Free-Range Kids

Cop Orders Reporter To Leave a Park for Daring To Interview a Child

Normal human interaction should not automatically be considered creepy or criminal.


A cop who ordered a man to leave a suburban New York amusement park for talking to a child has been reprimanded by his department and ordered to attend First Amendment training.

Kicking the man—a reporter—out of the park was a "violation of department policy," Jeffrey Weiss, commanding officer of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety's Special Investigations Unit, wrote in a department review.

According to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, David McKay Wilson—a tax columnist at the Westchester, New York, newspaper—was visiting Rye Playland for a story on the park's changing tax status. He bought a ticket to the rides and was standing in line for the locally famous dragon coaster when he struck up a conversation with the kids waiting alongside him.

One of the kids told her father about how she had just been talking with a grownup. Outraged that a man spoke to his daughter without his permission, the dad reported Wilson to a guard. That guard called the police.

When a cop arrived, Wilson told him he was there on assignment. The cop called the newspaper, which confirmed this. Then the cop kicked Wilson out of the park, anyway.

Afterward, the newspaper requested a review of the officer's conduct. To its credit, the department concluded the officer had been in the wrong. "This department is committed to high standards of professionalism," wrote Weiss. "Misconduct by its officers will not be condoned."

Normal human interaction, on the other hand, should be condoned—even encouraged. And it will sometimes involve an adult talking to a child to which he is not related. (Readers may recall that I had a school supervisor called on me last year when I stopped to watch kids playing outside at recess at my local elementary school.)

There is something deeply misguided about a society that automatically sees this sort of thing as both creepy and criminal.