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    KHOU tv in Houston reported the story of Manny Hurd, an instructor at the Jenks [Oklahoma] Dance Academy and his attempt to fulfill the dream of his 13 year old student's wish to dance with Chachi Gonzales at Planet Funk Academy in Houston.  Her parents flew her to Houston where Manny had brought her dancing partner, 22 year old Josiah, and the three spent three days dancing with Chachi and then . . .
     Police found the trio sleeping in Manny's car in front of a convenience store at three o'clock in the morning.   Manny says he had pulled in to use his phone's GPS to find a hotel when he, too, fell asleep.   When Houston PD woke them up, Manny  showed them a notarized letter from the girl's parents, complete with emergency contact information and, we are told, language giving him the powers of a "full guardianship."
     The police detained Manny, Josiah and Landry.   All three were transported in handcuffs -- Manny and Josiah to the police station and Landry to child services.   Sometime the next day, after whatever investigations they felt appropriate, the police sent all three on their way.
      And then the blogosphere erupted.   "RACIST Houston Cops Take White Girl from Her Black Legal Guardians."   Even ABC News reported that  "Teen Dancer Taken From Legal Guardian Alleges Racial Profiling."
      Now Manny and Landry and Landry's mom all want apologies.   I want to commend the Houston Police for a job well done.

      Like most who do their shopping here, I am keenly aware of the destructiveness of racial profiling.  I wore my hoodie to show my support of Travon's family.   I oppose Mayor Blumberg's stop and frisk policy.
       But I am also aware that slavery has not been ended in the United States and that the FBI estimates that more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking suffer as endentured domestic workers, sweat shop workers, and, most of all, sex workers who have little hope of fully recovering in the unlikely event they are rescued, but mostly die before age 30 of disease, drug overdose, suicide and violence.
        So when the Houston PD found this trio sleeping together in a car with out-of-state-plates outside a convenience store / gas station at 3:00am, they questioned them and got a wildly improbable story.   Her mother, they said, had made 29 year old Manny the girl's "full guardian" and sent her a thousand miles away to go dance with a superstar.    Manny told the press that he showed them a notarized letter from her mom as proof.   The police responded by detaining everyone.   The 29 and 22 year old males went to the police station while the 13 year old girl went to child services.  Everyone went wearing handcuffs.  Phone calls were made.  Landry's story stayed the same even when the men were in another part of town with the police.  Mom told them that really was what she wanted to happen, and the trio departed for Tulsa the next day.

        Neither Texas, nor Oklahoma, (or any other state I have found) have any provision for creating guardianships by notarized letter.    Which is a darned good thing -- a legal guardian can do anything a parent can do -- authorize elective surgery, mental health commitment, tattoos, piercings, implants, amputations, nude photography and underage marriage.  
     Both Oklahoma and Texas do impose upon a person who has undertaken to supervise children the duties of "in loco parentis," which requires such person to provide food, shelter, supervision and discipline, and to provide for the child's safety.   Such a person has the duty to approve emergency medical care.    It isn't a slip of paper that does that, it is state law.
     So, although Mr Hurd claimed to be a "full guardian" of his 13 year old charge, what he really was was a caregiver.  Babysitter?  Chaperone?    Call it what you want; he was entrusted with this child and he had a obligation to provide her with food, water, a safe environment, and shelter.


     How did he do?    ABC News reports were that they pulled into the convenience store parking lot where they were found sleeping.   Manny says he pulled in to use his GPS to find a hotel.   He words it differently in different interviews, sometimes saying he was looking for a route to "the hotel" and sometimes he says he was trying to find "a hotel."   I haven't found any reporting at all that says what time it was when he pulled in.
      The reason it makes a difference to me is that it was the duty of some adult to plan this trip so that they did not end up sleeping at a gas station.    If they had been there three days, then they must have stayed somewhere the night before.   They were still in Houston; why didn't they stay there and get going in the morning?   Did they have reservations for a hotel in Southern Texas?  Why didn't that get mentioned to the police and/or the media?
       And just what WAS the plan?   Did they have two rooms booked?  Were they going to have a 13 year old girl spend the night by herself in a hotel room she arrived at at 3:00am?   Was she going to be sleeping in the room with two adult me she was not related to?   Had the hotel agreed to rent on that basis?   Although some hotels might, it is entirely likely that a hotel would refuse either plan.   Public accommodations laws do not require anybody in any state to allow that arrangement.  Is that what happened?  Did they have reservations for a hotel that said "no" when they proposed either approach?

