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February 28, 2012

Detained for Babysitting While White

scott-henson.jpgScott Henson authors the popular Austin-based blog Grits for Breakfast, which has been cited numerous times on this blog over the years on a variety of criminal justice issues.

Two Fridays ago, Henson and his wife were babysitting their five year-old granddaughter, Ty. After an evening at a neighborhood recreation center, Henson -- who is white -- and his granddaughter -- who is black -- started to walk to his home, which is just a few blocks from the rec center.

Some busybody saw Henson and his granddaughter walking home, called police and alleged that a kidnapping was in progress.

From that point on, all hell broke loose.

Henson and his granddaughter were stopped twice by different law enforcement agencies while walking home (remarkably, this wasn't the first time this sort of thing has happened to Scott and his granddaughter). The second stop -- which was recorded by the Austin Police Department below -- resulted in Henson being handcuffed and detained for over 10 minutes by a half-dozen or so APD officers while his terrorized granddaughter was hauled off to sit in the back of a squad car. An APD officer then contacted Henson's wife, Henson's wife contacted his daughter, who called and verified his relationship with Ty. APD then let Henson and Ty go home.

Subsequently, Henson blogged about the ordeal and got a couple of facts wrong. APD Chief Art Acevedo went on the offensive and claimed that Henson had lied about what he had been put through. As is usually the case in such matters, people then take sides and nothing productive is resolved.

I mean really -- how many kidnappers would be leisurely walking along a neighborhood sidewalk? When Henson informed officers that he lived two blocks away, was it really necessary for APD officers to handcuff Henson in front of his granddaughter, even while she was crying out "That's my grandpa!"? Despite the obvious close relationship between Henson and his granddaughter, there isn't much doubt that Henson would have been detained for much longer if his daughter had been in a movie or other activity in which she would have been unavailable to take a phone call.

It's unfortunate that Henson got a couple of facts wrong in his blog post, but I certainly understand how his recollection of events could be affected by the stress of the situation.

But it's far more unfortunate that Chief Acevedo views what happened to Henson as appropriate police work. Yeah, it certainly could have been handled worse. But APD's conduct still looks over-the-top and excessive to me, particularly in regard to a 22-year resident of a neighborhood.

And to add a final issue that no one involved seems to be addressing -- Just who the hell called in the report of the alleged kidnapping?

Posted by Tom at February 28, 2012 12:00 AM |


Just wow...

Posted by: John Hempton Author Profile Page at March 1, 2012 9:28 PM

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