Be Thankful And Fearful And Know Your Place, Citizen

Free-Range Kids offers a story of a man briefly detained by a police officer because (allegedly) somebody reported him as a potential kidnapper of his own daughter, who was pulling at his hand as they walked:

The cop gets out of his car, says “Sir, please step away from the child,” then proceeds to crouch down and ask her if “everything is okay.”

After re-asking a few times, getting a more and more nervous “yes” each time, he stands up and informs me that someone had called 911 reporting what looked like a young girl being abducted. My daughter and I both explained what was really happening, and not only did he not even apologize, he chastised ME for not being, and I quote verbatim here, “More thankful someone was watching out for my daughter.”

As numerous commenters at Free-Range Kids and at Reason point out, a competent officer could have handled that encounter in a far less intrusive manner. But the problem is not merely that the officer used authority and the threat of force where friendliness would have done the trick: it's the officer's entitled parting shot, the suggestion that we mere civilians should be thankful for the irrational fears of our fellows and the willingness of police to overreact to them. We should be happy that people will call the cops on us because our children yank at our hands as we walk, and grateful that police will detain us as a result.

I've been lucky on this one so far: though my kids don't look like me, nobody's called the cops on me yet. I've gotten odd looks and suspicious stares in public, but no police interventions. Other people with multiracial families are not so lucky, and, like the man in the Free Range Kids story, have encountered law enforcement entitlement and resentment of criticism.

There's a few problematical trends going on here. The first is the sick culture of fear, encouraged by the media (because fear is lucrative, and accurate contextual reporting is hard) and by law enforcement and politicians (because fear leads to more power for them). That culture has led us to accept, uncritically, the existence of an ever-growing level of danger to ourselves and our children, even if actual evidence supports the opposite. The second problematical trend is the culture of self-esteem and self-congratulation — the notion that our feelings (including feelings of irrational fear and suspicion) are to be coddled and celebrated and treated as legitimate whether or not they are premised on fact. Law enforcement and politicians deliberately harness this phenomenon through the "if you see something, say something" campaign, which explicitly encourages people to indulge in flights of fancy about how innocent and innocuous events might be sinister. The third problematical trend is the "Think of the Children!" mentality, the regrettably widely accepted premise that things done to protect children ought not be questioned, even if the things are utterly irrational and have no actual salutary effect on the well-being of children. Finally, the fourth problematical trend is the culture of entitlement among cops — the feeling that mere civilians ought to take what they dish out, shut up, and like it.

Anyone who has ever walked with a young child knows that young children struggle, tug against your hand, yank your arm, and generally behave in a deranged fashion. The cops, hysterics, and Mrs. Grundys of the world want us to accept the premise better safe than sorry — the premise that it's a good thing that some person saw a little girl tugging at a man's arm and vaulted to the conclusion "kidnapper!", and a good thing that a police officer followed up with a show of authority and force. Too many people agree. But I dissent. I don't think it's a good thing. I think it promotes dependence on government, increased law enforcement power, and the normalization of irrationality. I think that the facts do not support the supposition that hordes of kids will be abducted if Mrs. Grundy exercises self-control and critical thinking, or if the cops do. I think that we have been terrified into a lamentably cringing and servile condition. I am not "thankful that someone is looking out" for my kids; I am disgusted that someone wants my kids to be as irrationally fearful and dependent as they are.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Turk says

    I think this is a no-win situation for the cop. S/he gets a message, second hand from a dispatcher, about a possible abduction or domestic incident. The cop, having not seen (or heard) what happened 15 minutes before, then has to figure out if anyone is in danger.

    While we may have created a culture of fear (mostly due to mass media exploiting local stories to the national stage, long before 9/11) that is most likely not the fault of the beat cop.

  2. says


    Imagine a cop who cruised by, slowed down, put down his window, said "howdy, folks! nice day for a walk!", evaluated the responses, possibly said "Are you out for a walk with your Daddy, sweetie? Where are you off to today?", evaluated the responses to that, and only got out and turned it into a detention if the results warranted.

  3. Linus says

    When my oldest (who is now 9) was between 1 and 2 years old, she was a real pill, and I always had to pick her up in stores (to get her away from those damn Barbies). I had a stranger, an older lady, scold me once at a Walmart for "not reasoning with her" and "picking her up like a stranger, not like a daddy" (I put her over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes). So Ken, I feel for you and other parents in your situation. My kids (kind of, I guess) look like me, and I still get a little anxious when they misbehave in public and I have to pick them up. And I HATE that I feel that anxiety.

  4. perlhaqr says

    Yeah, I'm recalling a time, walking with my (then) 4 year old nephew near a parking lot / feeder road, where he was trying desperately to pull out of my grasp and go sprinting off, and I just wasn't letting it happen. My sister was pretty glad I didn't let him run out into traffic, strangely enough, but I can imagine the sight of a small human tugging and hollering might have triggered this sort of incident.

    I'm pleased it didn't.

  5. says

    On the bright side, at least the little girl learned a valuable lesson: to fear and avoid cops.

    As I said over at Amy Alkon's blog:


    > If the little girl becomes afraid of cops, it is a bad precedent.

    No, it's a GOOD precedent.

    For whatever reasons, cops in modern society have chosen to be the enemies of freedom and the enemies of the Constitution.

    Cops earn their grotesquely inflated salaries and benefits packages by enforcing unjust laws, beating up photographers, jailing people for consensual "crimes", lying on the stand, and handing out tickets for trivial things…all while putting thin-blue-line bumperstickers on their cars so that they don't have to live by the same standards that the peons do.

    Kids SHOULD learn to distrust and avoid them.

  6. Turk says


    I'd be pissed beyond belief. The problem is, that I also don't know if that drive by was in response to a call.

    Think of those getting SWATed. You can't blame the SWAT team if they get a call with fraudulent info.

    There are about a million shades of gray between the "abducted!" phone call and the cop acting on his/her own because of racism. And for the parent/child/spouse it might be difficult to know why the cop stopped them or knocked on their door.

    While I don't run around writing on cop issues, I have to assume that the prevailing thought for police is that, among all possible calls to get, domestic issues are high on the list of suckiness.

  7. says


    > I had a stranger, an older lady, scold me once at a Walmart for "not reasoning with her"


    I was once on the MBTA where I saw a parent and a child. The child let go of her helium balloon three times and three times it wafted to the ceiling. After the third time the parent (rightly, IMO) refused to get the balloon again. The child sulked.

    A "helpful" Cantabridgian SWPL stepped in to grab the balloon, hand it to the child, and explain that balloons float away.

    …as the child's parent already had several times.

    I wanted to smack the "come, let us reason together" smirk off her over-educated face. The parent was doing a great job: kindness tempered with some (stunningly minor) consequences.

    On the other hand, I can't blame the SWPL for wanting to pass along the central organizing principle of her religion: "!@#%$ up as many times as you want, and someone else will clean up your mess for you".

