A single mom was charged in July after letting her son play unsupervised at a neighborhood park.
Florida officials dropped a charge of child neglect against Nicole Gainey, a Port St. Lucie resident.Turns out, that’s not much of a crime.
The arrest sparked outrage and concern over the proper role of police and government agencies when it comes such parental decisions – an area without express legal protection.
“The question is: Who’s the parent? The police or the mother?” John W. Whitehead, Gainey’s attorney, told Watchdog.org several days after the arrest.
Whitehead says cooler heads have prevailed.
“All is not lost as long as there are government officials willing to work through issues in a reasonable manner, exhibiting compassion and common sense and recognizing that there are better ways to deal with concerns about child safety than criminalizing parents,” he said in a statement.
Gainey routinely allowed her 7-year-old son, Dominic, to ride his bicycle half a mile from home to Sportsmans’ Park. She also makes him wear a cell phone around his neck, according to Whitehead. Prosecutors would have had to establish the child’s needs weren’t adequately arranged before he left to play.
“What this incident shows is that keeping young people safe and a parent’s ability to know what’s appropriate for their children are not mutually exclusive goals,” Whitehead said.
Gainey was arrested after a bystander called the authorities after noticing Dominic was at the park alone. She was then handcuffed — in front of the boy — and taken to a local jail, where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed and held for seven hours. Dominic stayed with Gainey’s boyfriend.
“I’m totally dumfounded by this whole situation,” Gainey told WPTV, a local news station.
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