Police in Omaha, Nebraska have reportedly removed a 2-year-old from the custody of his family after a video of the toddler issuing a string of profanities was posted on Facebook.
The video shows the African-American youngster wearing only a diaper and being encouraged to curse, which he does, by at least three adults present in the home. At one point, the child raises his middle finger at the adults as they continue to laugh and use strong language and racial slurs. The off-camera adults in the video also reference a specific gang from the northeast area of the city.
The Omaha Police Department reportedly first came across the video on a known gang member’s Facebook page, or as the local police union, the Omaha Police Officer’s Association (OPA), called it, “a local thug’s public Facebook page.” The OPA then posted it to their own website, in what they describe as an attempt to raise public awareness about some of the difficult situations police officers may find themselves in and to highlight the “cycle of violence and thuggery” that the Omaha community is experiencing.
Police say that the Facebook video was reviewed with local prosecutors and authorities and it was determined that the video itself did not show any illegal behavior. A subsequent consultation with Child Protective Services, however, resulted in an investigation that ultimately led to the removal of the toddler and three other children from the home due to alleged safety concerns.
The OPA is now being heavily criticized for posting the video by community leaders, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the city’s own police chief. The criticism comes on several fronts. Some are disturbed by the use of the child’s image, expressing their feelings that there may be better ways to get the intended message across “without subjecting a child to ridicule.”
Others are concerned that the message is unnecessarily aggressive toward minorities and will antagonize groups in the Omaha area where relations between minorities and police is already tense. Willie Hamilton, the leader of an activist group called Black Men United commented that the union “crossed a line by doing this.” He remarked that their insinuation that this child was doomed to a life of crime was inappropriate.
The ACLU of Nebraska similarly commented that the use of “racially charged language” by the OPA was “very disconcerting.” A spokesperson for the group, which has just this week filed a suit alleging excessive force against the Omaha police, also expressed concern that the incident can only serve to further destroy trust between the public and police.
Following this incident, Omaha Police Chief, Todd Schmaderer, made a statement informing the public that the police union that posted the video is a completely separate organization from his police department, and that their views are not necessarily the same. He also remarked that “I strongly disagree with any postings that may cause a divide in our community.”
The OPA has not expressed any regret or apology for posting the video and it remains available on their site at this time.
The identities of the parents of the toddler and three other children removed from the Nebraska home following the spread of this viral Facebook video have not been released.
By Michele Wessel