        Most of my critics in the chatrooms on Facebook and elsewhere say that the Houston PD and I are guilty of racial profiling.   The officers have been reported to have said that they took them into custody because it was two black men and a white girl.   Viewed skeptically, the implication is that the white cops believed that no black men can be trusted to keep their hands off a white girl, so the mother must have been either a crack whore who sold her daughter for drugs or a complete lunatic.
         And I certainly take note of the fact that the two adults are black and the child was white.   For me, it is a huge clue that we are very unlikely to be dealing with blood relatives.   Something is highly unusual here that bears further investigation.
         Now, in part, that is because I've heard this story before.   I have heard heartbreaking tales of young girls lured far away from home with promises of show business, only to discover that they are the entertainment, not the entertainers.   If I were going to speculate, I'd guess that there were 10,000 human trafficking situations in which two twenty-something men have a 13 year old girl of a different race in a car with them at 3:00am -- 10,000 of those for ever one case in which a responsible mother signed her daughter up for such care.
          Does it matter to me that they guys are black and the girl white?  Would I feel differently if the guys were Latino and the girl Japanese?   Or Nordic looking white guys and a Persian girl?
           I hope not.  I'd like to think I as good as that, but I've fallen short of my aspirations before.   But, to tell you the truth, I might hope the police would do some serious intervention if it was a Father, his younger brother, and the daughter he conceived while he was in high school.
           Because this borders on child abuse, regardless of the relationship of the trio.   This guy did not provide safe shelter for his ward, even if it had been his daughter and the 22 year old had been her uncle.   I understand homelessness.  I know there are people who feel that they have no better choice than sleeping in their car.    But most cities disagree; most provide emergency shelter because it is not safe -- particularly for a 'tween female.  
            The situation doesn't improve much if his plan had been to spend the third day dancing until the wee hours of the morning and then try to drive 13 hours to Tulsa, only to pull over when he found that he was not Superman and could not stay awake that long.   I have heard no safe plan here.   Her parents paid for her plane ticket and he had that phone number.   I have to believe that with mom on the line, a hotel could have been found and accommodations made.
            To put her in a car at 3:00am was unsafe.  To put her asleep with two sleeping caregivers in a car at a gas station in Houston is, IMHO, at least negligence and very close to reckless child abuse.

            There have been a lot of comments like "so, should we stop traveling sports and put all of the coaches in jail?"   Or "I took my ten year old grandson to Disneyworld last year; should I be hauled away in handcuffs?"
            Obviously not.   My kids did all of that.   My Aunt and I drove by ourselves to Kansas City when I was 16.   But we didn't sleep in the parking lot.
            Step 1: go in a group, if you can.   With adults of the same gender as the kids.   Parents of some of the kids, if possible.
            Step 2: Have a plan for the night by 6:00pm.   Ideally, reserve rooms for the whole trip before you leave, making sure that if you have special situations, you run that by the hotel before you make the booking.
            Step 3: Plan the supervision.   Part of the deal for me, at least, was that Manny described an impossibility.   I happen to be an attorney and I know that appointing a "full guardian" requires you to demonstrate the inability of the biological parents to fulfill their duties in the particular circumstances and to demonstrate that the proposed guardian can discharge the duties in the best interests of the child, almost always with continued court supervision.   So, when Manny announced that he had a notarized letter from the parents appointing him a "full guardian,"  he has no idea what he's talking about.   Maybe he's lying.  Maybe they sat around the kitchen table and dreamed up this arrangement, but given that we're sleeping in a parking lot at 3:00am, it seemed really unlikely that this was in the best interests of the child.
             So it would have been a really good idea if the Jenks Dance Academy had thought this through, put the agreement on its letterhead, put the itinerary on its letterhead, and made certain that everybody understood what was supposed to happen, what to do if something changed, and what to do if there was an emergency.
              Step 4: ask for help.   Hillary Clinton's book was called "It Takes a Villiage."   It does.  It really does.   And, by and large, everybody knows that.   If Manny had called the police and told them the situation, they would have helped.   If he told them this story and gave them the name of the hotel where he had reservations, they'd have helped.   If he had told him that because of his bizarre sleeping plan, the hotel where he made a reservation wouldn't rent to him, they'd have helped.  
              If he was so sure that the Houston PD was a bunch of racist profilers who would have put any black man with a white girl in his car in jail, he could have called a Catholic Church; they'd have helped.    People will help.

