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My sister and her husband are the loving parents of 6 beautiful, well-behaved, well-disciplined children whose ages range from 2 to 17. They are all boys except for the eldest. They are home-schooled and excel at their studies and are involved in many outside activities

My sister’s children were terrorized by the local police and I hope to get some advice from any legal-eagles who can shed some light on the situation.

On December 5, it snowed and sister and her husband took their daughter to an audition (performing arts) at a college she hopes to attend. The school is some 2 hours away from their home and it was an all-day affair. They left their 15 year old son to care for his brothers and arranged for my mother and another friend to periodically check on the boys throughout the day.

That night, as is their family custom on many a Saturday night, the boys had stripped their beds of pillows and blankets and were cozily settled on the living room floor watching a movie.

They live in a nice neighborhood (50 miles outside of Philadelphia – near Coatesville, PA) of larger homes with big backyards which are not divided with fencing. Only a few neighbors have little children. On this night someone vandalized some mailboxes in the area and footprints were evident leading from the street and though the yards, between the houses. There were also many other footprints in the driveway and front yard since the kids had been out playing in the snow.

The boys were last checked on at 8:20 by the friend. Then at 9:20 the boys were interrupted by loud banging on the door and the local police stormed into their home. Being questioned, my 15 yo nephew explained that no, his parents were not home and that their grandmother and a friend had been stopping by through the day. There were 3 policemen whose 2 patrol cars were in front of the house. The one officer ( Stormtrooper) accused my nephew of the crime of vandalizing the mailboxes. He ordered all the little ones into a bedroom and kept big-brother in the living room where ordered him to remove one of his shoes. The cop examined the suede sneaker and found it to be dry (though he was thought to have just made footprints though snow.) The other two officers posted themselves outside the house with their canine companion.

The friend who’d been checking them had a feeling and called at the same time the cops were banging on the door. Nephew told her that cops were there. She asked to speak to the cop. He told her about the accusation. She explained that she had left the kids only an hour before and said that the police had no right to be in the home and asked him to leave. Stormtrooper said that he would not. She said that she’d be right over and was told not to come since, as she was not in the home when they arrived, she would not be allowed to enter. She called my sister and my sister asked her to keep her cool – my sister had visions of her children being taken away.

Friend did go over and was not allowed to enter. She was told that she was "destroying the footprint evidence" in the yard and that if she didn’t leave Stormtrooper would be forced to cordon off the "crime scene." The other two officers seemed to want nothing to do with Stormtrooper’s lunatic operation.

Sister and spouse were on their way home by then (at about 10 pm) and phoned to check on the situation and let them know they were on the way. The 15 yo answered the phone and my sister could tell that he was upset. She then heard a voice ordering him to hang up the phone, which he did. Sister called right back and told him that he’d better not hang up on her again and asked to speak to the cop. Stormtrooper then took the phone and spoke to my alarmed sister, telling her about the vandalism and that her son was prime suspect.

Sister became livid. She demanded that the cop leave her home immediately and he hung up on her. She called back and, more rationally, tried to reason with the cop who was anything but reasonable. He said that he wanted to question the 15 yo but could not without his parents present and he said that he would wait. The cop then stood in the room with the 15 yo for about two hours until the parents got home. He told the boy that he wouldn’t "get away with it." Nephew said he didn’t know what the cop was talking about and that he hadn’t done anything. Nephew also explained that, along with other neighbors’ cars, their car had been vandalized (reported incidents) and told the cop that whoever vandalized their car had not seen the yogurt that had been left in it and got the yogurt all over the inside of their car. Stormtrooper said that nephew had probably done that to mislead his parents.(Imagine, he couldn’t "question" the boy but he could terrorize him with wild accusation.)

The little ones were petrified. They were ordered to stay in a bedroom with no pillows or blankets and were even afraid to go to the bathroom. The11 yo later said that he’d covered the baby (2 yo) with his own body because the baby was cold.

The cops questioned no one else. The footprints of the alleged perpetrators led from between the houses’ yards directly to the home behind sister’s. That family includes four teenagers who’d been found guilty of vandalism in the past. (They had paint-balled area homes.)

Questioning their neighbors the next day, they found a woman who told them that she’d seen four kids sitting in her car the previous night and they ran away when confronted by her. The woman called the police and reported this – just before the mailbox vandalism.

At the police station the next day, the police chief apologized profusely. He also indicated that the Stormtrooper cop in question was "tenacious" and, as he has no children, didn’t realize that he shouldn’t have separated little kids from their brother and forced them to stay in a room all by themselves.

No one else was ever questioned. Stormtrooper didn’t even try to question my nephew after his parents had arrived. The idiot said things like, "Maam, I was concerned because your 2 year old and 5 year old were still up at 9:30 at night!?! and other shit such as that – which, of course infuriated my sister

When they spoke to the police chief the next day to file a complaint, he told them that he would get back in touch with them to let them know what was happening. He never called.

Sister and husband documented the footprint evidence on film as well as the violated mailboxes... six of them – done with a baseball bat apparently, some knocked off their posts, some just dented.... Innocent little kids terrorized over about $80 worth of damage.

My sister and her husband have sought legal advice only to be told that police misconduct is difficult to prove. They were told that bringing a case would cost upwards of $25,000.

My sister is honestly afraid of this rogue cop and what he might do to other children. They have 2 years to file a lawsuit but, of course, could never afford such cost. Surely there should be some accountability somewhere along the line.

Advice, suggestions?

Originally posted to third Party please on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 08:13 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Stormtrooper? Police state? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There was just a cop that SHOT and KILLED an unarmed man and got away with it and THIS is your evidence that cops are tantamount to SS officers?

    Get some perspective.

