(PHOENIX) — An Arizona lawmaker is questioning a local police department’s use of force in removing a feverish child from a home after a doctor reported the parents to the state’s Department of Child Safety.
On Feb. 25, the mother of a 2-year-old child, who is not vaccinated, took the child to a naturopathic doctor with a fever of 105 degrees, ABC Phoenix station KNXV-TV reported.
The doctor instructed the mother to take the toddler to the emergency room as soon as possible, but since the child’s fever later broke, she took him back to their home in Chandler, about 25 miles southeast of Phoenix, instead, according to a statement from the Chandler Police Department.
When the doctor learned from the Cardon Children’s Hospital that they parents never showed up with the child, she called Arizona DCS, who then contacted the Chandler Police Department for assistance, an incident report shows.
Chandler Police officers first contacted the boy’s father, Brooks Bryce, by phone to request a welfare check, which Bryce refused, according to the police report. When officers were dispatched to the home around 10:24 p.m., the parents refused to come to the door and they could hear a child coughing and other voices inside, according to a police statement.
Officers then “forced entry into the home” after DCS had obtained a court order to take temporary custody of the child due to a “possible life threatening illness,” the report states.
“After consultation with detectives from the Chandler Police Department’s Special Victims Unit, the residents were given a final opportunity to exit and take their child to the hospital,” the statement read. “Upon their failure to do so, the front door was breached and the family members were called out of the residence.”
Surveillance video shows officers in tactical gear dramatically breaking down the front door before storming into the home.
DCS agents then took custody of the boy and his two sisters, ages 4 and 6, the report states. Two of the children were transported to the hospital by ambulance, and the third was transported to the hospital by DCS, according to the statement.
The parents were not arrested at the time of the incident. Investigators will later determine whether to pursue criminal charges against them, according to the police statement.
All three children are currently staying with their grandparents, who were granted temporary custody by DCS, their mother, Sarah Beck, told ABC News. The parents are hoping to regain custody after a hearing next month, Beck said.
In a statement to ABC News, Arizona DCS said it could not comment on the specifics of the case due to privacy laws, but said the removal of the child followed a state law passed in 2017 that requires DCS specialists to obtain a court order prior to removing a child from a home. The law was amended last year to give law enforcement agencies who assist DCS to “use reasonable force to enter any building in which the person named in the removal authorization is reasonably believed to be,” according to DCS.
Arizona House Rep. Kelly Townsend, who played a large role in getting the law passed, told KNXV that she believes the removal of the children was “an abuse of power” by DCS and law enforcement.
“I think we need to re-think where we draw the line when it comes to disagreements between doctors and parents and what level we’re going to go to to keep the child safe,” Townsend said.
Townsend defended the parents, saying that since the child’s fever had died down, they “felt it was no longer at the level that warranted an intrusive test that could be danger.”
The parents attorney, Nicholas Boca, said in a statement to ABC News that he believes the use of force by authorities was excessive and “should be reserved for violent criminals, not a house filled with young, sleeping children.”
“The removal of Sarah Beck’s Children by busting in her door with guns drawn in the middle of the night was clearly unnecessary and well beyond ‘reasonable force,'” the statement read.
Boca described Beck as a “loving and attentive” mother who has always cared for her children “appropriately.”
“Sarah has a fundamental, Constitutionally protected right to the care, custody, and management of her Children,” the statement read. “These rights do not evaporate simply because the Department of Child Safety believes they know better.”
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