             So I'm glad the Houston PD did what they did.  Thousands of girls are forced into prostitution each year.   Girls from skid row and girls from Park Avenue.  
Many police departments won't let anybody ride in the back seat except when wearing handcuffs.   The cops in the front seat cannot see the back seat passenger.   No pat down is perfect.  Hope you're not offended, but the safety of the police officers is pretty important to me, so we have rules.
              Arrested?  I don't know that they WERE arrested.  The Supreme Court says there is something called "detention" where, for safety or investigation or maybe some other things, the police can inconvenience you for a little while with out charging you with anything.   If the investigation had shown that this girl was a runaway lured to Houston with the promise of dancing with a star, but in fact, destined for a brothel in Sao Paulo, I imagine they would want to know where Manny was when they found out.   If the investigation disclosed that all three of them were destined for brothels in Sao Paulo, I imagine they would want to save the boys as well as the girl.   Without taking a side on whether I think "detention" is a proper Constitutional choice, it is, in fact, the law of the land.
          A night with Child Services?  Brilliant!
           Landry slept by herself in a bed that night.
           And the next morning, she knew that if she was afraid of Manny or Josiah, they could have gotten her back to mom without any possibility of them intervening.    And if she had a story to tell about why it was better to be in Houston with Manny than at home with "Uncle Boyfriend,"  she could tell it.    She was physically separated from any tormentor who could have made her choose to be in that absurd situation.   On the other hand, if she was such a silly and immature 13 year old, like all 13 year olds are from time to time, she could have said that -- and apparently did say that -- when the thought was not accompanied by any prying eyes.
           But whatever.    The situation the Houston PD found was dangerous.  And now it's not.  Nobody was hurt, although someone might well have been hurt.   And with this prologue, having everybody safe in their own beds a week later was was a pretty good result.
          Bravo, Houston PD.

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Comment Preferences

  •  excellent asnalysis, and I admit that I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    midnight lurker

    didn't think that way when I read the previous posts on this incident.

    The police aren't always wrong.

  •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

    While there may well have been elements of racial profiling in the police's initial treatment of the trio, there was a real issue and the police/child services seem to have handled it well enough.  For all we know a hotel of the convenience store reported the situation to the police after becoming suspicious of the proposed sleeping arrangements you outlined above, or the fact that the 3 of them seemed determined to spend the night in the car in the parking lot.

    190 milliseconds....

    by Kingsmeg on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 09:32:18 AM PST

  •  As much as I despise cops.... (2+ / 0-)

    ...I know that they have a tough job and some of them aren't assholes, and honestly try to do the right thing.....

    In this case, I think I agree with the diarist on this issue, if you stuck me in a cop car and made ME be the cop in the situation, I can't imagine not acting like they did. The situation really looks suspicious, and we'd all be having convulsions, conniptions and writing "Fuck the Pigs!" diaries and HR'ing each other into oblivion if the young lady actually WASN'T there for legitimate reasons and she suffered some unspeakable harm...

    I'm more than happy to say all sorts of rude shit about the bastards when they're fucked up, I'm also willing to be supportive when it's warranted.

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 09:35:35 AM PST

  •  Rebuttal to your apologia (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    merrywidow, Tracker, Ian S, jayden, petral

    1. You are an attorney. Manny Hurd the dance teacher is not. The legalistic definitions of 'full guardianship' probably eludes him. What DIDN'T elude him, and somehow completely eluded you, is the likelihood that bad things happen to black men who are seen walking around with young blonde girls. He made the note to protect himself the best he could.

    2. Sleeping in the car at 3am is poor planning, not abuse. We are talking about a 13 year old here. She is not 6 year old. Also- this is the entertainment industry we are talking about.  It is not at all unusual, in this industry (or modeling industry) for young girls to be working well past midnight, and roused  at 3am to travel to the next city. The entertainment industry is not 9-5.