    I just happen to approve of a decent admixture of red state moral lessons.

  8. Laura K says

    I hope it's ok to ahve strong opinions on this as a childless adult–because I am with Ken here. I find the officer (and initial report-filer's) choices objectionable or even abhorent.I have a friend who was accused of kidnapping her infant son in an airport terminal because his skin was much lighter. She was a young mother traveling across the atlantic in preparation to travel into the pacific, following ehr husband from a naval base in Scotland to one on Okinawa.
    So…it's not an easy situation for an officer. But there are millions of ways he could have played that better–again, as Ken points out. I've had to confirm kids as 'with' their caretakers, parents or visiting group very quickly as a museum interpreter. Sometimes with noteable consequences if I failed. If I'd gone the officer's route I would have been fired from every museum I've ever worked at. (Ok maybe not the historical society where I was the youngest person on site by 45 years. But that's not because the Mrs. Grundys of the world are right.)

  9. Tim says


    While certainly the problem is more complex than the failings of any one individual, both the quoted "parting shot" and the choice of approach – as Ken underscores further in his comment – speak to the attitude of the officer involved. He clearly was not blameless.

  10. Turk says

    He clearly was not blameless.

    Nothing is ever clear when you hear about personal interactions, second hand and filtered through someone who might (or might not) have an agenda (or just a story to tell). Place on top of that you see the stuff only in print devoid of facial expressions and body language.

    That's why we have trials with juries evaluating witnesses and subject to cross-exam to get at all the "other" evidence.

    I'm not so quick to convict based on ambiguity.

  11. says

    I'm aware that men aren't the only victims of this sort of accusatory knee-jerk fuckery, but it does bring to mind the horror stories I've heard about men being accused of kidnapping a missing child because they happened to be in the same area at the time. Most memorable for me was the tale a man trying to help a lost child at a fair and promptly being accused of molestation. I know more than one male's who's said that he would direct the child to a staff member rather than risk coming under fire himself, and I've warned my boyfriend (who comes from a country where people interact freely with children on the street) to avoid such "compromising" situations. All this because of this pervasive, frankly irrational and overblown fear of male strangers.

    I do not mean this to insult or marginalize any of the many wonderful guys here, but I wouldn't want to be a man in the U.S. these days.

  12. Debra says

    This hits so close to home for me. I'm repulsed by this culture of fear and my sister in law has bought into it WHOLESALE. The problem comes because our respective daughters are almost the same age. Her daughter has been taught not to hug anyone but her father (not even her uncles, her grandfather, her cousins) and to NEVER be alone with a man, even her father. And every time my daughter visits, my SIL inflicts this fear on her. So we just spent weeks reassuring her that her uncles are okay. That she doesn't have to be afraid of her grandfather. Needless to say the visits are stopping which also makes me sad, but I just cannot allow her to infect my daughter with this fearful disease.

  13. Kilroy says

    I seem to be missing where the father was actually detained? Cause that does actually have a legal meaning, and it isn't present here.

  14. Ben says

    Only a few months ago, outside of a grocery market I frequent, I passed a man trying to secure several children into his van. One child, apparently frustrated, screamed "Not my daddy, not my daddy!" when the presumptive father went to pick him up. It turned out it was something his older brother had taught him to say – because he found it humorous.

    The individual I encountered happened to express gratitude (which is what the officer seemed to expect), where I would have expected annoyance. It seems more appropriate (and that the officer would have been better served) to give a 'mea culpa' than to have an unrealistic expectation that people be grateful for annoying them.

    People are forgiving of such intrusions if they see that you have a child's welfare as motive, in my experience. But being forgiving does not mean being thankful.

  15. Ian says

    This reminds me of a story This American Life played a few eyars ago about a couple of cops in New York City who stopped a white boy and a black man ostensibly because they were being unsafe (riding a bicycle late at night without helmets) but really because in their minds a white boy and a black man interacting like they know each either is clearly an indicator that something is very wrong.

    The sad part is this apparently happens to the kid all the time to the point where it's starting to cause him extreme mental anguish. Think of the children indeed.

    You can listen to the story here:

  16. Zedrik Cayne says

    My lovely wife has often told me to be careful about how I interact with other people's kids. I kind of sport a santa claus vibe which seems to make me attractive to conversation from children.

    Recently a kid at the local science center wandered up to me and asked me where the bathrooms were, the kid looking very concerned and half panicked. I told him but asked why. Turns out the nominal parental unit had gone to the bathroom, he didn't have to go himself but he was freaking out because he had lost a pin.

    I suggested to the kid, getting down to his level that the parental unit was probably wanting him to stay right where he was, and if he moved she would probably go a little nuts looking for him. And why don't I help him look for his pin. My daughter was in the same area (it was an enclosed area and she couldn't get out without getting past me) so we found the pin and eventually 'mom' (turns out it was a babysitter) showed.

    I told the tale to my wife and she firmly chastised me for interacting with someone else's kid like that because it could be perceived badly. Which I don't get. Exactly what did I do that could be considered creepy except for talk with an obviously upset kid.

    Now, I'm forty years old. I remember adults when I was a kid doing stuff like this and it was okay. I'm comfortable with being the 'surrogate parental unit' in the area if required. I'll patch a kid up and take him back to his parents if I find him hurt in the street. I'll also yell at kids to get off my lawn and take them to their parents for even more chastisement. (I get strange looks when I do this from the parents until I explain the situation at which point they are upset at their kids the way they probably aught to be.)

    But we as a society seem to be learning how to be helpless in these kinds of situations. We need external authority to do anything. (And usually they need to do it for us) and on top of that the authorities are getting concerned about the heightened perception of violence aimed at them. So any confrontation between them and the public seem to escalate very quickly beyond what probably should actually have occurred.

    It saddens me and kind of sickens me to see where we are all going like this. I can just do what I can to raise properly operating adults who are aware of the reality, but who can still help themselves and others. I occasionally worry about my interactions in public with other people because of my rather old fashioned perceptions of what is acceptable. And my wife (bless her) has tried often to get me to see that I could be seen as a creep or worse in the eyes of other people who see me interact with other peoples kids. But damnit I'm just trying to be a decent human being who is a dad. And with the current social situation. I'm going to get a police officer on me at some point in the same way as our story originating dad. I have many advantages in that situation. I'm white, older, graying, and usually wearing a shirt (as evidenced by watching way too much 'Cops' the guy not wearing the shirt is the one going to jail in a domestic situation) but it is still not a situation I want to get into just because I'm trying to be a decent human being and a good example to my kids over how folks should be acting.

  17. says

    Kilroy – he was asked to (read: forced to) reliquish custody of his child. Even if for 10 seconds, that was as wrong as wrong can be. The officer did not need to approach the situation by forcing the man to give up control of his kid. All he had to do was walk up, engage in coversation, even ask about the report and watch reactions.