  •  I see a Miranda violation right off the bat (7+ / 0-)

    The "main suspect" statement....

    ACLU or the PA. Bar Association could recommend attorneys who would give them a $50 consultation, usually about 45 minutes, which then would give them a map of avenues.

    If nothing else, they could file a grievance with City Hall.

  •  Respectfully, my advice is to get over it. (6+ / 0-)

    It's not worth the effort.

    What were the resultant damages?  The kids are now aware that even cops can be a-holes?  Welcome to reality.  

    It was an unfortunate incident but, if anything, pressing a suit will only bring more trauma, and emnity from the cops. It's not worth it.  Yes, I am an attorney.  That's just my opinion.

    Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

    by SpamNunn on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 08:29:04 AM PST

    •  Thanks, SpamNunn (4+ / 0-)

      It's just that no one else was even questioned. No neighbors were interviewed even though one reported the kids being in her car at about the same time as the mailbox mutilation.

      No, in the larger scheme of things, this is indeed small potatoes. For my sister though, it was a very traumatic experience.

    •  Entry without a warrant (6+ / 0-)

      prima facie case.

      I'm not a doctor, but I play one in the White House

      by ben masel on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:23:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The footprints were probably sufficient probable (0+ / 0-)

        cause to enter once they knocked and saw a house full of kids with no parents.  Apart from a departmental dressing down for the first cop in, this one is a loser. I try very hard to tell people what they need to hear, as opposed to what they want to hear.  It saves them time, money and aggravation.

        Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

        by SpamNunn on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:52:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nope. Sufficient to ask a judge for a warrant, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          third Party please

          but not for a warrantless entry. Not a "hot pursuit," and nothing to indicate that waiting to get the warrant would lead to the kids destroying their shoes.

          I'm not a doctor, but I play one in the White House

          by ben masel on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 10:15:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You can take that case, ben (0+ / 0-)

            Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

            by SpamNunn on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 10:18:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  It Is Pretty Unreasonable To Think... (0+ / 0-)

            that we have accurate enough information at hand, to determine specific legalities.

            After all, The nephew told his mother, the mother told her sister (Third Party), And she is telling us.  Do you remember the game where you whisper to your friend and after about 4 or 5 times it doesn't resemble the original statement?

            I agree with SpamnNunn.  Get over it, for the sake of the kids.

            If the Aunt wants to talk to the Police Chief about it again, maybe she could get an apology, to the nephew, or just get one final "vent".

            If Third Party and her sister continue to rant about this incdident, her kids will gain an unreasonable fear and resentment to cops, in general.

            •  You don't think (2+ / 0-)

              they might have reason to fear cops already?

              Wouldn't it allay their fear better -- the older ones who can understand -- if they saw a successful appeal to the justice system or a higher authority?  Shouldn't the message be: misuse of authority doesn't pay?

            •  No one is "ranting" about the incident... (0+ / 0-)

              we had a family party last night. A niece is a para-legal and my sister shared the story with her (wondering if she'd ever come across something similar.) It happened just over a month ago and my sister is also put out that the chief of police didn't bother to get back to them as he promised.

              Unfortunately, this - their first personal experience with cops has lead to a (very reasonable) fear of cops for my nephews.

              My sister and husband thought Stormtrooper's actions were over the top. He actually said, "...well - your 2 yo and 5 yo were still up at 9:30 at night." I mean WTF?! Is that ANY OF HIS BUSINESS???

              The two cops who stayed outside sort of shrugged and stayed out of the whole scene.

              One of our brothers is a cop (in another state) - maybe we'll run it by him for his feedback.

            •  While blanket fear of cops may be unreasonable (0+ / 0-)

              (if the kids are white,) skepticism of them is healthy.

              A few months ago I was in a stripmall bagel joint, wearing my "Notice to Law Enforcement: I do not consent to a search" t-shirt. Another patron, there with his 12 year old son introduced himself as an off duty cop from one of Madison's suburbs, and proceeded to use my message as a teaching moment for his kid. "He's right. Don't ever give an officer permission to search. You never know what one of your friends has left in the car."

              I'm not a doctor, but I play one in the White House

              by ben masel on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 12:00:31 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Sounds like the cop was being a jerk but (4+ / 0-)

    it could've been much worse.  You start messing with the cops and the next thing you know they are filing child endangerment charges for leaving such young children in the care of a 15 yo.  Bogus charge yes but one that could end up costing you a lot.  Also, probably enough evidence to at least charge the kid though it sounds like it's not enough to convict.  All in all you might when the battle but lose the war.

    I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat. Will Rogers

    by thestructureguy on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 08:38:32 AM PST

  •  sorry to waste anyone's time... (6+ / 0-)

    I hadn't heard about this myself until last night and I was shocked and outraged.

    My nephews are the sweetest, most respectful children I know. I live not far from my sister and wish I had been called so that, at least, I could have kept the little ones company.

    If I had gone over and had not been allowed to enter their home, I would have freaked. I would have called the police... maybe if the chief had been made aware, things would have worked out differently.

    Thanks for the advice. My sister just wants to make a formal complaint so that there is a record of this guy's excessive behavior.

  •  Yeah better to just be a meek whiny liberal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  If it had happened to my kids, I would contact (3+ / 0-)

    the ACLU and file a formal complaint against these officers.  I would also make sure the incident was reported in the local newspaper, or on local radio/TV.  There is a huge increase in violence being perpetrated by cops on unarmed citizens. And even though none of the kids were hurt, there will be confusion about whether ever to trust and respect law enforcement officials again.  We need a concerted effort throughout the country, to make sure public servants focus on protecting and helping rather than controlling and punishing citizens.

    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - JFK

    by moose67 on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 10:39:28 AM PST

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