One of the less distinguished moments of Rudolph Giuliani’s late, lamented Senate campaign was his tirade against Attorney General Janet Reno for sending “storm troopers” into Miami. “It is one of the saddest days we’ve seen,” he remarked, when the feds are “pointing guns at people to rip a boy away from a family that is caring for him.”
The mayor pointed to his own police department as a paragon of how children should be removed from potentially dangerous situations. “New York City safely removes 12,000 children each year without a single gun drawn,” he pronounced.
Au contraire, say parents whose children have been taken from their homes and put in foster care. “He’s flat-out lying–there’s no other word for it,” said Mike Arsham, executive director of the Child Welfare Organizing Project, a group that works with parents whose children have been removed. “This was a new depth of hypocrisy, even for him.”
While police are not present in every case, they commonly accompany the Administration for Children’s Services worker who comes to remove children. According to ACS spokesperson Jennifer Falk, police are called when caseworkers “feel it’s necessary for their safety or the safety of the child.” And while it is rare for the police to draw their guns, parents report that it does happen.
A civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court in April alleges one such incident in Brooklyn. After a violent fight with her husband, a mother placed her children with a neighbor so that she could go to the hospital. That evening, according to the complaint, two police officers burst into the neighbor’s apartment, guns drawn, and spirited the children away. (The children, a boy and a girl, were returned to their mother after three weeks.)
Based on his close work with parents, Arsham estimates that hundreds of children have been removed by police with guns drawn over the last few years. “In the middle of the night, a flashlight shining in children’s eyes,” he recalls from their accounts. “I’m sure those children were just as traumatized as Elian.”