If this happened to me, there’d be hell to pay!

I’m furious to read (courtesy of a link by Earthbound Misfit) about a grandfather and his granddaughter in Austin, TX, who were allegedly the victims of some very heavy-handed and highly unprofessional conduct by that city’s Police Department. The grandfather blogs at ‘Grits For Breakfast’, and tells us what happened from his perspective. Here’s a brief excerpt.

We stopped to look back, and there was a dark silhouette crossing the street who Ty thought was calling out to us. We waited, but then the silhouetted figure stopped, crouched down for a moment, then took a few steps back toward the rec center, appearing to speak to someone there. I shrugged it off and we walked on, but in a moment the figure began walking down the path toward us again, calling out when she was about 150 feet away. We stopped and waited. It was a brown-suited deputy constable, apparently out of breath from the short walk.

She told me to take my hand out of my pocket and to step away from Ty, declaring that someone had seen a white man chasing a black girl and reported a possible kidnapping. Then she began asking the five-year old about me. The last time this happened, Ty was barely two, and I wasn’t about to let police question her. This time, though, at least initially, I decided to let her answer. “Do you know this man?” the deputy asked. “Yes,” Ty mumbled shyly, “he’s my Grandpa.” The deputy couldn’t understand her (though I did) and moved closer, hovering over the child slightly, repeating the question. Ty mumbled the same response, this time louder, but muffled through a burgeoning sob that threatened to break out in lieu of an answer.

The deputy still didn’t understand her: “What did you say?” she repeated. “He’s my Grandpa!,” Ty finally blurted, sharply and clearly, then rushed back over to me and grabbed hold of my leg. “Okay,” said the deputy, relaxing, acknowledging the child probably wasn’t being held against her will. (As we were talking, a car pulled up behind her on the bike path with its brights on – I couldn’t tell what agency it was with) Then she pulled out her pad and paper and asked “Can I get your name, sir, just for my report?” I told her I’d prefer not to answer any questions and would like to leave, if we were free to go, so I could get the child to bed. She looked skeptical but nodded and Ty and I turned tail and walked toward home.

. . .

As soon as we crossed the street, just two blocks from my house as the crow flies, the police car that just passed us hit its lights and wheeled around, with five others appearing almost immediately, all with lights flashing. The officers got out with tasers drawn demanding I raise my hands and step away from the child. I complied, and they roughly cuffed me, jerking my arms up behind me needlessly. Meanwhile, Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying. One of them called out in a comforting tone that they weren’t there to hurt her, but another officer blew up any good will that might have garnered by brusquely snatching her up and scuttling her off to the back seat of one of the police cars. (By this time more cars had joined them; they maxxed out at 9 or 10 police vehicles.)

I gave them the phone numbers they needed to confirm who Ty was and that she was supposed to be with me (and not in the back of their police car), but for quite a while nobody seemed too interested in verifying my “story.” One officer wanted to lecture me endlessly about how they were just doing their job, as if the innocent person handcuffed on the side of the road cares about such excuses. I asked why he hadn’t made any calls yet, and he interrupted his lecture to say “we’ve only been here two minutes, give us time” (actually it’d been longer than that). “Maybe so,” I replied, sitting on the concrete in handcuffs, “but there are nine of y’all milling about doing nothing by my count so between you you’ve had 18 minutes for somebody to get on the damn phone by now so y’all can figure out you screwed up.” Admittedly, this did not go over well. I could tell I was too pissed off to say anything constructive and silently vowed to keep mum from then on.

As all this was happening, the deputy constable who’d questioned us before walked up to the scene and began conversing with some of the officers. She kept looking over at me nervously as I stood 20 feet or so away in handcuffs, averting her gaze whenever our eyes risked meeting. It seemed pretty clear she was the one who called in the cavalry, and it was equally clear she understood she was in the wrong.

There’s much more at the link.

Obviously, we’ve only heard one side of events here; but if even half what he relates is true, I believe he should file a civil rights lawsuit at once. He describes so many breaches of his constitutional and legal rights (not to mention generally accepted police procedures and practices) that I think his case would be a slam-dunk in court. If his allegations are proven to be correct, it seems to me that the entire Austin PD will need a top-to-bottom overhaul and re-training (not to mention dismissal of all those involved in such egregious violations). On the other hand, if the allegations are proven to be false, then the grandfather needs to answer for his accusations.

I hope that pressure will be applied to get to the bottom of this situation. Why haven’t the mainstream news media in Austin picked up on it? Perhaps readers in or near that city could draw this matter to their attention, and/or write to their council representatives, asking them to investigate further. Also, if any of my readers are in personal contact with Radley Balko, I’d be grateful if you’d please inform him about this matter – he might be interested in following up. I don’t think this should be allowed to fade away. The issues it raises are too important for that.



