Police suggested charging a child for her explicit photos. Experts say the practice is common

Cluadia Lauer & Samantha Hendrickson, Associated Press •
statue of lion outside Columbus, Ohio Police Station

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — When an Ohio father learned that his 11-year-old daughter had been manipulated into sending explicit photos to an adult, he turned to the police for help.

But instead of treating the girl as a crime victim, an officer seemingly threatened to charge her under a law most people view as designed to protect child victims.

The shocking interaction was recorded last week on body camera audio and by the father’s doorbell camera in Columbus, Ohio. The footage drew criticism from the public and from experts who said law enforcement officials have long misused laws meant to protect children by threatening to charge them with being part of the same crime.

Experts said the incident also showed that training for officers on how to respond to child exploitation cases is spotty and not standardized between police departments.

“It was a complete fail on a legal level and on a human level,” said Scott Berkowitz, founder and president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network — the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. “I don’t know who immediately goes to blaming a child in a situation like that. It’s inconceivable.”

In the redacted body camera recording obtained by The Associated Press, the father asks if there’s anything the police can do. A female officer is heard replying that his 11-year-old could be charged with creating “child porn.”

The parent protests that she is a child, a victim who was manipulated by an adult.

“It doesn’t matter,” the officer said. “She’s still creating it.”


About the Expert

Riya Saha Shah is a Senior Managing Director of Juvenile Law Center. Riya began her career at Juvenile Law Center in 2005 as a Sol and Helen Zubrow Fellow in Children’s Law. In her role as a Senior Managing Director, Riya serves on the organization’s Management Team and is a leader in Juvenile Law Center’s programmatic justice work. Since the beginning of her legal career, Riya has engaged in litigation, policy advocacy, and amicus efforts to reduce the harm of the juvenile and criminal legal system.