When the State Kicks Down Your Door and Takes Your Child Over a Fever

"...earlier that day, a doctor at a naturopathic clinic in Chandler, Arizona, recommended the mother take her two-year-old son—who had a temperature of 100 degrees and is unvaccinated—to Banner Cardon Children’s Hospital emergency room in Mesa, Arizona." - Intellectual Takeout

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

"naturopathic... unvaccinated"... Sounds like a bona fide rescue to me. At least the naturopathic "doctor" had the sense to recommend ER.

pvawter's picture

If they want to discourage parents with unvaccinated kids from getting medical attention they're doing a great job. If disagreeing with a doctor is grounds for the loss of parental rights, why do we even let parents make medical decisions at all?

Bert Perry's picture

This is the kind of case that, when referred to groups like the HSLDA, keeps them in business.  My take on it, as the article presents the facts, is that social services has set themselves up to be slapped into next week by the courts, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone loses their job over it.  I say this, by the way, as someone who shares Aaron's antipathy towards naturopathy.  I've gotten my kids' vaccinations done, too.

The trick is that--again, at least as the article states it--that the doctors recommended an ER visit, and that would justify a warrant to get the child's health appraised.  However, refusing to invite social services in without a warrant does not, absent very egregious circumstances, justify removal of children from the home.  Again, HSLDA and others have won a lot of cases like this, and it's long past time for social services to get with the 4th Amendment program here.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't think we have the whole story. The AZCentral article is somewhat contradictory on the subject of DCS's obtaining a warrant and what that means.

It looks likely to me that the naturopath doc was probably quite upset and persuaded DCS and cops that this was a child seriously at risk. The AZ piece tries to say that the fact that they got a warrant means the child was not seriously at risk because the warrant takes time to get... but this doesn't follow. If you have serious concerns -- say, reasonable suspicion but not quite probable cause -- you have to get the warrant to enter a house without an occupant's permission.

So if mom and dad had simply had a chat with the cops in the first place, it's doubtful things would have escalated like that.

It also sounds to me like the dad's phone call reporting that the baby was OK occurred after the initial visit (probably "denied entry," from the the cops' point of view... they know how to knock really loud!), but also after the DCS warrant effort was either in progress or completed. At that point, it wouldn't be all that relevant. If you're the cops and you have

  • Report of endangered child from someone you consider credible
  • Warrant to rescue the child
  • Parent who is insisting child is OK but won't even come to the door and talk...

... you have a situation that very often means something illegal and/or dangerous is going on. Unless you know the occupants of the house, you kind of have to assume it is and go in ready for anything... especially if the doc also said she thought they had guns in the house. I'm guessing something like that happened; otherwise, the way they go in on the video -- with one weapon drawn, seems overdone. (I can't tell from the vid if the weapon is a firearm or a Taser. If the cop is left handed, it's a Taser. They just about always wear the taser on the non-dominant side, so pulling it is a cross-draw. If he's right handed, he pulled a firearm... maybe just for the light mounted on it, though.)

For what it's worth: in many departments any kind of warrant service is automatically classified as high risk and the high risk protocols are in effect. The reason is that warrant execution has a very high percentage of harm to officers relative to most other things they do.

So... if there's a misunderstanding and cops come to your house about your kids, at least help them accomplish a "knock and talk." Meet them at the door and have a conversation. They're just trying to make sure everybody is OK. (If they have probable cause, they're coming in regardless and you might as well avoid damage to your door. If they don't, you can have a conversation and tell them you don't want them to come in. They'll then have to get the warrant. If you've been calm and non-hostile, even when they're back the warrant, they're not going to think you're about to shoot them or something.)

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron, you're looking at the second interaction.  The first interaction involved the father calling the police and interacting that way.  It makes clear that they did not have a warrant the first time, and that the family did indeed communicate with police.  And given cases where DCS or the police have pushed their way through doors opened "just to talk", I don't blame them at all for calling the station instead of opening the door.  Refusing to open your home without a warrant is no justification for SWAT tactics.  Numerous DCS workers and police have learned that the hard way after groups like the HSLDA got involved.  