    "Sir, step away from the child!" is absolutely positively improper, incorrect, and as far as I'm concerned, illegal and actionable.

  18. Leslie says

    I used to live near a park in So Cal. A few years ago my husband's nephew came to stay with us while he looked at colleges in the area. He drove a Westfalia Eurovan and parked on the street. Parking is restricted in our area, but our street was still free, except on Mondays for sweeping.
    Someone (we could never find out who) called the police and said they were concerned about a van that someone was living in and looked to be dealing drugs. It was also suggested that some children had been brought into the van at various times. "They" were concerned, living near the park, all the children blah blah. A total pack of lies made from some truth. My sons loved the van and were in and out of it the day he arrived. My nephew had all his gear inside, but was living in our house. The van was staked out by the oh so competent local PD. My nephew and my youngest were approached, questioned and detained. It was horrendous. I thought my husband was going to go to jail for assaulting a police officer, he was so pissed off. My sons were scared to death and our nephew (whom was handcuffed), scared and like my husband madder than hell. Police cars, Social Services, Fire Dept, Parking Control and gawkers galore. It was a circus! The police, fucking arrogant bastards that they are knew it was a mistake, but would not back down and NEVER apologized. All this because a neighbor was pissed about crowded parking one night when circling for a spot (I'm guessing) and zeroed in on the van that had not moved for a few days. People do shit like this all the time. They call 911 and make it sound worse than it is or outright lie to get the police there faster.
    We were helpless to do anything, because the police were acting in good faith. Those fuckers, it still makes me mad 6 years later.
    My nephew decided NoCal was a better fit for college and we eventually moved to a less crowded neighborhood.

  19. Befuddled says

    Wait. Are there two people named "Ken" who blog here? If not, then the Ken who just told us that Mrs. Grundy needs to apply critical thinking before speaking to the police is the same Ken who told us a couple of days ago that it is silly to expect speech to be rational. Hmmm. Based on his ability to make persuasive arguments that are diametrically opposed, causing the reader to experience cognitive dissonance, one might conclude that "Ken" is a lawyer.

    Just sayin'.

  20. says

    Oh, and Kilroy, one more thing – imagine if the father had just walked off instead of engaging the officer – what would have happened? The officer would have surely followed and forced him to talk.

    He was detained. Period. He didn't have the ability to walk away. The officer would have never allowed that.

  21. says


    Can you distinguish between criticism and boycott, on the one hand, and calling the police on people, on the other?

    Can you distinguish between irrational participation in the marketplace of ideas, on the one hand, and irrational demands that the government censor the marketplace, on the other?

  22. Christina says

    Fifth problematical trend: Passing responsibility off to others, typically designated as "experts", combined with the abdication of mature involvement in human society.

    Societal authorities only gain power by virtue of others leaving it laying around unclaimed. In U.S. culture this transfer exists not only in law enforcement but also in medicine, education, government, agriculture, entertainment – basically everywhere without boundary. "Someone else will take care of it."

    Perhaps a natural if unintended consequence of the trend to specialization generated through the Industrial Revolution? Many movements afoot locally, nationally, globally to reverse the transfer. But I think it's something that people should pursue across many areas of their life in order to counter the impulse, rather than focusing narrowly.

  23. Bill says

    Face it gentlemen, if you're in the US right now, you have to watch every single interaction you have with females of any age.

    That man had very little choice other than assaulting an officer, but why is it people respect the "Don't get between a mother and her children" but not the same regarding a father?

    This country needs a healthy dose of people telling each other forcefully to mind their own business.

    A nation of scared voyeurs. This is TVs great gift.

  24. Demosthenes says

    It's actually worse than Goober is spelling out. If the cops I know are any judge, any parent in my area who tried to walk away from an officer in that situation would almost certainly find themselves facing a drawn gun or handcuffed in front of their kid, because the officer would have all he needed to "confirm" his "suspicions" of a "kidnapping."

    Kilroy, I don't think you're really taking into account the power dynamic in a citizen/officer interaction. Most people I know would consider themselves detained, even if they were actually free to go, because the officer has stopped to chat with THEM — and so THEY don't feel as if they can break off the conversation. Therefore, to all intents and purposes, they are detained. To say they aren't may be technically true, but it's also practically false.

  25. Demosthenes says

    As a sidebar, hopefully not a threadjack: This whole "officer abusing power" thing is becoming more common even in the most benign circumstances. Example: around here, the cops will stop almost anyone they see walking at night. Which is a shame for me, because I like to go on long late-night walks where I can be alone, and a cop pulling up alongside you with lights flashing kills that. I have trained myself in the not-too-fine art of extricating oneself from such an encounter within the boundaries of the law, but even so:

    1) Sometimes you get an aggressive cop, like the one who didn't like me directing his questions back at him and asked me very pointedly if I didn't like the police. (I told him I liked them just fine. I kept the part about "when they're not all up in my business" to myself.)

    2) Sometimes you can't get out of the situation because the COP is ignorant about proper protocol in an officer-initiated stop where no suspicion is present. And they don't like you explaining it to them, even gently and through questions instead of statements.

    3) And in any case, it's not their job to harass people, especially when there's no legitimate reason to suspect a crime. It's their job to serve and protect. That's what WE pay them for, although again, they get a little touchy when you remind them of that.

  26. Ben says


    I disagree. If anything the citizenry of our country would benefit from cultivating a greater sense of empathy. If something seems amiss (and it needn't even be something so overtly alarming as "Not my daddy!") we should inquire, but take care to do so in a caring and respectful way.

    Without that empathy – and the subsequent interest in the welfare of those in our community – what value is there in civilization?

  27. Allen says

    Damn, the idea of a mixed race family being grounds for suspicion would have never even crossed my mind. My extended family is such a mixed bag that I have always just taken it for granted.

    Really though, aren't cops supposed to be trained observers. It would seem to me that the body language and general demeanor amongst family members would be a huge tell.

  28. BobN says

    Ken – Question regarding the officer directing the father to step away from his daughter – Was that even a lawful order? What if the father had continued holding his daughter's hand, told the officer that she was his daughter, and simply refused to let go of her hand? Is there anything the officer could have done if the father refused?

  29. PhilG says

    @Ken I'm kind of with @Befuddled here. While I understand your criticism of the officer's interaction with the family, and agree that interaction could have been handled better, you also criticize the irrational fear-driven speech by the person calling the police. Irrational speech is exactly what you were defending in the earlier argument. The fact the police have a duty to respond her irrational speech makes her speech ripe for criticism because of the outcome but I don't see a vast difference between what you are defending and what you are criticizing. If outcome drives the what is and isn't okay then who and how are the "indefensible" vs "defensible" outcomes determined? To me this is getting into the "I know it when I see" land and a bad place to go.

