Body-camera footage released by police in Chandler, Arizona, Thursday show cops storming into a suburban home last month, searching for an unvaccinated toddler they heard had a soaring fever of 105 degrees. Their aim: Get the kid to the hospital.
The child’s mother allegedly ignored a doctor’s request that the 2-year-old get checked out sooner rather than later. She was allegedly afraid to take him in because he was unvaccinated, but she also reported he seemed to be getting better after the doctor visit. Police caught word of what happened from the physician, showed up to the family’s house late at night on February 25, and rang the doorbell. The father tried to turn them away.
“You’re making this way more worse than it needs to be,” a police officer said in the body cam footage released Thursday. The father contends that he doesn’t want to drop “three grand” on an ER visit.
“We gave him a bath and his fever broke. He’s doing fine,” The father of the three young kids inside can be heard saying in the body camera footage. “It is not a life-threatening situation.”
“If we have to make this even worse than it needs to be, then those kids will be taken away,” the officer responded, arguing they’d spoken to the physician and that the physician agreed the child needed to head to the emergency room — now. Allegedly, the physician told police they were worried the child had meningitis, but was unable to conduct proper testing at the clinic.
As a last resort — and since the father wouldn’t come outside — the cops kicked in the door after 1 a.m., nearly three hours after they first showed up. “We’re here to check on the safety of your child, you need to come to the front door!” one officer screamed. “We have a court order from CPS to take temporary custody of your child.”
The parents were then each charged with child abuse. The children, ages 2, 4, and 6, remain in foster care, according to the Arizona Republic. Police also found a shotgun in the parents’ bedroom, and clothes on the floor, according to the Washington Post, and considered the home messy. One kid told the cops he had vomited several times in his bed.
Eventually, after the cops got the 2-year-old to the emergency room, he was diagnosed with a respiratory infection, and the other kids weren’t considered seriously ill. Nicholas Boca, the attorney who is representing the mom in the case, told the Post the police were “completely unjustified” and called their actions “ridiculous.”
Since a new state law took effect in July, child-welfare workers in Arizona are allowed limited circumstances to remove a kid from their parent without a warrant if they believe the child is in imminent danger, according to the Arizona Republic. Critics and advocates are now wondering if that law gives police and child protective services too much power.
“If they can do this to one family, they can do it to anyone,” Lori Ford, a member of a local watchdog organization called Arizona DCS Oversight Group, told the Republic. “DCS took their kids and treated these parents like they were criminals.”
Cover: March 18, 2019, Saxony, Radeberg: A pediatrician examines a 1-year-old girl with a stethoscope as part of a pediatric vaccination against meningococcus. Photo by: Sebastian Kahnert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images