  1. Are you kidding me? Let's review. The police have a report of a child being chased and possibly abducted. This individual and the child match the description. He is approached by a lone female officer and is evasive during questioning. Doesn't want to even give his name . (Minimal cooperation on his part at this point could have avoided the unpleasantness that transpired later). He also admits that the child is visibly fearful and he's holding his hand in a pocket. The police have a responsibility and the right to detain people when investigating reports of criminal activity. The seriousness and exigency of this situation combined with the fact that this individual and the child matched the description of the parties involved definitely required that the officers identify the parties and make sure that the child belonged to or with him. Anything less would have been negligent on the part of the officers. The child needed to be questioned apart from the grandfather just as spouses on a domestic call need to be questioned separately. The reason for this is that many times people who are being victimized are too afraid to tell police what is happening in front of their abuser. Even if the officer is right there. This man was inconvenienced. In large measure because he was too selfish to cooperate in what was explained to him to be an investigation thats focus was to locate a possibly endangered child. I'm quite certain if the child that was reportedly being chased by a man through the park was your child or grandchild you would most certainly want the police to make sure that any child matching the description given in the area belonged with the adult that currently had them. Had the police failed to do this and the child's body was subsequently found in a dumpster after suffering unspeakable abuse, which occurs all too often, everyone would be screaming that the police didn't do their job. They did their job and they did it well according to standard procedure. If a taser or tasers were pointed at him there is a very good probability that there was something which he failed to mention in his demeanor or conduct which caused that to happen. The police have no idea who they are dealing with in a situation. They don't get paid to take needless risks or for that matter to get hurt. They deal with the dregs of society 40 plus hours a week for 20 plus years. You don't survive that by taking peoples word for things.

  2. Anonymous, you need to rethink your premises. The rule of law is the presumption of innocence. The first investigating officer was quite right to try to establish what was going on: but when the child herself indicated that she was with her grandfather, that should have ended it, right there. As far as we know, there was no actual report of a missing child – only someone's suspicions on seeing a black child with a white man. Those are not, repeat, NOT grounds for aggressive intervention such as described.

    If you think otherwise, you really need to study US law and constitutional rights. If I were treated like that by any law enforcement officer, for so little justifiable reason, I'd be suing on the spot – and I'd undoubtedly win. The law is clear on this, and juridical precedent is unmistakeable.

    Law enforcement officers are NOT above the law. Having been one myself, and been trained at some length in rights, law and jurisprudence, I can assure you that the reported conduct of the officers in this case went way beyond what is acceptable.

  3. "If you think otherwise, you really need to study US law and constitutional rights."


    A little off the subject, but if Obama is reelected in November, the Constitution, U.S. law and "rights" will be moot points.


  4. Not to worry. There will be a brief Internal Affairs whitewash which will show that nobody did anything wrong, and the whole event will quietly disappear.

    (And it's Radley Balko, not Radney. He's been a hero of mine for years.)

  5. Anon, the police damn well DO get paid to take risks. That's part of the job. They may not get paid enough, but they do get paid for it. They are NOT allowed to run roughshod over every member of the community in the name of simplicity and safety (there's never any indication in the story that officer safety was an issue). They are NOT allowed to themselves take children away from parents and guardians because of some nebulous report of kidnapping. If the police answer is to cuff and stuff everybody they talk to, then I have to have some pause when we talk about the police as being heroes worthy of respect because of the risks they run on our behalf. That ends the moment they violate our rights in the name of their own feelings.

    It seems to me that the only thing the guy should have done differently would have been to provide his name to the police- it wasn't required, but it might well have saved everything that came next.

    Keep in mind- now we have a little girl who, as a result of TWO bad experiences with the police, both at five years of age or younger, will never trust the police. You wonder why whole communities refuse to assist the police? You wonder why otherwise law abiding people don't trust the police and get edgy and nervous when they're around? THIS IS WHY.

  6. She not only has had two bad experiences, but she's also not likely to get much correction of her bad thoughts regarding law enforcement from her immediate family, including grandpa.

    It never ceases to amaze me how law enforcement so readily throws any semblance of positive PR away in favor of the thuggish behavior that comes more and more easily with each day.

    I remember when they were all presumed to be the good guys; I liked it better then.