    I don't think there is a clear line between what irrational speech should and should not be defended. Maybe I'm just crazyballs though, I never discount the crazyballs option.

  30. says

    But saying "That dude looks like a kidnapper" is different from tackling him, or calling the cops to do it for you. If you dial 911 you're initiating an action, not just exercising free speech, I think.

  31. sueb262 says

    @PhilG and @Befuddled: It seems to me that the salient difference between the two kinds of "irrational speech" you're discussing is that one is defensive and the other offensive. The first kind blogged about by Ken was someone whinging about responses to their publicly stated opinions, and even claiming that our Constitution guarantees the right to something like "uncriticized speech"; the second kind of irrational speech (the instance in this blog entry) comprises siccing the law on someone else flagrantly and irresponsibly.

    Important difference to you? It certainly is to me!

  32. says

    "Honey, if you keep tugging like that the police will come and take you away."

    "Dear, you have to behave now or the cops will come and take you away."

    Repeat for many years as needed.

    Problem solved.

  33. says

    I've been a teacher for many years, and I also worked at a kids' party place (like Chuck E Cheese). My usual tactic, because I am required to ask things like this, is to ask the child directly "Does this grownup belong to you?"

    It covers all family/friend relations, and injects a little humor into the situation by making the child the one responsible for the adult.

  34. Orville says

    Any officer who tried to take my child away from me would have to explain to his chief why his department is being hit my a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

    I'm sure he would arrest me also because I have no incentive to be kind in that situation.

    It's one thing if someone in my family reported that I abducted the child – quite another to have some random yahoo think my kid is being abducted just because they are acting like a kid.

  35. Grifter says

    There's a certain mindset from people that they can call 911 for any questionable scenario of any kind, and it relieves them of all responsibility for thinking further about it. I can't count the number of times that we've gotten dispatched on calls that were:

    "Man down, looks severely injured. Caller not on scene, was driving by", for what turns out to just be what we call an "urban camper".

    They called 911 because you thought someone was in big trouble, but didn't stop or stay in the area? And in this case: you thought a kid was being abducted, but you didn't say anything to the presumptive abductor? What, you thought the police would teleport there? What if it was an abduction, but they left the area (and yes, it obviously wasn't, I'm just saying that if we presume that there was good, if stupid, faith on the caller's part, we still have to wonder at their mindset)?

  36. says

    Although I sorta disagree with Ken on his old point, there's no question that there is a clear distinction here.

    There is a really big gap between Don't do that or I will not patronize your restaurant and Don't do that or I will sic the authorities on you.

  37. En Passant says

    PhilG wrote Aug 1, 2012 @11:05 am:

    @Ken I'm kind of with @Befuddled here. While I understand your criticism of the officer's interaction with the family, and agree that interaction could have been handled better, you also criticize the irrational fear-driven speech by the person calling the police. Irrational speech is exactly what you were defending in the earlier argument. The fact the police have a duty to respond her irrational speech makes her speech ripe for criticism because of the outcome but I don't see a vast difference between what you are defending and what you are criticizing.

    I'm not Ken. But furrfu!

    In his piece about expecting irrational speech, Ken was referring to speech in a political context, like "let's boycott this business because we don't like its politics", or "The One is really an Al Quaeda agent and wasn't even born in America." In that context, the speaker (if he has two neurons to rub together) knows that armed people with badges are not going to descend upon someone to enforce the speaker's opinion, however much the speaker might wish that were so.

    In the context of calling the police, irrational speech like "I see this man walking with a child. He must be a kidnapper", the speaker who does not recognize (or pretends not to recognize) the consequences of his speech is at best an idiot, and may be a malicious creep or worse.

  38. Ancel De Lambert says

    Uhg, reading through the comments on the article is turning my stomach. The number of people supporting and excusing the pig is unnerving.

  39. Samsam von Virginia says

    I highly recommend an episode from the old Dragnet TV show: "The Big Crime". It deals with child abduction, sex offender lists, etc. This show aired in 1954.

    My Mom told us stories of her walk to and from High School in the 1940's: there were wierdos lurking is certain areas. The kids simply traveled in groups, and made sure to not be there after dark. Problem solved.

    My point is that concerns about child safety have been around forever, but it is only recently we've been having irrational reactions. The world hasn't really gotten more dangerous, except for the danger posed by cops.

  40. Dan P says

    @Zed — Never in a million years did I expect to find you outside of New Eden.

    I'm a little less than half your age, but remember growing up with with non-family-member adults doing something in lieu of my parents… (e.g. lost at a fair, or similar).

  41. Gavin says

    A dear friend of mine struggled with this exact situation for some time. Aparently the audacity of him (a white male) and his wife adopting a black girl meant that he now had the responsibility to explain to police and those around him that this was, in fact, his daughter and that they're all assholes for being dicks about it. He even had women getting between him and his daughter in public places and telling her that she could go with them (making themselves attempted kidnappers, I guess).

    Good article.

  42. wgering says

    @PhilG and @Befuddled:

    I am also not Ken.

    However, I think there is an important distinction between the "irrational speech" discussed in the earlier post (the title of which I have forgotten) and the report of Mrs. Grundy in this case; specifically, Mrs. Grundy's "speech" was actually an action (summoning the police), whereas irrational speech is just some crazy nonsense, spouted without any thought to consequence.

    It would be illogical to defend Mrs. Grundy's manner of irrational speech, because it would necessitate by extension the defense of irrational action. Last time I checked, the Bill of Rights doesn't guarantee me the right to call the police on anyone whenever I feel like it (unless my name were Joe McCarthy, because then everything would be peachy and I win and am the greatest and totally not censured).

  43. Grifter says

    I don't think Ken or anyone on here has defended clearly inciteful speech (such as calling the police and asserting a crime)…

    When we're discussing and defending the idea of 1st amendment, free speech rights we don't always feel the need to say "though, of course, shouting "fire" in a crowded theater is not free speech".

  44. TomB says

    Here is the best reply from the Reason thread. It may become my all time favorite response on the 'tubes EVAH:

    "Mixed feelings about this one. Your daughter's 'silly game' could easily be miscontrued as her trying to get away from you. Why do you let her try to run you into telephone poles, anyways? What's wrong with just walking down the street normally and talking?

    Zher vill be NO having fun on zie sidewalks!

    Everyone vill proceed in a calm and orderly fashion to zher homes und remain until furher, er, further notice.

  45. AlphaCentauri says

    I agree the cop handled it badly, but let's not jump all over Mrs. Grundy. If any of us had looked out of our fifth floor window and seen Jamie Bulger being led down the street, what should we have done?

  46. Grifter says


    But the problem is a mindset that thinks the police are magic, I think. I doubt Mrs. Grundy had any legitimate reason to be afraid for her safety (as a reason not to intervene in some measure herself).

    If something looked odd, she could have said "Hi! Taking your little girl for a walk?" Instead she called 911 and reported a possible kidnapping.

