Here is a story that combines some of our favorite Reason.com topics, including strip clubs, jerk cops, and America's growing willingness to make less-than-perfect parenting a crime. In this case, Florida resident Bobbey Jo Boucher went with her 10-year-old daughter to a neighbor's barbecue and left the girl there when she headed to work, instructing her to go back home when it was over. When the girl didn't return within a few hours, her grandmother called the Pasco Sheriff's Office, which called Boucher at work. When the line was somehow disconnected—Boucher says accidentally, police say she hung up—Boucher wound up arrested for obstructing justice.
The daughter was fine, by the way. In fact, she was going to play at church with some neighborhood kids. A group of them had left from the barbecue and were riding there on the church bus when police stopped it. From Officer Nicholas Carmack's report:
I was attempting to put (the daughter) in ACIM's (A Child Is Missing) program and (the grandmother, Pamela) did not have all the necessary information I would need to enter (daughter). Pamela provided Deputy Bollenbacher with Bobby's phone number.
While on scene a neighbor advised (daughter) may have went to the Faith Baptist Church with other kids from the neighborhood.
Deputy M. Bollenbacher contacted Bobby over the phone and she advised she was last person to see (daughter). Deputy M. Bollenbacher said while speaking with Bobby she said she was at work at Calendar Girls. Bobby then stated "I have to get on stage" and hung up the phone on Deputy M. Bollenbacher. Due to Bobby hanging up the phone, I was unable to enter the child in ACIM. Bobby was obstructing my investigation in finding her daughter.
At this time Deputy R. Nye advised he was behind a Faith Baptist Church bus and was conducting a traffic stop to see if (daughter) is on the bus. Deputy R. Nye later advised (daughter) was on the bus. I spoke with the bus driver, George Horner, who advised he asked all the children if they have permission to go to church with him on the bus. George said he remembers talking with (daughter) and she told him she had permission.
So we have a 10-year-old girl who maybe lied to a bus driver to go play with friends at church, who has been out of her working mother's sight for all of about 2.5 hours, and on whom a missing person report hasn't yet been filed. It seems like the Pasco officers have done their job—locating the girl—and that should be that. But, no, someone must be punished. Officer Carmack really wanted to fill out that ACIM report (or at least take a trip down to Calendar Girls for more information) and he was obstructed by them finding the "missing" child perfectly safe and nearby first. More from Carmack's report:
I made contact with Bobby at Calendar Girls strip club … Bobby stated she did not hang up the phone she switched over to another call that was coming in. Bobby said she did not tell the deputy she had to get on stage, she told the deputy to hang on a minute. I asked Bobby who would be more important than the deputy trying to find her missing ten year old daughter. Bobby said her friend was calling and she wanted to speak with her.
As Bobby hung up the phone so she could "get on stage". I was unable to enter (daughter) in ACIM or NCIC/FCIC as a missing child. Therefore Bobby was obstructing my investigation and I was unable to proceed any further with my investigation in finding (daughter).
Obstructing his investigation which actually wound up progressing along very quickly and well but didn't result in a missing person report being filed for a girl who wasn't missing! That is what Boucher is in trouble for.
The whole report just oozes with so much condescension (contempt?) that I feel a little bit slimy reading it. At every point where it's possible, the cops assume Boucher is a bad, unconcerned mother. She would rather talk to a friend than talk to a deputy about her missing child? Well, maybe the friend had been at the barbecue, maybe Boucher thought the friend might know something, maybe she wanted to ask the friend to start asking around the neighborhood. Or she hung up because she needed to "get on stage"? Maybe she works at the kind of club where she could get fined or fired by missing her scheduled stage time. Maybe her daughter disappears like this all the time, or Boucher assumes she may have gone to play with the neighborhood kids. Boucher's time on stage is likely very short (a song? three?); maybe she was planning on calling back as soon as possible. Or, hell, maybe she hung up on the cops deliberately because she let her daughter alone in the neighborhood and that seems to get more and more moms arrested these days.
Argue all you want about what a mother should have done, or you would have done, but we don't know what really happend and we don't know her circumstances. The bottom line is, do we really want a criminal justice system where the mother of a missing child can be charged with obstructing justice for a potentially dropped call? Or wherein "justice" is defined as filling out the appropriate paperwork, rather than finding the child?
Boucher's daughter was located within about 34 minutes from when the police were initially dispatched. Boucher herself was eventually arrested, taken to the Land O Lakes Jail, and charged with resisting without violence and obstruction. No matter how it shakes out, she already had to miss work, post bond, and owes $78 in "invesigative costs recovery." The story was also picked up by New York Daily News, which means it's now spreading all over the Internet. Here's how pretty much everyone else is covering it: