The above-linked story tells of yet another busy body who picked up the phone and caused mayhem, where there should not have been any. As I write this, I have a call in to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, requesting a phone interview with Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Ladd, the officer featured in the story. Let’s see if he answers up. In the meantime, let me pen a few thoughts here that I will try to bring up with Ladd. First item, who was the reporting source, and what did they report? Was this a 911 call? Was this treated as an emergency? Second item, was it illegal for the kids to be walking where they were walking? If not, then what was the basis for the subsequent traffic stop of the mom, and the finding that, “Mrs. Palmer was in no position to reach her children safely in the event of an emergency.” Yeah, so what? Is there a law that requires a parent to be in such a position at all times? Third item, if the kids were, in fact, walking legally, and no parent had been there at all, would legal action have been initiated in some way against the children themselves? What if they just reported that they were walking to school? Would all of this have simply gone away? In essence, did the mom’s presence, in and of itself, provide law enforcement the opportunity to intervene when there was no justifiable reason to do so? With nothing else to go on, I’m guessing yes. You’re here for us to cite; we may as well cite you. Now, here comes dad, starring in the next chapter of a story that never should have started in the first place. Funny how dominoes fall like that. It’s bad enough what did happen, but now let’s imagine that, God forbid, the officer thought that the dad was going for something other than a knife, and emptied a clip into him. Oops. All this, for what again?
Now, let’s talk about the parents a bit. OK, so maybe they’re not the Cleavers, but that should not matter in this case. I’m imagining that the busy-body, nosy-neighbor population wants to make the argument that “This all probably worked out for the best. We can tell that they were rotten parents, and had been in trouble with the law before. Maybe the kids will be better off for it.” That’s dangerous talk, if you respect the rule of law that is. And, in this case, it would seem that the police are not on solid legal ground. In an otherwise danger-free situation, “something could have happened” is not sufficient cause to mentally insert danger where there is none, and then take action based on it. I’m sorry, but “something could have happened” is the root of this entire child-safety social contagion in the first place. We cannot justify and/or sanctify applying this ridiculous standard to innocuous situations such as this, even if we suspect that the parental “skills” in the game are perhaps sub-par. Maybe there is even a “local angle” on this story, and on the parents. It’s likely that there is. However, we’re talking about the rights of all parents here, and the perceived quality of care-giving should not matter in those cases where the real, evident, demonstrable danger to the children is nearly zero. Are there shitty parents out there? Sure are. Maybe these guys are examples. But as long as the police continue to prosecute parents based on moral righteousness (these parents suck!), not to mention imaginary danger, the rights of all parents are threatened. The fact that the police could get away with doing what they did here should disturb all clear-thinking parents.
Let’s see if I can gain further insight by talking it out with the police who were there. I’ll keep you posted.