    And in answer to your specific question, if I'd seen James Bulger being led down the street by 2 ten-year-old kids, I might wonder WTF was going on exactly, and if they told me, as they told one of the bystanders, that they were going to the police station, I would accompany them. Because it would seem fishy, and I would think that two ten year olds should not be leading a lost kid to the police station without an adult. I don't think that false positives of dads and their kids will prevent another tragedy like that one; the problem was not that some thought it was fishy and did nothing, but that they didn't think it was fishy at all. If anything, that situation and this situation shows that people get scared for all the wrong reasons.

    Also, I officially hate you for reminding me both that that happened, and that those two are still alive.

  47. JDM says

    I have a bit of a different perspective; I am a pediatrician specializing in child abuse.

    I agree some people make bad decisions when trying to protect children. I agree that poor judgment in any context (like the officer's judgment) is ultimately harmful to the children they hope to protect. I redily agree with the commenters that most people (men and women) are not a danger to children; and that exposure to a wide variety of supportive adults promotes children's development.

    I cannot, however, endorese the implication of this article, and especially the linked article, that the chances of adults harming children is remote; because my clinic is filled daily with counterexamples.

    Referencing the linked article specifically, in the idylic 70s-early 80s when you were aimlessly riding your bike all over everywhere one in four girls and one in five boys was sexually abused. (Granted, much of this occurs within the home, but about a third of it is outside the home.) 49 children per thousand were physically abused each year. Likewise the leading cause of traumatic death under one year of age is homicide.

    Increased vigilance has reduced these rates slightly in the late 2000's. (We think … child abuse is hard to measure, but most authorities agree there has been a small real decrease.)

    I would resist your apparent call to return to "the good old days" when we widespread denial allowed us to pretend that no one was harming our children; and left the abused children to suffer in silence. In its place, we find a difficult dilemma — balancing our children's safety against the process of growing independence and exploration that defines childhood. As a professional and a father, I struggle with this tension on a daily basis and have no magical answers.

    So, kudos for calling out some poor police work. And, please accept my caution that there really is a rock across from that hard place!

  48. darius404 says

    If any of us had looked out of our fifth floor window and seen Jamie Bulger being led down the street, what should we have done?

    If I'd seen a man walking with a little girl? Probably nothing. There isn't anything wrong with a man and a child walking hand-in-hand, not even if one (the child, in this case), is tugging on the other. And really, the child tugging on the adult is more innocuous than the other way around.

  49. Ancel De Lambert says

    @TomB that's one of the ones that baffled me, and the further question of "what kind of father are you?" A good one, stupid! What kind of idiot doesn't realize that putting up with your child's ridiculous "games" is what makes a good parent?

  50. Thorne says

    I'll tell you, cop or not…:

    Them: "Sir, you ought to be a little more thankful someone is watching out for your daughter."

    Me: "Someone *is*, you fucking moron. Me! Standing here. Holding her hand. That's my fucking job!!"

    Some people's children…

  51. Allen says


    Nicely put. I think that's the struggle, we know these things happen, but the question is how do we deal with it?

  52. David Schwartz says

    Grifter: Assuming the report to the police was accurate and didn't manufacture details or misrepresent what the person saw, we should be able to rely on the police to act rationally in response to our reports. It's their job to get this stuff right. Sure, she could have intervened herself, but it was perfectly reasonable for her to decide that she wasn't willing to do that for a variety of reasons.

  53. Mike K says

    You know, I still play that game with my mother. It's vaguely amusing to me, and it stops if she gets annoyed. If we would have been stopped when I was a kid, I probably would have been hiding behind her from the stranger that was trying to scare us. She probably would have angrily, though not shouting, responded telling him to go away. I saw some of her angry responses as a kid, when people said something like 'Oh, grandparents have the kids for the day?'. I imagine many people now would swear, but her response was more on the lines of 'No, I do'.

    I've been considering adopting, and I've been kind of worried about what's ok to let a kid do alone now. I rode my bike to school daily from 4th grade on (might have been sooner, but my brother graduated and we moved to town right before that). I've been trying to figure out when something like that is acceptable now. I can honestly say I've never thought to worry about more mundane things like walking alone with a daughter. I seriously hope nothing like that ever happens to me. I'm not a violent person, but I would at the least be rather smart with such a person. Since people with power generally don't like to be told that they are wrong, I could see such a thing going badly. I imagine that in that situation the best response in my mind would have been to back up and pick up the daughter or have her sit back on the ground. In my mind someone that looks like a police officer is probably not if he isn't acting like one. If some cops like that one think that it's reasonable to order a father to step away from his daughter because of fears of kidnapping, they also need to realize that same fear is probably stronger in a real parent and a scared parent would be willing to fight the armed gunman in front of them in order to save a child.

    I just wish that the cops in these scenarios had more empathy. If they stopped to think about how they'd feel if they were on the receiving end of these situations, they might behave a little better. In this case, if the officer would have treated the man in a way that he wouldn't have minded being treated, the incident might have passed without being mentioned (come to think of it, that's the basis of many religions, isn't it?). Maybe it's just me, I do have a tendency to see the 'other' side of things rather easily.

  54. Chris R. says

    I have a half asian son who once in Target was throwing the worse tantrum he's ever thrown (they all seem like it at the time, but this in retrospect was the worse). After negotiations failed, I promptly picked him up, slung him over my shoulder and escorted him to my car. On the way he kicked, screamed, cried, pounded his fists and made every distressing noise known to man. People stared on in horror as a white male left with an asian child, the security guard even stepped between me and the door for a moment before I shot him a look that obviously chilled his blood. I left the parking lot immediately afterwards and came back to pick up my wife when she was done shopping because I shaw people gawking and dialing on their cellphones. I'm glad no one tried to detain me, because at that point I was so furious I'd not have been very reasonable in my responses.

  55. Grifter says

    @David Schwartz: That's a safe assumption only in terms of "if you don't look twice at a situation, and interpret everything badly, then it can be said you were honest." It's negligent. The report was not "There's a little girl pulling on some guy's arm while they walk down the street", it was, apparently, that "someone had called 911 reporting what looked like a young girl being abducted". That's a charged statement.

    The caller thought it was a kidnapping in progress. And her reaction was not to: watch closely to see if there's some basis for that (because it appears that there wasn't anything except the kid pulling on the parent, which is utterly normal), or to say anything (you have a point about not wanting to intervene…kinda. She could at least say "hi", determine whether or not she felt the guy was skeevy, etc. As I said, it appears there's no legitimate way that the person calling 911 feared for their own safety, and not even a kidnapper's going to just shoot the first person who says hello to them).

    Her reaction was to call 911 and claim kidnapping in progress. If it had been a kidnapping in progress, it's unlikely the cops would have caught them, because the kidnapper would have a vested interest in disappearing. Someone walking down the street innocently doesn't.

