t they see this is not a feasible approach to policing except in a totalitarian state like apartheid-era South Africa or some such?
I accidentally locked my 4 month old in the car at Costco. It was just a total brain freeze – I set the keys and my phone in the driver’s seat, closed and locked the driver’s door without thinking, then got the baby in the car seat and closed her door too – it automatically locked. The instant I realized what I’d done my heart sank. It was a cool day so I wasn’t worried about the baby, but I was paralyzed for a moment because I didn’t know what to do that would be the best course of action to not get CPS involved and become the victim of a internet beating. I quickly decided none of that mattered and ran in to the store (terrified the whole time that some busybody jerk would notice her), found a manager who let me call my husband on the phone, and who then waited by the car with me for the 15 min it took him to get there. He was an older guy and was very kind – said his wife had done the same thing with one of their kids once and it was all going to be ok. Baby just happily smiled at me through the window and was dozing off when hubby got there.
But how ridiculous that I felt that I couldn’t ask a passer-by or call the cops for help because I was MORE scared about how they might react and what chain of events might be set into motion than I was about my baby being calmly locked in the car on a cool day with me standing right there.
I sincerely hope there’s more to this story that we have not heard, that warranted the ticket. (But I don’t hold out hope that this is the case!)
Here in Australia, each state has an automobile association (ours in NSW is called the NRMA). For $120/year, they come out to you when your car breaks down, has a flat tyre or a flat battery etc. But the most important thing they do is come and unlock your car if you accidentally lock a child or a pet inside it. In fact, when you dial their number, the first thing the automated menu says is, “If you have a small child or animal locked in a vehicle, press 1 now.” I assume it takes you straight to the operator (I’ve never had to use it).
I was leaving a friend’s house once in the middle of an NJ summer, and I had buckled my 2yo and baby into the car, and the 4yo was playing with her friend on the lawn. The car was unlocked, the door was open and my bag and keys and phone were on the seat. Then friend’s 4yo pressed the lock button, and closed the door (not deliberately). It was only sheer luck that meant my husband was at home that day (he normally worked in CT – 65 miles away), and was able to come down within 10 minutes with the spare key. Otherwise I might have been in the same boat. (Well, we did have our back to the car while we were chatting – how dare we neglect our children like this?)
Cops like this are going to end up costing babies their lives when parents become too terrified to call them. 🙁
We lived on a military base when my kids were small. On one hot summer day we were getting ready to go somewhere, and my preschooler headed out the door and let himself into the minivan. He had just recently learned how to get the sliding door open. When I got to the car, the back door was wide open and he was playing in the driver’s seat. I reached through the back door, dropped my purse and keys on the front passenger seat, Got my son to the back and buckled him in, then closed the sliding door and heard the locks click. My son had apparently hit the “lock” button while in the front seat. I went back into the house, which I thankfully had left unlocked, and called my husband at work a mile away. Secretary said he was in a conference with the base commander and could he call me back. Nope, this was an emergency- my son and the keys were locked in the car. A few minutes later his motorcycle pulls up next to the car, he uses his key to unlock the driver’s door, and then he turns around and heads straight back to work. He was not happy about being pulled out of that meeting, but our son was fine, of course. Hubby laughs about it now, but he sure wasn’t laughing that day!
In more recent years, in a large metro area, I have locked my keys in a couple times while out and around. Many of the ‘burb’s police departments have “community service” units who will come unlock the car if needed, and we have AAA who will do the same thing. First question either of them asks is if there is a child in the car. A yes answer will presumably get a faster response, but I’ve not had to put that to the test.
My cousin was putting her son in his car seat when someone from the daycare handed her something. She tossed it into the front seat, finished buckling him in, and closed the door. When she went to get in the front. She realized she had tossed the keys with the paperwork and it had locked the doors. It was August in Houston and 100+F. The daycare immediately had two employees call for help. One called 911 the other a locksmith. The locksmith got there first and quickly go the door unlocked. The EMT’s checked out the baby and he was fine. The cops w main concern was that cousin was calm enough to drive. She was sent a report a few days later that basically said the whole thing was an accident. Apparently, they do that because of people getting nasty during custody disputes.