    3. You are assuming that Hurd booked one room and planned to stay in that same rom with the girl. Your imagination is running on overtime here. Maybe he was having trouble finding a hotel precisely because he was trying to book 2 rooms. Or 3 rooms (you don't seem to show any concern about Josiah)

    4.We live in the age of cell phones. The 13 year old must have one. Grab the cell phone and call her mother.  The whole story would be corroborated in 15 minutes right there in the parking lot. Or for taht matter- just separate the 3 of them and ask them a few questions. This is just very basic police procedures. It is completely unnecessary to cuff them and detain them overnight.

    5. You left out the rest of the tale- AFTER the police checked out the story and found it to be true. They STILL refused to release Landry to Manny Hurd. They wanted Landry's mother to fly down to pick her up.  Try to excuse that one away please.

    6. You seem to have an active fantasy of 10,000's of black men abducting blonde girls to be prostitutes. When in fact most of the abducted and trafficked young girls (which is a real problem mind you. A serious problem here in Oakland) are black. So realistically the police should be looking for black men traveling with black girls. But of course you know that is not the case and it isn't the case here.

    7. The abducted girls forced into prostitution, are not at all hidden. They are paraded on the streets and advertised on Craigslist. If the police really wanted to solve these cases, they know exactly where to find these girls.  Stopping and detaining people at random in front of convenient stores is a complete waste of time.

    8. Even if the police's intentions were good, which I absolutely question, they still owe Manny an apology. They messed up. they put an innocent man in jail. Any time you put an innocent man in jail- you need to apologize. No ifs and buts there.

    •  If they fell asleep she could have escaped if she (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tracker, jayden

      was being held against her will, duh.

      and why didn't they just call the girls mother, using a number the police would find so would know it really was her mother...then OVER.

      "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

      by merrywidow on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 09:40:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sleeping in a Car ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in a convenience store or gas station parking lot is both trespassing and risky. If the store was open, the clerk could reasonably be expected to call the cops. If the store was closed, the cops have a duty to investigate. If the story given sounds a little far-fetched, the people involved will likely be detained until it is sorted out.

      If you party too hard and decide after driving a few blocks to pull into the parking lot of a closed business to sleep it off, and the police show up, you can expect to be arrested and charged with both trespassing and DUI.

      "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

      by midnight lurker on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 10:10:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The author resonds (without contrition) (0+ / 0-)

      1) Manny claimed to have the power of "full guardianship."  Your point -- maybe he had no idea what he was claiming.  My point -- the police might be justified in responding to a caregiver who did not know what his duties are.

      2) Poor planning can BE abuse if it puts a child in danger.   Having a 13 year old sleeping in a car in a public place at 3:00am also indicates that Manny did not know what he was supposed to be doing.

      3)  I covered this in the third paragraph under "Failed Caregiver."

      4) I want my police to do more to secure the safety of a child than to call the number she gives you, believe a story as absurd as that "mom wants me to be sleeping in the parking lot with some men."

      5) I address this in the last two paragraphs.   The police got this little girl to safety in an environment where they could be told if the adults who put her in this situation were naive and reckless or actually trying to hurt her.

      6) My hypothetical was not limited to black men and white girls.   In the 4th and 5th paragraphs under "negligence," I specifically include all sorts of combinations where the demographics of the trio cause reason to believe they aren't related; not that black men are fiends attacking white girls.

      7) You make it difficult to credit your sincerity when you call this "detaining people at random."  Stopping unrelated men and little girls sleeping together in gas stations is not "at random" or a "waste of time."

      8) We completely disagree about the police "messing up."   I think they approached a situation that would give any reasonable person cause to believe 1, 2 or 3 people were in danger.   I do think that leaving a 13 year old asleep in a parking lot without anyone awake and on patrol is dangerous.   I don't know if we will ever know how much danger any or all of them were in.   But for now, they are all safe.  That's a pretty good day's work for any policeman.
           Now, you think Manny's feelings would be soothed if somebody apologized?  Perhaps.  But it is really important that neither Manny nor anyone who hears this story repeats Manny's screw-ups.   Now, what's the best way to get that done?