    She didn't, based on the reports we've been given, say "hey, there's a weird guy walking down the street with a little girl", she said "there's a guy who looks like he's kidnapping someone."

  56. Grifter says

    Clarification: in my first paragraph, I wasn't saying all those things about YOU, David Schwartz, I was saying we can say she was honest if we think those things of the caller.

  57. Mike K says

    How worried should a person be about being accused of kidnapping a child? As a lawyer, what response do you recommend? Would it be wrong to ignore a cop that pulled up like that and simply ask him why while continuing on? I'm afraid that I'd be in the wrong mood if something like this happened and just try to push the cop's buttons. Should this kind of fear add to my reasons to not want to have my nephews stay with me for a week?

    I should probably talk with my brother and sister-in-law more about that idea rather than leaving it at a 'no' the way it is now.

  58. ThOR says


    I read the article on Free Range Kids but didn’t respond, though I have a story to tell. Your comment comparing this incident to SWATting struck a nerve, so I want to tell you what happened to me.

    I was driving down a freeway here in California – driving an old pickup truck with a camper on the back – when in my rear view mirror I saw a highway patrol car coming my direction at a very high rate of speed, but without his lights flashing or his siren blaring. Then something odd happened. The patrol car slowed down and started shadowing me. What was odd about it was that he didn’t seem to be checking me out, but was instead checking out my camper. Over the course of the next couple of minutes he shadowed me from both sides and behind, always right by the camper.

    The whole thing was so weird that I just slowed down and pulled to the side of the road and stopped. The patrolman dove in behind me, flung open his door and ran up to my window. Then he asked me, in a deeply suspicious tone “Why did you pull over?” I responded “Because I thought you wanted me to.” For some reason, the cop seemed completely disarmed by this comment. The officer, in a quieter, more thoughtful tone said “I did,” and he added “There has been a report of a kidnapped child in this camper.” I was floored. I blurted out, “Let’s have a look.” And I walked to the back of the camper and threw open the door to a messy, but otherwise unoccupied camper.

    The cop just stood there looking dumbfounded. He said “A few minutes ago we received a 911 call from a woman saying that there was a young girl in the back of this camper calling out an open window for help and saying that she was being kidnapped.” “Are you sure it was THIS camper,” I said pointing at my rather distinctive looking rig (it was a “project” vehicle with a colorful mix of junkyard parts). “Absolutely,” he replied with a bit of a grin.

    Then he asked if I might have cut somebody off or pulled some other sort of driving maneuver that might have brought on the rage of the lady caller. “Not that I can think of, but my truck doesn’t go very fast.” Before walking away, he told me that this wasn’t the first time that he had encountered 911 calls made as retaliation and that he presumed that the caller felt she had some sort of score to settle with me when she made the call. And that was it. The patrolman walked back to his cruiser and I got back in my truck and continued on my way to a junkyard to buy even more parts.

    Was this SWATting? I’d say so.

    How did the California Highway Patrolman act? He behaved with the utmost professionalism.

    On a related topic, I have a friend who is a contract programmer for a well-know California municipality. This city had so many calls from residents snitching on each other for minor infractions of all imaginable kinds that the city needed a specialized database to keep track of the calls. My friend wrote the code for the user interface, using an Oracle database (this was serious software). I’d guess that the cop in the Free Range Kids story was probably responding to a 911 call from an hysterical, meddlesome neighbor (of which, my friend tells me, there are legion).

    Yours truly,


  59. David Schwartz says

    Kilroy: "I seem to be missing where the father was actually detained? Cause that does actually have a legal meaning, and it isn't present here."

    You are suggesting the man should have left without his daughter? Wouldn't that likely have been criminal? The police officer directed the man to step away from his daughter. Surely a reasonable person receiving such a command would not have felt free to leave with the child.

  60. Russ Nelson says

    a reasonable thing for them and to have done is to ask a policeman for identification. After all criminals have been known to disguise themselves as policeman. And then after verifying that the policeman was an official, a good question would be "Am I being detained?" if you are not being detained, then you're free to go. If you are being detained, then you have no need to answer any questions without a lawyer present.

  61. Careless says

    I've been a bit worried about this sort of thing since my daughter was two and some random person said to me "she's very cute. Is she adopted?" (And damn, asking that that made me, the autistic guy, look normal)

  62. says

    @AlphaCentauri, it's hard for me to respond here as there are details I can't be sure of.

    The story teller notes her daughter was pulling on her hand. Besides the fact that this is normal child behavior (my niece does it all the time; she enjoys pulling on me and trying to fight my superior mass), and in the absence of any other evidence, yes Grundy should have just left alone.

    Or do you think a child being kidnapped, and then being forced to stroll down the street like nothing is wrong, would:

    (1) decide to resist but only do so by pulling on the adult's arm, in a direction away from the walking direction? There is not much the child could do physically but yelling your head off would certainly do a lot.


    (2) actually attempt to resist at all? If a kidnapper was attempting to disguise a kidnapping in broad daylight like this, one assumes he'd need to coerce the child into behaving reasonably. Threats could easily cow a child, I think. If a child was too scared to yell, I doubt they'd be trying to pull away from the adult.

  63. Jeremy says

    @ Demosthenes

    May I first say, excellent choice of blog comment handle. It's obscurely egotistical, but I like it.

    It's actually worse than Goober is spelling out. If the cops I know are any judge, any parent in my area who tried to walk away from an officer in that situation would almost certainly find themselves facing a drawn gun or handcuffed in front of their kid, because the officer would have all he needed to "confirm" his "suspicions" of a "kidnapping."

    I agree with you. I also agree with others who are hinting at the fact that the father COULD choose to keep walking and take the undeserved punishment. I am not a father, so perhaps my vision on my reaction in this situation is entirely useless, but I would imagine that I would try to ignore the cops. I expect that the police officer would escalate things, but that escalates the consequences of being wrong for them. It's dangerous for me, but I might argue just as dangerous for them. If I am a father, walking with my child, and a police officer wishes to confront me, he is absolutely within his rights to do so. However, I can simply ask, "am I being detained," and why. If the cop has no answer (not response, answer), I am well within my rights to simply ignore the officer, and walk away with my child.

    Now, I would expect that the average officer would feel slighted at this interaction, and attempt to escalate the matter. If I haven't already pulled out my cell phone camera and pushed video-record, it comes out now. What the cop chooses to do next should determine whether or not they keep their job.

    Also, frankly, fully anonymous 911 calls might be something of an antiquated notion. Such a system offers no protection against abuse of fear-trained law enforcement.

  64. Susan says

    If you hadn't pulled over I wonder what he would have done. It seems he was trying to assess the validity of the call first.

