WESTBROOK, Maine – A Maine mother faces child endangerment charges for allowing her daughter to play at the park across the street from her house without her constant supervision.
Nicole Jensen told WMTW she often allows her three children to play at the park a few hundred feet from her house and parents in the neighborhood make a coordinated effort to watch each other’s children. She watches from her front porch.
But when Jensen’s 7-year-old daughter was playing in the park by herself last week, someone at the park called 911 to report she was unattended and police intervened.
But instead of simply walking the child home, police tried unsuccessfully to call Jensen, then hauled the girl to the police station when the mother didn’t immediately answer her phone, according to the Personal Liberty blog.
Jensen said she requires her children to check in every hour when they’re playing outside, but police chastised the mother for not keeping closer tabs and insinuated the girl was in danger at the park.
“They said, ‘Do you know where your daughter is?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ and they said, ‘Well no you don’t. She’s at the police station,” Jensen recalled. “(The officer) said she was at the park unsupervised, no one know where she was, and if I hadn’t gotten a hold of you, I would have taken her into (the Department of Health and Human Services).”
Westbrook Police Chief Janie Roberts told the news site she estimated the girl was at the park for about an hour before she was detained.
“That’s a long time for a 7-year-old to be by herself in any location, let alone a public park,” Roberts said.
Police eventually charged Jensen with child endangerment.
Reason.com pointed out the ridiculousness of the alleged offense.
“Roberts was glad that the officers were able to ‘reunite’ the mother and child – as if they endured Hurricane Katrina, or something. She also thanked her department for having all the necessary ‘resources and facilities’ to save this kid, even though the officers could have literally walked the girl across the street to her house if they were so concerned,” according to the news site.
“Let’s hope Jensen has learned her lesson: Parks aren’t for kids! They’re for real estate values. They’re props. You’re not supposed to let your kids actually, you know, play, in them.”
“They brought her to the police station when her house is right there,” Jensen said, according to Personal Liberty.
“She did nothing wrong,” she said. “She’s followed all of my rules.”
Jensen told WMTW her daughter was “terrified” by the ordeal, and she plans to fight the child endangerment charge. She’ll also have to deal with DHHS, as police referred her case to that department, as well.
The episode sparked a heated debate online, with most readers admonishing the police.
“Shame mom didn’t teach her how to not get kidnapped by police. Shame we are teaching are kids to trust the police more than the alleged threats. Clearly the only threat to this girl and her family is the police. They are the ones ripping her from a happy existence …,” Todd Peterson wrote.
“No reason to bring any type of trauma into a child’s life when a simple knock on the door could have solved it. He could have easily have handed over the summons at that time if he felt it needed. They need to look at how dependable the child is and how capable she is in knowing right from wrong before jumping to conclusions,” commenter “Really???” added.
Poster jdhunter wrote that “When I was seven I’d be miles away exploring the world on my bike for hours every weekend.”