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Partial Apology

June 6, 2012 permalink

In February four-year-old Nevaeh Sansone drew a picture that teachers said looked like a gun. Police arrested father Jessie Sansone and strip-searched him. They also searched his home. Children's aid insisted on interviewing his other children in a quest for abuse.

Now the police department has apologized for the strip search. So far there is no apology from the school or children's aid.



Police apologize to crayon gun dad

Jessie Sansone with Nevaeh
Jessie Sansone, 26, holds his four-year-old daughter Nevaeh in this undated photo. Sansone is upset because he was arrested Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012.
QMI Agency/Submitted/Sansone family

OTTAWA - Four months after arresting and strip-searching a man because his four-year-old daughter drew a picture of him shooting monsters and bad guys, police in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., have apologized to the young family.

In their internal review of 26-year-old Jessie Sansone's arrest, Waterloo Regional Police said they did everything right — except their method of search.

“The results of this review have determined that Waterloo Regional Police officers acted in accordance with the law by arresting Mr. Sansone and made every effort to preserve his dignity and the safety of this community,” said Chief Matt Torigian.

“However, the review also found that due to a miscommunication in the processing of Mr. Sansone, he was subjected to a Thorough Search instead of a less intrusive Frisk Search— an oversight which we regret.”

Torigan said he and Deputy Chief Thomlison met with, and personally apologized to, Sansone for the impact his arrest had on his family.

Sansone, however, said sorry's not enough.

“I am a forgiving person, but this isn't just about me. It's not just my own family. This was a whole system that crashed down on us, and it was all because of a four-year-old's drawing,” he said. “They could have just talked with me instead. This can't be allowed to happen to my neighbour, to another family.”

In February, the father of four was met at his children's school by police officers, who arrested him for possession of a firearm.

He was taken to the station in handcuffs and strip-searched while his home was searched and his pregnant wife was questioned. His children were picked up at the school by social workers and taken across town for questioning.

Cops stripped Sansone naked and had him lift his testicles so officers could see under them, turn around, and bend over.

All of this started when his daughter Nevaeh, in junior kindergarten, drew a picture of her dad shooting bad guys on a classroom white board.

The ensuing conversation between the teacher and the tot lead the teacher to believe there was a handgun within reach of the children at home.

The school called family services who, in turn, called police.

Police found nothing in the home other than an empty plastic gun sold at Canadian Tire for $16. The toy was meant to propel peppercorn-sized plastic beads — something the family never had in the house.

“Although not crucial at the time of the arrest, the Air Soft Pistol that was located has the capability to fire a projectile at approximately 180 feet per second and if pointed at someone may constitute a criminal offence and could most certainly cause injury if used carelessly,” reads the police report.

Neither the school nor family services have apologized. The school board maintained it had the children's welfare in mind because school officials “co-parent” students.

The family is trying to retain a lawyer.

Sansone will speak with Michael Coren on Sun News Network on Thursday in his first TV interview since his arrest.

Source: London Free Press

An opinion piece on the non-apologetic apology.



Family victimized by over-reacting officials

In the "stop digging when you're in a deep hole" department, four months after detaining, arresting and strip-searching a young father, Ontario's Waterloo Regional Police have said sorry ... sort of.

Twenty-six-year old Jesse Sansone was collared in February at his four year-old daughter's school when the junior kindergartener drew a picture of her dad "shooting monsters and bad men".

The drawing was enough to panic a weak-minded teacher into scaring a gullible principal who caused fright among reactionary child welfare officials, who then called in the cops.

The drawing was apparently made on an erasable white board and was seen only by the teacher before it was somehow conveniently erased.

This was odd, given the significant evidential value of a picture so obviously terrifying that normally rational adults decided to grab Sansone, have child welfare staff scoop up his children into temporary foster care and sit his frightened wife down for questioning by the police.

As Sansone arrived at his little girl's school to pick her up, he was met by officers who handcuffed him, perp walked him out the front door past startled staff and students, bundled him into a squad car and arrested him on suspicion of possessing a firearm.

Hours later - after spending an entire afternoon searching the young family's home, as Sansone sat in police cells terrified for his family - police found a gun. It was a $16 toy, plastic gun from Canadian Tire.

In apologizing this week, police did not actually say sorry for most of what they did; in fact Chief Matt Torigian pointed out that they "acted in accordance with the law".

It was only when Sansone was given the full Monty naked, bend-over strip search that this was chalked up to a "miscommunication". Apparently, he was supposed to be only frisked with his clothes on and not rubber gloved.

It was hardly an apology for an appalling misuse of discretion, poor judgment and an overreaction by police officers.

But it must have pained the police - apologizing as they did through gritted teeth - to know that their internal report on the incident actually concluded that the plastic toy gun "had the capability to fire a projectile at approximately 180 feet per second and if pointed at someone may constitute a criminal offence and could most certainly cause injury if used carelessly."

Based on this, the entire Sansone family had best consider itself lucky that they weren't all locked up - especially any of their kids for pointing that plastic gun at one another.

As anemic as it was, at least the police pretended to apologize which is more than can be said for both the school and family and child services who played a role in this theatre of the absurd.

Social workers and school officials adamantly maintain that they are not apologizing. The school board stands by its memorable statement that it acted properly because school officials "co-parent" students.

And Alison Scott, senior bureaucrat for family and child services for the region, says "we followed proper standards and procedures and I do not see any need for our agency to apologize for fulfilling our mandated responsibility."

Scott doesn't seem to concern herself with the complete and utter lack of any evidence of wrongdoing in this case. Apparently, the mere mention in passing of a gun in a house is enough to trigger the seizure of children and the full weight of officialdom on the head of a dad like Jesse Sansone.

The dilemma for parents and families everywhere is what can happen when three different agencies form a toxic combination of institutional stupidity that offends both rudimentary common sense and decency.

Based on this united front of hubris and denial, if the same situation arose again today, the school, government social workers and police would do exactly the same thing all over again and some parent would be handcuffed and hauled off to jail. But, at least in Waterloo, Ontario, they can take solace that this time the police might not do a strip search.

The Sansone family deserves an apology, not some half-hearted attempt at bureaucratic butt-covering.

Gormley is a talk-show host, lawyer, author and former Progressive Conservative MP. He can be heard Monday to Friday 8: 30 a.m. to 12: 30 p.m. on NewsTalk 980 CJME.

Source: Regina Leader-Post