Testimony of Sergeant Kip Higby before the Idaho House Judiciary, Rules, & Administration Committee in opposition to House Bill #464, February 27, 2014.
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Chairman Wills, committee members, good afternoon. I’m Sergeant Kip Higby. I supervise the Special Victims Unit of the Boise Police Department. I'm here today to testify on behalf of the Boise Police Department in opposition to House Bill 464.
In the last seven years, I have overseen the investigation of hundreds if not thousands of child abuse cases. A number of those cases included a declaration of imminent danger and the emergency removal of a child from the custody of a parent or guardian. Last year alone, Boise Police used an Emergency Removal in about 91 cases.
In each and every one of those cases the detective or officer made the decision to remove the child or children based only on the facts and circumstances at the scene that indicated removal was necessary to prevent serious physical or mental injury. The officer’s decision is based only on the welfare of the child. This bill would now require that officer to consult with someone far removed from the situation at hand that has little or no information that would alter the declaration.
Not only would this delay the emergency removal of the child but it could easily influence the officer’s decision with information that has nothing to do with the child’s immediate welfare. Information such as the availability of a foster home, availability or convenience of a Health and Welfare worker, or other mainly economic concerns that should not have a bearing on the officer's decision.
Law Enforcement have used emergency removals as a last resort. We make these decisions with the utmost caution and care. When a declaration has been made the officer has already determined that there is not an appropriate family member available, that there is not another option to ensure the safety of the child, and that the emergency removal is necessary. In most agencies the officer has also had the assistance of an on scene supervisor.
Health and Welfare already has an opportunity to provide information about an emergency removal. That occurs within 48 hours at the shelter care hearing. The court has the luxury of time to review the officers decision and the necessity to maintain custody of the child and weigh information provided by Health and Welfare.
This bill would only cloud what is a rare clear legal statute. That it is Law Enforcement's and only law enforcement's decision to remove a child in an emergency. There have been rare occasions where Health and Welfare and I have disagreed on emergency removals. This is often due to their mandate to reunify families. However, the law is clear that its law enforcement's decision and that any differences will be adjudicated in court. This prevents lengthy delays at the scene and gives clear direction for those officers and Health and Welfare workers in the field.
This bill does nothing to protect the children of Idaho. In fact it only confuses the clear authority that the current law provides and in some cases may actually keep children in a dangerous environment. I urge the committee to oppose this bill and would be happy to answer any questions.