For those of you who missed it, I was a suspect in an alleged kidnapping yesterday. Actually, there was no kidnapping. And I’m not even sure it was alleged. I was briefly suspected though, of trying to kidnap Simone. I don’t think the Castelton Square Mall security officer suspected me. But, she did her duty and checked out the situation after a mall patron reported a man walking out of the mall with a screaming little girl.
Here is the original Facebook post:
In case you were wondering… If you mention to a mall cop that you saw a man leading a child by the arm while she screamed, “daddy! daddy! daddy!” over and over… The mall cop will follow the man and child into the parking lot, roll up on her Segway, and ask the man if he’s the child’s father. And if the man simply says yes, then the mall cop will apologize and roll off. At least that’s what happened today when I was that man and Simone was that child.
The first question from a Facebook friend was:
Where was Elizabeth?
Elizabeth was walking with us. And they’re wearing similar dresses. That’s probably why the mall cop bought my “yes I’m the dad” story.
Not sure if it was this answer or the original post that prompted this comment from a friend:
Good. She did her job. She assessed and felt you were not a threat. She also saw the look of fear of your daughter when she came up. NOT fear at you, but instead fear in Simone’s eyes for what the cop was there for. And they Simone might have her dad hauled off to jail and her stolen from your arms, and sent to foster care. Ok, maybe she does not understand the foster care example, but she did dear she would cause you to be hauled off.
This comment was not very popular on the thread. Others made some pretty good points. How did she know I was the father just because I said I was? What if I had the kids so frightened that they were afraid to rat me out? Why not do a little more investigating?
Even though my post or my answer about Elizabeth might not seem like it, I do think the security officer did the right thing. Here’s the scene. Elizabeth had a question for the ear piercers at Claire’s Boutique (by the way, if Claire’s is a boutique, my high school cafeteria was a five star restaurant). Anyway, while Elizabeth was looking around, Simone spotted some stuffed animal toys she wanted. I said no. And the screaming ensued. My loyal fans will remember an earlier challenge. It was like that, but in a mall. (Don’t worry about Simone, by the way. She’s fine. She’s probably on the high end of the curve, but she’ll be fine.)
Once Elizabeth had her answer, we headed out. I lead Simone by the arm. She kept yanking her hand out of mine, so I gripped her forearm. She didn’t pull or sit down or anything like that. I just kept walking with purpose. She kept screaming. And Elizabeth walked quietly next to us.
When we arrived at the car, Elizabeth got in and I lifted Simone up into her seat. Buckled her belt. I opened my door and was about to climb in when I heard the officer calling from the rear side of the car. You know the rest.
So why am I okay with her buying my claim without more investigation? My guess is that a patron notified her of the “suspicious” behavior and she began hot Segway pursuit. She likely saw the three of us walking in the parking lot. The two girls were wearing similar dresses and Elizabeth was walking without coercion. She was not crying. We all have similarly colored hair and similar features. She may even have noticed two car seats, though it would have been difficult for her to see that from her vantage point. All of this combined, in my opinion, to give the officer reasonably strong gut-feel material that there was nothing nefarious going on here. And I’m glad she chose to err on the side of what was likely going on – a misbehaving kid at a mall.
Had she been a law enforcement officer, I’m guessing my girls would have had the opportunity to see their father subordinated to an authority figure. Think about the incentives. Law enforcement officers (government employees) have absolutely nothing to gain by letting me go. Even if they are 99.9999% sure there’s nothing bad happening, there is no upside for them to let me go and only downside. On the other hand, there is very little downside to subjecting me and my family to invasive search and maybe seizure. Other than some extra paperwork, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The privately hired mall security officer, on the other hand, has a different set of incentives. How many customers would the mall lose if every time your child misbehaves and someone complains, you were hauled into the office. Or they called the police. No thanks. I’d rather stay home. They also have incentive to prevent actual kidnapping. Again, how fast would the mall be out of business if it became perceived as unsafe? Lafayette Square Mall might offer a clue.
So, I like the privately hired security officers set of incentives better than the government hired law enforcement officer’s. At least the mall security officer is hired, trained, and developed to understand that she serves the patrons. She is not there to ensure that nothing bad can ever be blamed on the mall. She is there to make the mall as safe as possible while also seeing to it that the shopping experience is maximized. She is there to serve and to protect. Remember when that’s why the police were here, too?