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Boardman writes: "It looks idyllic and innocent, but some see it as a crime scene."

Montgomery County Police car. (photo: Bethesda Now)
Montgomery County Police car. (photo: Bethesda Now)

Building a Police State One Child at a Time

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

18 April 15


It looks idyllic and innocent, but some see it as a crime scene.

unday, April 12, was a gorgeous, mostly sunny spring day in Silver Spring, Maryland, a relatively safe suburb of Washington DC. The temperature was in the upper 60s. The family had spent most of the day driving home from Ithaca, New York. The children were getting restless. Around 4 pm, the parents, Alexander (Sasha) and Danielle Meitiv dropped their two children, Rafi and Dvora, off at Ellsworth Park, a familiar neighborhood play area. The parents told Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, to be home by 6 pm. The park is about four blocks away from where they live with their parents. Shortly before 5, the children started to walk home together. They were following a familiar route, going past a library they went to frequently.  

Sunday, approximately 4:55 pm.The Montgomery County Emergency Call Center logged “a call to check the welfare of two children in the area of Fenton and Easley Streets” [according to a Montgomery County Police Department press release the next day]. What kind of idiot would call the police to check the welfare of two children walking home with no sign of distress? 

The idiot in this case appears to have been a single, anonymous male, reportedly “a Navy corpsman out walking his dog,” who called the non-emergency number, not 911. In this edited transcript of the recording of his call carried by local television, the Navy corpsman said:

“I am walking my dog…. Two kids that are unaccompanied. And they have been walking around for probably about 20 minutes by themselves….”  

[Operator: how old do they look?]  

“Maybe 7 – ­ little boy he’s about seven, eight – little girl, maybe about six.” 

[Operator: OK, and you don’t see any parents around them?]

“No, ma’am.”

[Operator: OK, have you talked to them? So you know why they’re just walking around by themselves?] 

“No, no, they came up and asked to pet my dog, and I let them, and – uh – that was it … ”

[Operator: Are they still with you or have they already left?] 

“No, I’m walking behind them, I don’t want to scare them.”

[Operator: OK, where are they right now?]

“We are on Fenton Street, past Easley … (unintelligible) going toward Montgomery College….”

[Operator: Did you want to stop somewhere to be seen by a police officer, or no?]

“No, I’m just following the kids, to make sure….”   

[Operator: Did you ask them their name or did they tell you their name?]

“No, they just came to say, ‘Can I pet the dog,’ and I said yeah, then they petted it and started walking.… I first saw them at the Ellsworth dog park.”

[Operator: Are they black or Hispanic or Asian?]

“Caucasian….”    [They discuss description and clothing]  

[Operator: Are they under the influence of anything at all?]

“Nope. (unintelligible) … dirty clothes …”

[Operator: Their clothes look dirty?]


[Operator: And have you ever seen them before in your neighborhood?]

“No, ma’am, not at all.”

[Operator: I’m going to get the call started, since you’re going to be following them. [at 2:46]]…. 

“On Silver Spring Avenue… and now they’re going to the parking lot, the Fenton Street Village parking lot #3…. I don’t know of any residence or apartment building in this area…. They’re still walking….”

[Operator: Do you see any police officers around?]

“No, not yet….”

[Operator: You should be seeing them soon.]

 “They’re now going toward Georgia Avenue…. Ok, they saw me now and they’re probably getting really scared.”

[Operator: Are they running?]

“No, no, they’re still walking… Now they’re on Silver Spring Avenue, going back toward Fenton…. ” 

[Operator: OK, so they’re still in your sight?]

“They stopped at the S.T.Kim company…. I see the officer…. I’ll stay right here. They went behind that building…. Oh, yeah, they’re still there….”

At this point the police arrive and stop the children. The call ends at 7:20, roughly four minutes after the operator called the police.

Clearly the idiot who called emergency services was a Bad Samaritan. First, he stalked the Meitiv kids for 20 minutes, even though he had no idea who they were, even though they had lived in the neighborhood for several years. Then he let the kids pet his dog, but didn’t talk to them, even though he’d been stalking them. Then he called the emergency services non-emergency number. Why? He knew they weren’t afraid because they’d asked to pet the dog. There’s no indication he thought they were lost or in danger of any kind. He called the cops because they were unattended and, maybe, had “dirty clothes.”

If this idiot had just enough humanity to ask the kids petting his dog if they lived around there, he probably wouldn’t have – and certainly shouldn’t have – called the cops. But this is the behavior police states depend on, the impulse to report something to authority. The caller idiot exercised no personal responsibility, he made a judgment based on insufficient evidence, and he unleashed a domino-effect of abuses to the personal freedom of each of the four Meitivs. For this he deserves the police state medal for mindless servitude. 