I hope the judge reads the riot act to the cops in this case.
This appears to be a case of bad judgment by the cops, but it is probably police dept. policy to always refer child cases to CPS, regardless of whether the cop thinks that anyone is at fault. The cops would be told that CPS agents have the proper training to investigate cases like this.
These policies need to changed, but they will probably get worse. Just don’t call 911, if you can avoid it.
“The toddler had a heart rate of 100 beats per minute….”
Um, that’s perfectly normal for a toddler (80 to 130 is normal resting heartrate for that age). Maybe the paramedics also need a bit more training?
Incidentally, pet peeve of mine, two year olds are not toddlers. Barring disability, they walk just fine (and even talk usually). Toddlers are from about one to two years, and there is a vast developmental difference between them and two -year-olds.
Interesting too that the police spokesperson’s justification for the ticket is that they say they thought the kid had been in the car longer than the family said based on the temperature in the car. It was 97 in the car on a 93 degree day. But if they were coming back from swimming, presumably the car had been outside heating up the whole time they were swimming, so I’d expect the car to be even hotter actually.
This is why people need something like AAA. If I understand correctly, if you tell AAA there is a child inside the car, they will make the call a priority and send someone quickly.
This is why I keep a spare key in my wallet. I once locked my keys in the TRUNK of all places, fortunately I always have my phone on me, my wife was 10 minutes away and no kids were in the car.
The key in my wallet can’t judge me the way those idiots do.
We’ve lost our collective minds.
Lt. Tierney is a moron, period. No common sense.
Good Lord! How can anyone expect parents to seek help when we have to constantly be in fear of criminal charges, or worse–losing our kids. I hope the judge throws that out and reprimands the police.
This is why it’s a good idea to have a spare key hidden somewhere on the outside of your car. They make little magnetized key-boxes that you can stick on the frame, up out of sight. If possible, hide a key to the trunk, and the main key inside the trunk.
Yeah, the odd car thief will know to look for this, but beats hell out of having to petition CPS to get your kids back.
This is one reason I like my current car – it doesn’t let me lock my keys in. Good thing, because I would have done it multiple times. Modern technology will eventually make this particular problem go away. 🙂
Spare keys are all well and good if you buy your cars new. Often, when you buy them second hand, a spare is not available unless you spend significant money to get a replacement.
That said, if you have a spare, it’s good to keep it somewhere accessible.
However, this is exactly why my keys are never out of my hand when my car doors are open, on the cars for which I have only one key. And I never lock them from the internal lock, always from the clicker.
Not saying this woman did anything wrong, because things happen. But fear of locking my keys in the car with no spare makes me take these precautions.
When I do TKD I have to leave my car key in my duffel bag – no pockets in my uniform. Then when we leave, I go put the bag in the trunk. The trunk opens because the key is nearby (in the duffel bag). Then I shut the trunk, having not thought about the key at all. The trunk opens back up again kuz it is smarter than I am. 😛
With my old car, I was pretty careful about always keeping the key in my hand, even though that wasn’t always easy with 2 little kids and grocery bags etc etc. However, one time I allowed my daughter to run out and get something from the car. I told her to be sure to bring the key right back to me. She came back saying she locked the key in the car. I was like, “you’re kidding, right?” Nope. 😛 2.5 hours later, roadside assistance shows up ….
I once borrowed a friends car, and accidentally hit the lock button while getting out of the car and closed the door before I realized. Of course, my keys were in the car with my two small kids in car seats, and my friend’s spare key was across town, 45 minutes away. This was Houston in the summer, but thankfully after sunset and cooling off. We tried everything to get the door open, finally called the fire department and they unlocked it for us. No cops, no CPS, no ticket.
