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Florida police officers accused of 'jailing' their young son over potty training accidents

Child's mother said she didn't believe they did anything wrong
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Posted at 4:24 PM, Jun 30, 2023

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida police officers accused of twice putting their 3 1/2-year-old son in a jail cell to punish him for potty training accidents remain on the job while an investigation continues.

Nearly nine months later, the Daytona Beach Shores Police Department is not talking about it and most records related to the investigation have been sealed by a Volusia County judge.

"The city strives to always be open and transparent, however, due to the court order that was issued to the city, we are unable to comment at this time. If anything should change, we would be happy to discuss," the city's public information officer, Tammy Marzik, wrote in an email to The AP.

The couple said they "jailed" their son twice — on Oct. 5 and 6, 2022. They were interviewed by a state child abuse investigator, who was escorted to their home by a Volusia County Sheriff's deputy whose body camera recorded the conversation. The video was sent to the media this week by the sheriff's office, which later asked to recall it, citing a court order restricting the release of information about the case.

The Associated Press is not identifying the child nor the parents — the mother is a detective and the father is a lieutenant with the Daytona Beach Shores Police. Their attorney, Michael Lambert, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

During the hour-long video, the child's mother said she didn't believe they did anything wrong, adding that "it's just people getting it twisted." She also called the investigation "the definition of insanity."

How the state learned about the boy's treatment hasn't been made public, but the father told the investigator "it's just disgusting that somebody would drag our family through the mud like this."

He explained that their day care center requires children to stop using diapers by age 3, but the boy was still having accidents, so while the school was being lenient, they were trying everything possible to get him potty trained.

"We've tried books, we've tried run around without pants, you name it we've tried it," the father told the investigator.

So they confronted the boy, he said.

"I said you know what I do for a living," the father explained. "I said I'm a cop. I take bad boys to the jail that don't follow the law. So that's what I did. I said you know you aren't following the rules, let's go to jail."

The father said the cell "was nasty" so he checked it out for contraband before putting his son inside. He told investigators the boy was behind bars for about 13 minutes, and he "had eyes on him the entire time."

"He was crying," the father said. "I was getting the response I expected from him."

The father said the boy's mother had placed him in the cell the day before, for about three minutes.

The tactic worked: The child made good on his promise not to have any more accidents, the father told investigators.

What's more, he said he did it before with his older son, about nine years ago, when that child admitted hitting a girl in preschool. He said he told his son that in his job, he puts people in jail when they hit others.

"I took him to the jail and he sat there. And I watched him ... and he was crying and everything, and to this day, if you mention, like, that incident, he's just like, 'I would never do that again.' It was effective," the father said. "So that's why I did it with this. He didn't hit anybody, but I figured the same thing, discipline."

Florida Department of Children and Families spokeswoman Tori Cuddy told The AP that the agency responds to all allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment, and that all information involving such cases is confidential.

It's not clear what repercussions the couple faces, if any, but they've gone to court, suing the state attorney's office in March and separately suing State Attorney R.J. Larizza in May. Those court records are marked confidential and have been sealed by a judge, the city clerk's office said.

Lonnie Groot, a former city attorney for Daytona Beach Shores who now serves the community in more of a watchdog capacity, is looking for answers. Groot said he's been unsuccessful in his attempts to get additional records involving the investigation.

"The City is just patently trying to hide the matter and hopes now that it will go away and they can go back to their own ways," Groot told The AP.