Sunday, approximately 5:03 pm.One or more police officers arrive on the scene and engage Rafi and Dvora Meitiv, ages 10 and 6, who live nearby. The police proceed to behave as though they worked for a police state and make matters significantly worse for all the Meitivs. The police press release doesn’t say what the idiot caller told police, but based on his phone call, he had nothing helpful to offer. Neither, as it turned out, did the police. 

The police quickly determined who the children were and where they lived, a few blocks away. Then, as the police press release put it, adding a totally subjective, implicitly lurid detail without a shred of relevance:

“The officer observed a homeless subject who he was familiar with, eyeing the children. This male subject remained in the area during the time that the officer was there with the children.”

What the police press release does not say is whether the police recognized the children from a similar event several months earlier. Police behavior is consistent with both recognition of the children and harassment of the family: the police do not take the children home, the police do not call the parents.

Sunday, 5:16 pm. After taking almost 15 minutes to decide not to take the children home, the police decide to call Child Protective Services for no stated reason. After mentioning the homeless man “eyeing the children,” according to the press release:

“The officer began by identifying the victim children and notifying his supervisors. At 5:16 p.m., he contacted Child Protective Services (CPS), per established protocol. Under Maryland law, police officers who become aware of circumstances involving possible child abuse or neglect are mandated to contact representatives of Child Protective Services.”

Notifying his supervisors of what? Why didn’t his supervisors tell him to take the children home? Unless Maryland law is corrupt beyond belief (always a possibility), there nothing here, absolutely nothing to trigger any “awareness” of abuse or neglect. Maybe the irrelevant homeless man “eyeing the children” is supposed to justify an awareness of a possibility of abuse, but possibility is outside the law and only a credulous fool or a person of ill will would buy it.  What’s not here in the police press release, even though it’s well known to the police, is the previous encounter with a family that believes in letting its children have space and freedom, and are willing to defy the state over that principle. That defiance of authority is just the kind of thing that makes petty bureaucrats crazy and vindictive.

That independence of spirit is more than enough to explain why the cop first lied to the kids, and then proceeded to abuse them beyond any justification. Late that night, talking to reporters after being released from custody of Child Protective Services, ten-year-old Rafi described what happened to him in policy custody:

“Well the policeman said, ‘We’ll give you a ride home,’ but we were like two blocks away, so we got in the car – and then, about two and a half hours later, instead he brang us here [to Child Protective Services in Rockville].” 

The police held the children in a police car, without food or relief breaks, for two and a half hours. During this time the police told the children nothing about why they couldn’t go home. During this time the police told the parents nothing. The next day, in defense of police behavior, in a low-affect, canned response, Capt. Paul Starks of the Montgomery County police said on camera:

“Under Maryland law, if an officer believes that there’s circumstances or some indication that involves child abuse or neglect, we are mandated as police officers in Maryland to contact Child Protective Services.” 

He refused to say what basis had for believing the Meitiv children were being abused by anyone but the police.

Sunday, approximately 6:10 pm. Having effectively “disappeared” the Meitiv children in good police-state style, the police held them incommunicado, trying to figure out what to do next. For unexplained reasons, Child Protective Services was failing to make a timely decision, letting the Meitiv children rot in ignorance and fear. According to the police press release:

“At approximately 6:10 p.m., the officer contacted another CPS [Child Protective Services] employee for guidance. At 6:41 p.m., the original CPS worker contacted the officer and stated that a decision was still forthcoming [sic – actually NOT forthcoming] from within CPS.”

Sunday, 7:18 pm. After another hour of holding the children in seclusion in a patrol car and keeping the parents in ignorance (the parents had begun a frantic search for their children shortly after 6, when the children hadn’t come home), someone unnamed made a decision that seems to be based on the previous episode months earlier with the Meitovs. As the police press release put it:

“At 7:18 p.m., a decision was made to transport the children to the CPS offices located at 1301 Piccard Drive in Rockville. The officer was also advised that CPS would notify the parents. The officer followed the direction of the CPS worker as procedures dictate – due to the serious nature of a Child Protective Services investigation and concern for the welfare of the children, they cannot be returned home until their safety can be assured.

“Prior to being transported to the CPS offices, one of the children asked to use the bathroom…. ”

The child’s request was denied and transport begun.   

Sunday, approximately 7:43 pm.The police, still not communicating with the parents, transferred the Meitov children into the custody of Child Protective Services, according to the police press release:

“After an approximate 20 minute ride to CPS [Child Protective Services], the officer and children arrived at CPS at approximately 7:43 p.m. A bathroom was made available at that time.”

