Four weeks ago I was returning home from my son’s soccer practice at 9:15am. As I drove through our neighborhood, the main thoroughfare was closed by the police and yellow tape was strung across the street. Obviously something serious had happened. At 11:30 that same morning I was leaving to run errands and the police barricade had grown. I pulled over and asked the police office on duty, “Sir, I live down the street. Can you tell me what’s happened here?”. In a shipper tone he said, “Sure. A body was found in a neighbor’s yard early this morning. Don’t worry. It looks like a drifter wandered into the neighborhood overnight, possibly somebody who was mentally ill and/or wasn’t taking their medication and they died overnight – possibly someone with Alzheimer’s.” I said, “How do you know that?” The office said, “We can see from our preliminary evidence that this was a drifter, someone who was sick, and who probably needed medication. There is nothing to fear. So don’t tell your neighbors that there was a homicide or that someone was killed in the area. That’s definitely not the case.”
Later that evening our entire neighborhood learned on the evening news that the body that was found was of a 5-year old little boy. He had been murdered and dumped on a random person’s lawn. He lived less than a mile away. Til this day I am dumbfounded, disgusted and angry that the police officer blatantly lied to me. If he couldn’t release any information at the scene of the crime, why didn’t he just say, “Ma’am, I cannot release any information at this time.”?
Back in 2007, I was driving down Interstate 35 at noon on a Saturday afternoon. I witnessed a 4-year old boy being beaten on the side of the highway. I slammed on my horn and immediately pulled my car over. Two other drivers pulled over as well. I called 911. The man beating the little boy jumped into his car and darted into traffic. The witness who pulled over behind him chased him. I wrote down the license plate numbers. I had to drive 2-3 miles up the road to find a police office to file the police report. I remember when he wrote down the information on his mini notepad, he did not write down specific details about the boy, the abuser or the car involved. I asked him, “You are going to do something about this, right? The police officer said, “Oh, of course. I have children myself.”
Tuesday of that week I called the police department to get an update whether the police arrested the abuser, if the little boy was okay, etc…The lady who took my call said, “We do not have any police report. I do see three 911 calls about this situation. But that’s it. We would only have a police report if the police officers turned in the report you filed. Apparently neither of the 3 police reports that were made by the witnesses were turned in – so nothing will ever be done about this case.”
I hounded the police department for two years trying to open this case and have the man who was beating a young boy in broad daylight arrested. In a two-hour phone conversation with the police chief, he finally confessed that “child abuse cases in Austin are like cock roaches. There are so many of them we simply do not have the manpower to handle them all.” He said that the police officers did not submit the police reports because they all probably knew that nothing would ever be done about it. The police chief also said that his officers become desensitized. “They are dealing with rapes, murders and fatal car accidents daily. Unfortunately, a child being abused doesn’t shock them like it should. It’s definitely a problem we have.”
So, can we trust our police? If police officers are desensitized, can we trust them to make our abusive partners and home invasions a top priority?If we can’t get a straight answer when a child shows up murdered blocks from your home, when do we know we are being told the truth? And if three separate police officers on a child abuse case all throw the police report in the trash, when are reports being submitted and justice being done?
I guess that old saying sums it up: Trust in God, but lock your doors!