Moreover, spare me the lecture about how dangerous police work is.  It's #14, well behind logging, fishing, farming, mining, roofing, and a bunch of other professions.  Plus, once you eliminate drug arrests, violent felon arrests, domestic violence arrests, motor vehicle crashes and suicides from the mix, there really aren't very many fatalities--I'd bet without those, police work drops out of the top 50.  It'd be right up there with software engineering or something. 

And if police would stop using SWAT tactics when they're really not called for, I'm guessing that death rate would drop more.  Put mildly, when police treat everything as a lethal threat,  they shouldn't be surprised when the people they interact with view them the same way.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Bert, if you want to talk about what I actually wrote, and the sequence of events in the news reports (which are still not necessarily the facts, but all we have at this point), I might have something more to say. Otherwise, movin' on.

Your ignorance on this subject is extensive.

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron,suggest you shave if you want to meet someone that shows a lot of ignorance here.  I'm sorry, but everything I said is fact, including the part that apart from the categories I mentioned, police work is about as dangerous as computer programming, and hence the "trigger happy" move to SWAT tactics simply causes more problems.

If you doubt this, look up the Home School Court Report of the HSLDA.  They and others do a thriving business in responding to wrongful warrantless searches, and they've won a lot of cases and even put a fair number of DCS and police workers out of a job.  Look up the actual lists of fatalities among police--it's almost all pursuit of someone already suspected of a violent crime, drug busts, domestics, vehicle accidents, and suicides.  The notion that failing to respond in the desired way to a warrantless search justifies a warrant simply is not true.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Finally have some time for this one...

Quite a bit of what you said is definitely in the opinion category and not a well-informed opinion.

For one thing, I said nothing at all about the danger of being an officer relative to the danger of other professions. (But thinking about this even a little bit should make this obvious: the fact that B is more dangerous than A does not reduce the danger of A.  ... I can see this and I haven't even had my second mug of coffee yet.)

Police policies (I read about 50 of these a month) are normally established with a lot of input by city, county, or state authorities. In all cases, they have to comply with state and federal law. If they have national accreditation, they also have to comply with CALEA requirements. Many cities have civilian oversight boards that strongly influence policy as well. In some cases, they even set policy and can override the cheif's wishes.

Even where the chief determines policy on his own, he's paid, hired and fired by a local government entity... which means, that entity has a great deal of influence. 

The cops who serve the warrant generally have even less say in deciding what protocols to use than the chief does.

In the case of Chandler PD, their general orders are online at: https://www.chandlerpd.com/about/general-orders/ 

A few things that can be learned from the GOs 

  • There's a family crimes unit that is supposed to investigate matters like these D-13
  • There doesn't seem to be a specific protocol for child-related DCS warrants (this is not surprising since the law in AZ requiring these warrants changed only recenlty)
  • There is a detailed search warrant policy (D-34). It's got quite a lot of rules in it. 
  • The policy does allow for officer discretion (p.4) on the scene as to whether to do a no-knock entry: but the officer has to decide if the risk of knock/announce is too high.
  • The policy has a section on risk assessment for determining whether SWAT team is appropriate. 

Quote:

2. ADVISE YOUR SUPERVISOR prior to serving a warrant

3. COMPLETE AND SCORE A THREAT ASSESSMENT and a search warrant operations plan prior to serving a warrant

a. Use the score to determine which method of warrant service is appropriate

b. Make the assessment available to the participating personnel

c. SWAT serves all search warrants where the threat assessment shows a high risk

d. Have the SWAT commander assess entry for all warrants with moderately high to high-risk assessments 

Another fact is that police don't get to decide whether a court-issued warrant is legit. or not. They don't get to evaluate DCS and think "Well, this is really a matter of parental discretion," and leave it alone. Nor do they (usually) get to decide whether to ignore a report of potential harm to a child reported by a doctor.