  65. PhilG says

    @En Passant I don't know what furrfu means :(

    @En Passant and @wgering I am also not Ken (I just wanted to say that too, I think that should be a "thing" it would be amusing if every comment started that way) but here are my feelings on this. The difference is driven largely by what we're assuming is intent and by actions that may be known but are out of control of the speaker. Personally, I find any law based on intent to be the worst sort of law. Obviously they exist in some situations and most people seem to be okay with them but for me that is thoughtcrime policing and wrong. I don't expect that to be the majority opinion so that is really that.

    I still believe that we're making a non-objective split of irrational speech and declaring it be to an objective standard, however that itself could be considered irrational speech and puts us in the rabbit hole of irrationality. I don't think we'll agree on this one but I wanted to note that I do see the obvious difference in this instance but I just don't think it should apply to an overall situation and that sometimes bad specific situations are a sad fact of life but shouldn't influence general concepts. Also crazyballs.

  66. En Passant says

    PhilG wrote Aug 2, 2012 @4:10 pm:

    @En Passant I don't know what furrfu means

    See ROT13.

    The difference is driven largely by what we're assuming is intent and by actions that may be known but are out of control of the speaker. Personally, I find any law based on intent to be the worst sort of law. Obviously they exist in some situations and most people seem to be okay with them but for me that is thoughtcrime policing and wrong. I don't expect that to be the majority opinion so that is really that.

    So, let's look at the old common law crime of burglary: Breaking and entering the dwelling of another in the nighttime, with intent to commit a felony therein.

    I can think of some good reasons to break and enter someone's house in the nighttime. For example: it's aflame and the resident needs help to escape.

    I really wouldn't want the law to make that a burglary by omitting the mens rea element of intent.

    One who calls police and tells them some crazy sh*tirrational story intends for the police to respond. One who makes irrational statements in a public forum has a different intent, one that does not involve immediate police response.

  67. says

    @Jeremy Note that if you record the interaction in an all-party notification state, such as California, you may require the officer's permission to record, or else the recording may be inadmissible. Nevertheless even an inadmissible recording may aid an investigation to exonerate you.

  68. Beauzeaux says

    In 1943, my mother and I took a train trip from Los Angeles to St Louis. I was eleven months old and in that period when I was too heavy to carry around but not quite walking. The train was full of soldiers and when my mother was exhausted, a couple of them suggested that they'd look after me so she could eat or just rest.
    They handed me around like the baby I was. Apparently, I traveled from one end of the car to the other in the custody of this bunch of soldiers. (I was quite the adorable baby, if I do say so myself.)

    Two observations: This could never happen today. NO ONE would even think about the possibility.

    And how sad it was that many of these young men would never come home.

  69. Jer says

    I'm the dad in question in this story; to clear up a couple of things, the cop was traveling down that street in direct response to a call regarding myself and my daughter. I even heard our description being read over his radio as he got out of the car, right down to the description of the hoodie my daughter was wearing. So I don't really blame the cop for stopping, at least; he obviously had to act on the call that came in. (Whether that was made by someone trying to make trouble, who had nothing better to do, or who couldn't be bothered to actually observe us for more than 5 seconds I have no idea!) The problem I have with the cop's actions is that he actually had the gall to scold me for not being thankful to him and whoever made the call for "watching out for my daughter"! Right up until he said that I had no beef with him at all. On the bright side, while my daughter does still remember this, she shows no real fear of cops, so it doesn't seem to have affected her in any lasting fashion. Thanks for the support, everyone!

  70. John says

    Once upon a time our now-32-year-old-daughter was out to dinner with us. As children will she was dawdling with her meal and noticed that I had almost finished. She then decided to complain, at the top of her then 7 year old voice, "Daddy don't beat me" meaning of course not to finish before her.

    It drew a few glances from other diners but in those days did not get a cop — I'm guessing everyone else in the restaurant had young kids at one time or another. A kinder, gentler more rational time I guess.

  71. Marty says

    We have created a culture and legal environment where if the cop didn't really push the matter and it turned out later this was an abduction, he and his employer would be sued for neglecting to do everything anyone could imagine, after the fact.

    I know it sucks but we all need to look in the mirror, we collectively created this situation–yes, pols and lawyers in the lead, but they can only go as far as we ultimately let them. If we don't like this, we have to be ready to say, after the next horrible incident, "Well, the cop acted reasonably in balancing everyone's rights and interests, but it turned out badly through no fault of his. He did what we expect, so we're not going to punish him or his employer or anyone else."

    When we're mature enough to do that, as a society, we can start to take umbrage at things like this–until then, you can't have it both ways.

  72. says

    The officer responds by not assuming the abduction is true, but assuming it is a mistake (especially when first observing the older man and daughter) and approaches the father and daughter that way. Saying, "Sir, we just got a report of an abducted young girl. I apologize but we need to check. Your cooperation would be greatly appreciated…"

    That initial contact changes everything.

  73. Marty says

    "…so we're not going to punish him or his employer or anyone else."

    Other than the actual criminal, of course

  74. says

    And when it is apparent the call is false, the officer both apologizes for the stop and thanks the father and daughter for their cooperation.

  75. Koblog says

    Someone has noted problems with the police vs. the citizenry started when "Peace Officers" became "Law Enforcement."

    The one strives to keep the peace amongst free fellow citizens, the other strives to find lawbreakers in an "us vs. them" scenario.

    And with multiple thousands of pages of laws passed by an increasingly authoritarian local, state and federal government, any of us can be denied our liberty for almost anything at any time.

  76. tom says

    quoting TJIC:If the little girl becomes afraid of cops, it is a bad precedent.

    No, it's a GOOD precedent.

    For whatever reasons, cops in modern society have chosen to be the enemies of freedom and the enemies of the Constitution.

    Cops earn their grotesquely inflated salaries and benefits packages by enforcing unjust laws, beating up photographers, jailing people for consensual "crimes", lying on the stand, and handing out tickets for trivial things…all while putting thin-blue-line bumperstickers on their cars so that they don't have to live by the same standards that the peons do.

    Kids SHOULD learn to distrust and avoid them.
    This is one of the most idiotic posts I have ever seen. Sure, there are bad cops, rude cops, thoughtless cops, and cops representative of every human flaw. However, most are good and decent people doing a job that most do not want to do. As for their pensions, have you ever noticed that when most cops retire, they have to get second jobs to support themselves? So what you call for is this: If your child gets separated from you and snatched by a predator, she should be afraid of the police. Your thought processes will result in more kidnapped, molested, and murdered children. Smart going there guy.

  77. B says

    My roommate was disgusted when male gymnastics coaches hugged and kissed their young female gymnasts during the Olympics. But she was silent when a female coach did the same thing. I angrily called her out on it.

    These coaches are often second parents to these girls. And a grown man showing a little affection to a young girl isn't always sinister.

  78. Californio says

    We wouldn't suggest disarming the police, would we?

    I mean – they could accidentially kill someone, and …well…."better safe than sorry".