Although that marks the end of direct police involvement in the case that day, the next paragraph is the longest in the release. It’s a curiously irrelevant passage that seems to be trying to be exculpatory, an attempt to justify unjustifiable official behavior, or at least to shift the blame for abusing the children away from the police, suggesting they had only the best interests of the children in mind but they were merely the helpless pawns of Child Protective Services:  

“While the children were with the officer, they told the officer that they were hungry and thirsty, stating that they had last eaten hamburgers between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. that afternoon. The officer related these facts to the CPS employee and advised that he had provided his own bottles of water to them. The officer had his personal lunch with him as well and was giving it to the children when the older child advised that he and his sister had food allergies – at that point the officer did not want to provide any food item that might cause an adverse reaction to the children so he did not give them his lunch as planned.”

The police press release does not say whether the children were fed later, but closes by noting that the investigation is continuing. 

Child Protective Services help the Meitiv children as bargaining chips for almost three more hours. The agency won’t discuss the case because of privacy, blah blah blah, which in this case, like so many others, means what’s really going on is the agency is trying mightily to evade any meaningful accountability. Child Protective Services finally called the parents, who came to Rockville to get their children. 

But Child Protective Services was angry about previous dealings with the Meitivs, so they held the children hostage till the parents bent to the agency’s will, at least for the moment. The problem between these parties is a classic police state dilemma: the parents think they can raise their own children and Child Protective Services says, no, you can’t, unless you do it the state’s way, and if you don’t, the state will take your children away from you. 

This fight apparently began on October 27, 2014, when another anonymous bystander-turned-state-informer called police to report the Meitiv kids were at a park near their home with no adult supervision. Child Protective Services got involved and threatened the Meitivs with a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail, based on a law that, read literally, does not apply. Child Protective Services assured the Meitivs that judges had applied the law to conform to the agency’s view. The Meitivs could consider themselves warned. 

On December 20, 2014, the children had walked about half way home from a local park and again some a citizen-snitch called the county police. This time the police picked up and children and took them home. That night, a Child Protective Services representative came to the Meitivs’ home and spoke with the children’s father, Alexander (Danielle was out of town). The Child Protective Services person asked Alexander to sign a prepared agreement. When Alexander declined, the Child Protective Services person threatened to call the police and have the children removed immediately. He signed. 

On February 20, 2015, Child Protective Services completed its investigation into the Meitivs’ raising of their children. The agency could have made a finding of neglect, or a finding of no neglect. With Orwellian logic, the agency made a finding of “unsubstantiated child neglect,” which is tantamount to saying that they didn’t have the evidence but they still think the Meitivs are guilty. And with a Kafkaesque touch, this non-finding finding gives Child Protection Services the right to keep a file on the Meitivs for five years, till 2020.

The Meitivs are challenging the agency’s decision in court. 

That was the history that county police and Child Protection Services were surely aware of when the idiot caller of April 12, set off another round of state-sponsored terrorism of children. The wonderland quality of the episode is perfect: having abused the Meitiv children for more than five hours, Child Protective Services could say, smugly: see, we told you if your children went unsupervised something bad would happen to them. 

In a police state, the police state makes whatever rules it likes and enforces them as it chooses and the citizen has every right to obey. Some people are framing this case as a dispute over “free range parenting,” which is another way of saying: let the parents set appropriate limits for their children. A Washington Post columnist frames the Meitovs’ case as between “Free-range kids and our parenting police state,” and that frame is good, but too narrow. The police state urge is America is more serious than that.

This case is based on a Maryland law that requires that children under age 8 must be supervised by someone 13 or older. Rafi Meitiv is 10 and Dvora is six. Clearly a violation of a law as written, but the law as written is itself a violation of human decency, reason, and logic, as well as any sort of traditional notion of freedom. The law itself is a police state law, intruding into human behavior in a way that is stupid, controlling, and damaging, a way that serves no higher purpose than state control. In this way it is no different, except in scope, from laws like the Patriot Act. The police state impulse in both cases is the same, and the Maryland law that teaches children to obey arbitrary and unreasoned authority is a natural precursor to raising a nation that passively submits to secret, unquestionable authority at every level. 

How many legislators with a police state mindset does it take to pass a child protection act that abuses children or a national security act that destroys personal security? Clearly the United States has had more than enough of them for more than a generation. 

Three citizen-snitches who call the police rather than take any personal responsibility for the children they purport to “help” may not be a trend, but in this case it’s without exception. Even the idiot caller of April 12 has apparently learned nothing. After the story was all over the local news, he was still telling people he’d done the right thing.

But the Meitiv parents have not quit and they have support. Their lawyers are defending them pro bono. And who are the parents? They are scientists. He is a physicist, she is a climate scientist. They are the only people in this entire sordid episode who have either the training or the inclination to deal with the world through reality rather than arbitrary rules and prejudice. This persecution of the ideologically impure by the rabid zealots, while ordinary people let it happen, is all too apt a paradigm for early 21st century America.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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