Two conclusions

  • It appears likely that Chandler PD hasn't yet caught up with changes in state law in AZ and needs a distinct "DCS warrants" policy
  • In the absence of that policy, they probably followed the search warrants policy, which would mean several steps to evaluate risk and involve leadership would be involved

Why policies can sometimes seem to involve excessive force when they don't...

There are a lot of factors here but I'll mention a few:

  • Officers who get killed or seriously injured are hard to replace: there is a national shortage of police officers (with a few depts here and there doing exceptionally well at recruitment, but most struggling)
  • Officers do sometimes sue the city, county, or state for injuries that occurred on duty. Families sometimes sue when officers are killed. This can be very, very expensive for the government entity.
  • The folks who do policy development are working based on data that is not generally well known to the public (like how often ordinary traffic stops or warrant execution calls turn violent).
  • The media is mostly anti-cop--or at least, the loudest voices are anti-cop, so there is an oversimplified narrative that is pretty pervasive in the country.

One final observation: it may seem obvious to some that going into a house with weapons drawn and the whole SWAT tactical approach causes more violence to occur. I really can't see why this is obvious to anyone. The tactics have not developed in a vacuum. The equipment is expensive, the training is time consuming (and therefore expensive)--the whole business is a whole lot of hassle from a policing standpoint. And to many of us, it's pretty obvious that if you go in like that, you are more likely to discourage violent attack by anyone who was thinking about doing that. You'll certainly be more prepared to deal with it if it happens.

It's pretty arrogant to look at policing and think "It's obvious to me that X would be better, and therefore, these people are just not putting much thought into what they do." Every profession has it's share of idiots--including cops. I read work by cops acknowledging this all the time. I can tell you from personal experience that vast numbers of departments across the country put a great deal of thought into what they're doing and are constantly striving to do it better.

Bert Perry's picture

Aaron, the most important thing you said is this:

It appears likely that Chandler PD hasn't yet caught up with changes in state law in AZ and needs a distinct "DCS warrants" policy

Agreed 100%, and if you talk to that law's sponsors in the legislature, some of whom were quoted in the articles, those laws were merely limiting the police to their Constitutional 4th Amendment limits.  It is something that the police should have been doing already, even without the law being passed.  That's why these things blow up so much--families tend to watch these things, especially the anti-vaccination crowd, and when things aren't done by that book, watch out. 

Moreover, it's clear that social services also failed to implement the new law, as they were its primary target.  Not only did they fail to provide a procedure, but they also admitted in the articles linked that they had no data about how often it was done.  It's basically a thumb in the eye of the legislature.  "Yes, it was worth your time to pass this law to rein us in, but we aren't going to do anything to monitor compliance, or even specify procedures to implement the law." Hopefully the head of that agency gets fired for that one.

And that's the core of the complaint.  The will of the legislature was so important to social services that they....did nothing to implement the law.

And that sets up the kind of thing David French notes in this column; a lot of "use of violence situations" derive from how the police conduct themselves.  French should know; he's got a Bronze Star from his service in Iraq, and he's saying (in effect) "what on earth were you thinking?" in a number of high profile cases.  Had he not applied what he learned in infantry combat school there, he might very well have earned a posthumous Purple Heart instead.

And in light of cases like those--I can name more--where the "idiots" you mention do sully the name of the others--it's incumbent upon the police to actually provide data to justify their actions. As Deming said, "In God we Trust; all others must provide data." A good starting point here is to note that when I looked through newspaper articles about officer deaths from 2017 and 2018, I found precisely zero cases where an officer had been killed serving a warrant at the request of social services.

That casts doubt upon the claim that this kind of warrant service puts officers in significant danger absent indications of drug dealing, domestic violence, or known felony crimes of violence.  So the police (and social services) are arguably making their case worse by using SWAT tactics.  

Put more bluntly, after the cases French mentions, as well as a number of others, "just trust us" doesn't work anymore.  The sooner the police understand and apply this, the better.

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.