January 9 2014
What about that Swearing Toddler Featured by the Police Union?
Patrice J. Lee
Alert: This post is about a sickening display of abuse of a young child. If you cannot stomach a toddler being exploited, belittled, and humiliated, read no further.
A video featuring a little boy of black descent being berated with racial slurs and obscenities and egged on to do the same by several adults is making headlines. Posted on the Facebook page of a known gang member, the video shows an almost unbelievable display of verbal and emotional abuse against a child wearing only a diaper, who returns in kind with obscenities and raising his middle finger.
This child is abused, but even more questionable exploitation comes at the hands of a source you wouldn’t expect: the Omaha police union. The union decided to post a clip of the video on its website to demonstrate the harsh environments that officers must enter in their line of work and how the cycle of “thuggery” is perpetuated.
Just another day on the Internet -- until the police union in Omaha, Nebraska, posted the clip on its website to highlight what it called the "cycle of violence and thuggery" the community faces.
"We here at OmahaPOA.com viewed the video and we knew that despite the fact that it is sickening, heartbreaking footage, we have an obligation to share it to continue to educate the law abiding public about the terrible cycle of violence and thuggery that some young innocent children find themselves helplessly trapped in," the police union wrote in a post accompanying the video.
Willie Hamilton, president of the community activist group Black Men United, said the union "crossed a line by doing this."
"For them to take a video out of context -- a 2-year-old who doesn't have the brain capacity to know what's going on -- and to say that this child, because two adults acted inappropriately, is going to end up in a life of crime is totally inappropriate," Hamilton said.
"Officers should be working to build a culture where anyone feels comfortable calling law enforcement," ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Becki Brenner said in a written statement. "The manner in which the Officers Association has discussed this incident has done nothing but further erode community trust and reinforce the need for independent oversight, trainings, and other reforms."
Not surprisingly, police officials are trying to distance themselves from the mêlée:
"With that background and understanding, I want to make it explicit and clear that the views expressed on the OPOA Facebook page do not necessarily reflect the official stance of the Omaha Police Department," Schmaderer said. "I strongly disagree with any postings that may cause a divide in our community or an obstacle to police community relations."
This video would’ve flown under the radar had it not been for an Omaha police union posting it to their website. There is no question that police officers face some of the most challenging work environments, especially in gang-dominated communities. It’s important that they use tools to understand the criminals they face, but isn’t reposting this video online with their commentary exploitive more than educational? Would they post a video of a child about to be sexually abused – even if no actual sexual abuse occurs?
The union and its supporters argue that the video was posted publicly on Facebook and that no illegal behavior occurred. The issue isn’t how they accessed the video or that it was already publicly available, but that they reposted it publicly on their website instead of using it internally for educational purposes. This demonstrates a lack of judgment on the part of this association. Just as disturbing, their focus is on police officers, and there seems to be little concern for the victim’s exploitation.
To be clear, the adults who were swearing at this child are monsters and don’t deserve to be caregivers. We gladly report that the boy in the video and his siblings have been removed from the household.
Unfortunately, the police also exploited the child and added to his plight.