It’s HARD to get kids in and out of car seats with your keys in your hand. I’ve never had a car new enough to have any kind of smart locks. I don’t even have a clicker. Just a regular key. Ever since then I have two different subscriptions to services that will come out and unlock my car (one through my insurance, and one through my cell phone provider).
Dienne, if a 2yo isn’t a toddler, what is he? Too young to be a preschooler; I’ve never heard of a preschool that started younger than 3 unless it was actually a daycare and taking infants. So what do you call a 2yo?
This is a clear-cut case of bullying. Obviously, the cop likes to flex his authority. It makes him feel better to harass people. The question that I like to ask is, why does this make them feel better? If this makes them feel good then it means something inside feels bad. They use this action as a tool to mask over this defect.
One of the biggest causes of bullying is insecurity. Don’t take my word for it. Google it.
Something similar happened to me once – only it was my dog in the car, not a child. I called BCAA (like the AAA) and told them I was locked out of my car with my dog inside. It was in late winter / early spring so it wasn’t a hot day, but the sun was out and the car would have warmed up to uncomfortable temperatures for my dog, though likely not dangerous temperatures. They prioritized my call and had my Golden Retriever out in no time. He made a VERY big fuss of the tow truck guy once he was out.
I hope this family fights that ticket. The mind boggles at the stupidity of it all.
I wonder what model/year the SUV is; my parents’ ’07 Toyota Highlander does this Thing every so often, where if we unlock it but don’t open a door quickly enough (within about 10 seconds), the locks will reengage
(Posting again for clarity)
I mean if we’re about to get in to the car and use the key fob to unlock it.
When you first learn how to drive, it takes a lot of concentration. After several years of driving, these actions become automatic. You can drive on ‘mental autopilot’. The brain doesn’t think. It just replays subroutines. (automatic programs) Driving is just an example. Many actions happen without thought. This includes closing the door of your car. Sometimes this automatic program plays even at inappropriate times. Your usual routine is interrupted and your keys are still inside of the car. DON’T PLAY THE AUTOMATIC SEQUENCE OF THE DOOR CLOSING PROGRAM YET! OOPS TOO LATE!
I thought I was reading The Onion for a minute.
“So what do you call a 2yo?”
A two-year-old. I wish we had a better term, but we don’t. Two year olds don’t toddle, and they are vastly different than toddlers in many other developmental respects as well, so it’s really not accurate to call them toddlers.
Doesn’t it seem very odd to *ticket* someone for child abuse/neglect? I mean, if the cops really thought there was abuse/neglect, aren’t they supposed to file a report with CPS? But this just sounds like a citation like a speeding ticket or parking ticket – pay it and you’re off the hook. Revenue generation under the guise of concern for children.
Michelle: “We tried everything to get the door open, finally called the fire department and they unlocked it for us. No cops, no CPS, no ticket.”
Actually, you have an excellent practical solution there for anyone in this situation: call the firemen instead of the cops. I’ve never heard of them throwing their weight around the way cops seem to.
Actually, call a locksmith. Or a car dealership. When I locked myself out of my car years ago in Dover, DE, , I called my boy friend, who called his ex boss who ran a MAACO car painting business. Older car, older locks, but it was open quickly and I had many thanks for his ex boss.
Reality is though, this is stupid. I hope the family fights it and brings the weather report to the Judge. I live in a windy area…this happens. Unless you have a van. And not everyone needs a gas gusseling van.
When it comes to justifying the abuse of power and wasted resources of our government, always punish first and ask questions later. As another blogger warns: Never call 911 for ANY reason.
If it’s important to be in the car, break a window.
When it’s your car, your brain will skip over this idea, even as the stakes get higher and higher.
But someone else (police or FD) who doesn’t have any attachment to your car, will go through the window wthout even stopping to think about it much.
I don’t think there’s a state where someone with a good-faith belief that breaking a window was necessary to protect an infant, then goes on the break the window, can get convicted of a crime. Some states have event considered a law that allows property damage when necessary to save the life of a dog, and some may even have already passed such a law.