  •  People shoot themselves in the back of cop cars (0+ / 0-)

    so it was actually dangerous for them to be detained

    "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

    by merrywidow on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 09:41:26 AM PST

  •  Yep - entirely appropriate. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MdFriendofHillary, Be Skeptical

    Whining about the lack of a formal apology doesn't gain much traction with me. The adults in question abdicated their responsibility by not securing accommodations before 3am.  The traveling adults screwed up by not making hotel reservations, and the mother screwed up by allowing her minor child to leave without confirming the arrangements.

    I'm not surprised that earlier diaries on this event failed to mention the detail that all 3 of them were sleeping in the car at 3am.  It's much easier to bash the police if you don't mention important details like that...

    Had this been one of my daughters, I'd be damned grateful to the police for taking the time to make certain that she was my daughter, that I knew what was going on, that I consented to her travel with those adults - AND that they protected her from potential harm while confirming all of this.

    Keep in mind, too, that it wasn't just the question of potential harm if the adults had not been who they claimed to be; there's also the question of exposing the girl to opportunistic street crime by sleeping in a public parking lot at 3am.  That part of 'police protection' would apply even IF the mother said, "Sure, I'm OK with her sleeping in a car in a parking lot in a strange city at 3am"...

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 10:56:03 AM PST

    •  they could have done all that without slapping (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Be Skeptical

      handcuffs on anybody.

      •  Not once the decision was made to transport. (0+ / 0-)

        Unknown persons with an unverified story, being transported in custody...I have no problems with the handcuffs.

        And, before you ask, I've been in that position.

        The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

        by wesmorgan1 on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 12:37:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  They could have verified the story without (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Be Skeptical

          transporting anyone anywhere.

          By the way- AFTER they verified the story, they still did not want to release Landry to Manny Hurd. they wanted Landry's mother to fly down and pick her up. Do you care to defend that?

          •  If they HAD released all three at, say, 5:00am, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            where shall we suppose they would have gone?    Back to look for a motel to sleep in?  On the road after a day of dancing and then going until they fell asleep in the car?
                I wonder what the lawsuit would have looked like if Manny had fallen asleep around Dallas and killed them all.   I wonder what the lawsuit would have looked like if they had released them after calling her mother, and then they had taken her to a Sao Paulo brothel.  
                This is not a totally great outcome -- she is still in the custody of parents who make really dangerous decisions on her behalf, but they did ok.   Everybody is still alive today and sleeping in their own beds.   Some days, "ok" is a pretty good deal.

          •  With minor children and their protection... (0+ / 0-)

            ...I tend to err on the side of caution and give a certain amount of leeway where situations like these are concerned - far more than I would in a situation involving only adults. That's what I do when I'm responsible for other people's children, and that's what I want folks to do where my kids are concerned.

            Expecting her mother to come down seems excessive at first glance, but I have no idea what Houston/Texas law might require once child protection services are involved.  There are some pretty extreme aspects to those operations; for instance, at one time my state allowed CPS to conduct unannounced visits for two years based on nothing more than an anonymous tip, even if the initial visit showed nothing amiss.  I also know that CPS can wield a great deal of authority in such situations, even to the point of dictating procedure to the police.

            If whoever gave the mother those instructions thought that the law required a parent's physical presence, it's an honest mistake. (Heck, that might be how they usually handle such things, but CPS decided later that the notarized letter would be sufficient for the girl's release - we just don't know.)  If they just made it up, it was the wrong thing to do.

            The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

            by wesmorgan1 on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 03:16:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Wow. Does the Bill of Rights have no meaning? (0+ / 0-)

    I can't believe anyone thinks this was appropriate behavior by the cops.  The fact that I so strongly disagree is one of the reasons why I support Democrats--I believe in democracy, not fascism.

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 02:25:35 PM PST

    •  Sure, inappropriate behavior by the cops (0+ / 0-)

      to handcuff the 2 men and send the girl to CPS.  But which one of the Bill of Rights amendments were violated?

      As far as inappropriate behavior goes, there was plenty.  By the cops, certainly.  By the two men, definitely.  By the girl's parents, probably.  

      The only one who behaved appropriately was the young girl.

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