Arizona police made an unusual house call last month after they received notification from a doctor that a child with a dangerously high fever wasn't being given proper medical attention. In a disturbing video, the armored-up officers kick down the family's door during the wellness check — something a local lawmaker who fought for their right to do so is now denouncing as "an abuse of power."
"What about parents' rights to decide what's best for their child?" Arizona Rep. Kelly Townsend told the Arizona Republic. "Parents felt the child was fine. Next thing we know, the Gestapo is at their door."
The irony is that it was Townsend who championed legislation requiring a search warrant for the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) to remove children from their homes in non-emergency situations, KNXV noted.
The situation began on February 25 when parents of a two-year-old boy in the town of Chandler took the child to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine clinic in Tempe, where he registered a fever of 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the parents informed the doctor the child had no vaccinations, the doctor reportedly directed them to take him to the ER at Banner Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, fearing he might have meningitis, which can quickly turn deadly, the Arizona Republic said, citing documents from a March 7 court hearing.
Later that day, the child's fever reportedly broke, and the parents decided not to take him to the ER. After the mother phoned the doctor, the doctor phoned the police.
A survey of emergency room bills from across the US by Vox's Sarah Kliff in late 2018 found that an ER trip could cost from $533 to upwards of $3,000.
"The doctor chose to use DCS to remove the child, and DCS chose to use the police, and the police chose to use the SWAT team," Townsend lamented. "That is not the country that I recognize."
Police arrived at the house at 10:30 p.m. that night. When nobody answered the door, they phoned the house. While the father answered, according to court documents, he refused them entry because his son's ""fever broke and he was fine."
A little after 1 a.m., police received the official order and kicked the door down, entering the house with weapons drawn.
"All because of a fever. A fever! It's absolutely ridiculous," Nicholas Boca, the family's attorney, told KNXV. "That type of kicking your door in, with guns drawn… it should be reserved for violent criminals."
The boy was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, not meningitis, KNXV reported. Neither of the parents were arrested or charged with anything, as no crime had been committed.
The child, along with his two sisters, aged four and six, are now in the custody of their grandparents.
"To be bothered in the middle of the night by DCS was not something we were ready to tackle," the parents said in a statement. "Nobody, especially children, should have to go through what we are going through." They said it's been "a very traumatic experience."
"They have a good family. And this is a waste of state resources," Boca said.
A judge told the parents the following the day the removal was warranted, as the parents had refused to follow a doctor's orders and they had a legal history of domestic violence. She recommended psychological evaluations of both parents. They hope to regain custody at a hearing next month.