A badge doesn’t make one smart. Being smart makes one smart. This cop wasn’t very smart. Cops who aren’t smart should never be allowed to be on the job.
But just a tip for the mother, or anyone for that matter. I have spare key for my car in my wallet, my wallet is always with me. I have locked my main key in the care a couple of times…or three…and I just reach for my spare in my wallet.
“I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a state where someone with a good-faith belief that breaking a window was necessary to protect an infant, then goes on the break the window, can get convicted of a crime. ”
I would like to believe that, but if there are places where someone placing the kids in the car has the door blow shut and locked and gets charged with an offense, then all bets are off as to whether the charging officer, prosecutor, judge, and jury, can be depended upon for rationality.
Anna: “Actually, you have an excellent practical solution there for anyone in this situation: call the firemen instead of the cops. Iâ€™ve never heard of them throwing their weight around the way cops seem to.”
Depending on the locale, the way you get the fire department to come out may be to call 911. You can call the fire department, but if you want them dispatched, then you need to go through 911.
sexhysteria: “Never call 911 for ANY reason.”
Right. Not even if someone is breaking into your house.
As with many of these cases, THIS IS ONLY NEWS BECAUSE IT HAPPENS SO INFREQUENTLY. If this happened on a routine basis, it would not be news.
So lets calm down, just a bit. The article indicates that the police wrote the parent up because they think that she waited too long to call for help. This seems like a poor call on the officer’s part, but I expect that there is a good chance that this gets dropped by the local DA. And I expect that this is very rare in any event.
And, to add to the anecdotes, my wife also managed to lock our (at the time) infant in her car a while back. The event played out something like this:
Wife (calling 911): Hello, I’ve just locked my keys in the car. Can you send someone out to get the door open, please?
911 Operator: We don’t really do this. You should call AAA or a locksmith.
Wife: My one year old is in the car.
911 Operator: Where are you?
Police showed up very quickly, took out a slim-jim, made sure my wife knew that said slim-jim could damage the door (it didn’t) and opened the door. Then opened the door for someone ELSE who had just managed to lock *his* keys in his car and noticed what was going on. No, I’m sure they would not have dispatched just for him.
No one got a ticket, or even a stern talking to.
And the local paper didn’t write this up.
I expect that *this* sequence is much more common than getting a ticket, just like kids successfully walking to the local park is much more common than getting kidnapped (or getting stopped by police) while walking to the park. And in both cases, the common “and nothing of consequence happened” sequence was not newsworthy.
Exactly, Mark Ruolo. When you call 911, the first responder who gets there first is the first responder. Unless it’s literally a fire (where only fire will be sent), or an obviously criminal situation (where only police will be sent initially) it’s a toss up who arrives first. If it’s just a general call for aid, it could be either.
sexhysteria: â€œNever call 911 for ANY reason.â€
Right. Not even if someone is breaking into your house.”
And not even if someone is unconscious on your floor after chest pains. The possibility that an official could mistreat you takes precedence over Grandma’s life.
If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was from the Onion.
“Actually, you have an excellent practical solution there for anyone in this situation: call the firemen instead of the cops.”
I don’t know where you live, but where I live, and in the 911 center at which I work, the caller doesn’t get to choose who responds – the dispatcher does that based on application of dispatch protocols to the specific situation.
Eric S. Most women carry their wallet in their purse. So having an extra key in there my not help, as the purse is likely deposited in the car as well. it might work for some, but I don’t think it’s a practical solution for most…
I’m a huge proponent of making sure that kids are always safe. I’m an equal proponent of avoiding law enforcement idiocy. Hello, guy with the badge. Pay attention.
why call 911 you will have attorney fees, maybe court cost, etc. just call AAA they will be there in no time without the hassle….I’ve used them in the pass and they are helpful, fast and non judgemental…
Please tell me there had to be more to this story.
“just call AAA they will be there in no time without the hassle”
I have waited for AAA for over an hour at a busy time. They get there as fast as possible and I recommend them, but they do get busy times and they are not an emergency response service.