  7. That is the problem with the article in general. It omits critical information which is necessary to fairly judge the events which took place. What exactly was reported to the police? What exactly were the man's actions prior to being handcuffed? The thought that you can take the child's word in this instance is unreasonable. The individual who wrote the article admits the female officer had difficulty understanding the child. Undoubtedly, the reason the situation was not handled at the initial point of contact with the female officer is that she lacked the confidence to stop the man from proceeding and to establish that he was the rightful care giver for the child at that point. It should have been taken care of right there. I think what we are seeing here in the comments are people taking the limited information they are provided and their natural inclinations and attitudes toward police are filling in the gaps. I include myself. I've been the police for a very long time. It is my natural inclination to give the benefit of the doubt to the police. The reason why is in my many years of being the police I have seen very few examples of any of my fellow officers intentionally violating someones rights or going out of their way, particularly in a situation like this, to become overly aggressive right off the bat without justification. What I have seen is better than half the times when you are dispatched to something you get wrong information. As many times as not what you are told when you respond to the call turns out to be something completely different after you get on scene and find out what is really going on. If they just grabbed this man and handcuffed him for no reason then there no doubt is grounds for complaint. I highly doubt that's the case. If you read the man's blog you'll see that he is an anti-police activist. That is his right and his perogative, however, it does remove him from being considered objective. Based upon my own personal experience people of this inclination regularly conduct themselves in such a manner during encounters with police to make certain that they end up in handcuffs. That is why we now have video cameras in all of our police cars. If I had a dollar for every lie that has been told about me and the things I was supposed to have done I'd vacation well this year. The video camera in my car which most of the liars are unaware of has vindicated me time after time. Very few of those who falsely accused me were ever arrested for filing a false police report, although they should have been, and unfortunately state law prohibits me from suing them for falsely accusing me. If indeed someone had called in simply because they found it unusual that a white man was escorting a black little girl then the response was over the top. In fact, one could argue that a supervisor in the 911 center could have stated that this was not worthy of a police response and stopped the call from ever being dispatched in the first place. Once the officer on the street is dispatched to the call they are expected to deal with it. I'm regularly dispatched to calls where I think it is ludicrous to send the police. My boss still insists I respond and make certain that "everything's ok". The reason why he insists that is not because he cares if "everything is ok" or not. The reason he insists is because he is concerned about civil liability. Blood sucking lawyers and those looking to get rich sit back and lick their lips waiting on the police to make a mistake. Respond and you violated someones rights. Don't respond and your negligent.

  8. The Founding Fathers all agreed that for a society that affords the level of freedom ours does to work the citizenry needed to be literate, informed and moral. There are still some citizens who are but they are becoming fewer by the day, particularly in the inner cities. Our society has decomposed. Government is thoroughly corrupt on every level, municipalities, counties, states and the Federal. Our culture has eroded to the point that the majority of people I come in contact with are incapable of even raising their own children because they are too intoxicated, mentally ill or otherwise distracted to be bothered. It's not just a few. The neighborhoods stretch for miles in every direction. No one has a job, the free public education that the few taxpayers left pay through the nose for is completely unvalued and unappreciated. It is a culture of death that is celebrated throughout the whole community. It has nothing to do with race. All races are represented in the mess. The entitlement programs in place today are not only destroying our economy they are destroying our society as whole. Society needs to make up it's mind. Do you want the kind of police that has to be constantly concerned about every possibility of civil liability and therefore leaves no stone unturned in an instance like this? Or, would you prefer to live in a world where when someone calls in something like this the police say that's not a police matter? I prefer the latter. I live my life with a level of personal responsibility that doesn't require the police to supervise my children or respond to my house because I can't civilly interact with my neighbors or spouse. Unfortunately, depending on where you live that can be the rare exception rather than the rule.

  9. @Anonymous at 10.54 & 10.59 p.m.:

    I agree with almost everything you say. I've not served alongside you (as far as I know), but I can echo your observations of the 'underclass' almost word-for-word based on my own experience.

    However, that experience doesn't permit me to treat others as 'guilty until proven innocent'. In a situation where there's no threat of violence, either reported or observed, I have no right to impose a violent response upon the other parties involved – even if that 'violent response' is to ensure officer safety while further investigations are made. The Supreme Court among others has been very clear about that. I can take steps to ensure my safety, but in the absence of a clear and present danger to me and/or other officers, those steps may not violate the civil rights of others.

    I think you'll agree that multiple officers doing a felony stop on a grandfather and his grandchild, where no violence had been offered or could reasonably be anticipated, is over the top. Furthermore, handcuffing him and separating him from the child, in the absence of any evidence that she was in danger, is going beyond the pale. As I said in the original article, if this had happened to me, I'd be suing the PD concerned – and I'm pretty sure I'd win. Juridical precedent is all on my side.

    Too many cops forget that they are public servants, not public masters. This incident is a classic example of that reality.

  10. I read that post (and the one about the first time GFB was stopped for "babvsitting a black child while white" and don't blame him a bit for being defensive.

    As to "what really happened", someone who claimed to be on duty in the 911 center that night commented on his post. The commenter said the report was (paraphrasing) "a black child crying and screaming, being chased by a white man". Personally I called bullshit on the comment because if that were so the deputy constable who first approached him should've and certainly would've handled herself differently.

    I'd bet a dollar to a doughnut that the actions of the badge-heavy cowboys who rolled up and thoroughly queered the situation – horning in on the call that the deputy constable had just handled, shouting commands with at least TASERs drawn, taking the child away from GFB, accusatory questioning of both of them – were because their overweening macho-ness told them, "Dickless Tracy there, typical female almost-a-cop, shouldn'ta let the guy go when he wouldn't give his name. If she were a *real* cop she wouldn't let a civilian diss her like that. Can't let those fuckers get away with that shit."

    Yes, such testicular stupidity regarding female LEOs is still out there. A friend of mine who spent over twenty years in it started out that way, then, as he says, "I grew up." Some of them never do, and we suffer for it.

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