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Brantford Police Admit Mistake
April 15, 2006 permalink
Here is a follow-up on our story about a child seized with threats instead of cause, this time in The Brantford Expositor.
Police acknowledge error in handling of CAS case
Police board chairman: 'They shouldn't have done that'
City police officers made a mistake when they forced their way into a child's home and threatened her mother with arrest unless her daughter was turned over to the CAS, says the police board chairman.
"They shouldn't have done that," Bob Lancaster said in a recent interview.
"That was the one error made by police and now it's a training issue," so it won't happen again."
But that doesn't satisfy a Burlington child court advocate who was asked to intervene in the Brantford case.
Anne Marsden appeared at a recent police board meeting to explain her concerns about a September 2005 incident where a Children's Aid Society worker, accompanied by police officers, apprehended a three-year-old girl. The CAS had suspicions that a man they considered to be unsafe was living in the house.
Later, it was determined the man was living in a different community and, after a court appearance, the child was returned to her mother.
Marsden maintains the damage done to the child is irreversible.
She and the child's mother laid an official complaint with police but the complaint was lost.
Insp. Scott Easto, who normally deals with such matters, said the complaint was somehow lost while he was away on vacation.
Police Chief Derek McElveny wrote an apology to the mother and asked for a copy of the complaint.
And Lancaster said the board addressed the problem by advising the police to set up a system to ensure a signed complaint can't be lost.
But Marsden still insisted on speaking to the board about their protocol in having police assist with CAS apprehensions.
"The police made five visits to that home before finding the mother in and yet, on the Internet, the police board chair has clearly stated that additional resources are required for the police to perform their duties," said Marsden. "I wanted to talk to them about how they are allocating their resources."
After much discussion, Marsden agreed to speak at a closed meeting of the board in March
She presented a seven-page report detailing how police removed the child from her home.
Marsden says she believes police participated in an abduction since there was no warrant, no valid cause for concern and threats of arrest made against the mother.
She says public resources were used to cause emotional trauma to the child.
She laid a complaint against the chief of police for not responding to her plea to return the child immediately and for his handling of the original complaint from the mother and Marsden.
But her complaint was dismissed by the police as vexatious, frivolous and in bad faith.
"She's wrong in her assumptions," explained Easto. "The (Child and Family Services Act) says if a child is in need of protection, the police must act. If we didn't act and the child is then harmed we would be held responsible."
According to the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, many area CAS's have a protocol with police services for when they make a child apprehension.
Easto said it's unreasonable to expect that the CAS or police will always have a warrant filled out in order to complete an apprehension since, in the case of emergencies, timing would be critical.
Marsden was angry that her appearance before the board was held behind closed doors.
"We have been refused a public hearing by the board on issues which impact all residents of Brantford whose taxes contribute to the Brantford police budget," she said in her written presentation.
Lancaster said Marsden was heard in private because her complaint related to the chief of police.
The Police Services Act allows boards to close their doors to the public if they are dealing with matters of public security, finances or personal matters -- as long as it's more important to avoid disclosure than it is to adhere to the principle of keeping the meetings public.
Source: Photocopy provided by a Brantford reader
The Brantford Expositor lets the police statements go uncontested. We don't.
For comment on the view that the child was safe because there was no man in the house, refer to Stephen Baskerville.
A complaint that a child was taken from her mother without cause was treated as "vexatious, frivolous and in bad faith", a comment worthy of Alice in Wonderland.
The (Child and Family Services Act) says if a child is in need of protection, the police must act. If we didn't act and the child is then harmed we would be held responsible.
The CFSA gives child protectors powers without obligations. No one in the child protection industry has been held responsible for harm to a child, even fatal harm.