  79. Neil says

    When she was 2, my goddaughter and her mother were leaving the local park. The girl started screaming "help! help!" as she was carried away, since she was very upset at the fact that she had to leave. I can only imagine how badly this would have turned out if I were with her instead. As it was, she only got some curious and sympathetic glances from the other parents at the park.

  80. JSchuler says

    No, officer, this is my daughter. Do you think I'd be stupid enough to walk down the street with the kids I actually kidnapped?

  81. says

    Men aren't supposed to interact with any children other than their own? I thought the title of the book was It Takes A Village, not It Takes A Village's Women.

    Or has everyone forgotten when *that* was how we were supposed to address things, back in the 90s? :)

  82. John Galt says

    There is absolutely no excuse for the DEFCON 1 response by officer Cranky Philistine.

    Actual instances of stranger child-abduction are incredibly rare. Five times more people are struck by lightning each year than are abducted as children. Knowledge of the frequency of crimes is critical: law enforcement must have reasonable cause for any action or such actions are unconstitutional as well as unethical.

    He might as well justify a traffic stop as an espionage investigation.

    Plus, I would say that any tiny microscopic speck of unreasonable suspicion would be tanked by the obvious fact that only the most retarded child abductor would do it by walking along hand-in-hand in public.

    The police are not your friends and they are not here to help you. They have for some reason become revenue-raising enemies of freedom.

    And it’s mindlessly “pro-cop” attitudes that allow law enforcement to get away with having that anti-freedom and anti-liberty “be thankful and fearful and know-your-place, citizen” outlook.

  83. JAL says

    Jeffrey Dahmer.

    That's one big reason cops tend to be a bit pushy. The cops who answered the call(s?) about his last victim — a young [a minor] Asian boy — on the street, and then let the child go with Dahmer, his "boyfriend"?

    They still should not sleep at night.

    That being said, it seems like the peace officers / law enforcement / whatever guys need to take some serious behavioral classes to develop profiling (not a bad thing) skills and awareness. Unfortunately for those who watch crime TV, profiling means a man and a kid on a street.

    Who knows, maybe the officer who stopped Jer and daughter is reading this. That last comment? A CMA question to put the burden on an innocent paty. Not a smooth move.

  84. SDN says

    tom, when cops stop acting like another street gang, we might be able to trust them again. Until then, I treat them like any other government official: guilty until proven innocent.

  85. Kat says

    When my girls were small, I had a harness made for keeping them in their highchair or stroller, and a dog leash. I'd clip the leash to the back of the harness, so that when they slipped my grip, I could still reel them in. I got a lot of funny looks, but more than one desperate looking mother asked me where I had gotten it.

    Also, I have seen up close what CYS does to families that haven't done anything to deserve the attention. My next door neighbor had a little girl with some developmental delays, and she was at the Doc when her primary was out of town, and a different Doc was covering. Her little girl was miffed because Dad had promised to go to the appt with her in case they had to give her a shot, but he got called into work. He couldn't pass up the chance to make the extra $, so Mom took the little one to the appt. While they were there, the little girl was trying to tell her Mom how mad she was at her Dad,and how he had hurt her feelings by not coming with, but it came out as "Daddy hurt me". Her regular doctor would have known that she never had any signs of abuse, and that she had problems expressing herself, but this Doc didn't know her, so that was all the Doc needed to hear to send the family on a year and a half long rollercoaster ride of losing their kids, endless hearings and lost time at work, and money they couldn't afford.
    It ruined their lives.
    Meanwhile, these same law enforcement officers/social workers do everything in their power to prevent children from being taken from drug addicts, and ignore credible abuse reports.
    it's a screwed up system that needs serious review and revising.

  86. Johann Amadeus Metesky says

    We have created a culture and legal environment where if the cop didn't really push the matter and it turned out later this was an abduction, he and his employer would be sued for neglecting to do everything anyone could imagine, after the fact.

    Actually, cops, their unions and their departments have worked hard litigating to ensure their immunity from lawsuits for failing to protect us. Your local PD could stand by watching your daughter get raped and you wouldn't be able to sue them for failing to stop the rape. Just try to find one instance where a cop or PD was sued for failing to protect someone.

  87. cjrian says

    The voice of experience:

    Having been a single Dad for over 30 years, and having been in similar situations, I have a bit of advice. When someone in a position of authority questions a Dad (or granddad) as to why they are with a child, PLEASE resist the temptation to overreact. Know your Rights and use your God-given talents to respond clearly, rationally, and in a normal tone of voice. Overreacting, even when in the right, will only escalate an unpleasant situation, and may even result in some jail time AND loss of the child. If the investigator acts in an inappropriate manner – DO complain. If, in your best judgement, the investigator is rational – to the investigator first. If they respond poorly then let inform them that you will follow up later, in person, through his/her supervisory channels. Spell out EXACTLY where you felt the investigator erred. Keep moving on up the chain of command until someone understands the specific complaint and will follow through.

    Unfortunately, all too often, men are automatically under a cloud of suspicion, due to both real events and imaginary bias. We can counter this with clarity, an even response, and knowledge.

    5 times – that's how many times I've had to respond to Protective Services for what were resolved as unfounded complaints. Most of the complaints were that someone "0thought something wasn't right'" that a single male was caring for a child. I, and the (grand) children I have custody of now, have literally had to respond to Hundreds of "casual inquiries" by total strangers. Even though my youngest is almost 7, people will still ask the CHILD who I am.
    Grace under pressure and a calm demeanor satisfies them quickly and gets 'em outta my biz with minimal disruption to our lives, which is what we all want anyway, right?

  88. cjrian says


    A level headed response to a (potentially) irrational situation is a good lesson for the child

  89. TexasDude says

    I find it odd that some are denouncing the "culture of fear" while at the same time saying children should be afraid of certain people.


  90. John D says

    I was a police dispatcher for 20 years and the only child abductions I handled were non-custodial parents or family.

    Stranger abduction is very rare and the ones like Elizabeth Smart were not dragged along by the hand. They were snatched and out of sight quickly.

    We have over 300 million people in the U.S. the chances of a child being grabbed off the street by a stranger is not zero but it is a very small number.

  91. FrancisChalk says

    We all know high school buddies who became cops. We also all know these future cops were not the sharpest tools in the shed in high school. Nuff said.

  92. Alan says

    In a couple or a few generations, it will be illegal for parents to touch their children. If you think that's crazy, look at the world we have now compared with say the mid-Fifties. And just draw the same line forward. Progressives want to progress, and they will never stop doing so.

  93. Portiella says

    The camper story above reminds me of an incident in west Texas. A friend f a friend had recently had knee surgery and sitting for long periods was still painful, so she was resting on a mat in the back of a pickup truck with a camper shell when they were pulled over because someone had called 911 to report someone hauling a corpse. Her husband was mortified, she and the cop though it was the funniest thing ever.