The Columbus police department is looking into an incident after a viral video showed police officers in the Ohio city telling a father that his 11-year-old daughter could be charged with distributing child sexual abuse images.
The father called police to report that his daughter was being targeted by an online predator. According to a Facebook post published by the father on Friday, officers showed up at his house hours later and told him that his daughter could face “child porn” charges. The father’s post included a video of his exchange with the police officers, apparently captured on a front door security camera. He later posted the video on TikTok, where it went viral.
The Columbus Division of Police “acknowledged” the video in a statement sent to HuffPost on Monday. The police said that the Columbus Department of the Inspector General is opening an inquiry into the incident with the officers. The statement also said that detectives in the department’s sexual assault unit are investigating the father’s claims about his daughter being preyed on by a predator online.
“As soon as we learned of this incident, we immediately reached out to the father to apologize, and to assure him that this matter was being fully investigated ― both the actions of this officer, and more importantly, any crime committed against his child,” Police Chief Elaine R. Bryant said in a separate statement emailed to HuffPost.
The police encounter began on the night of Sept. 14, with two unnamed Columbus police officers banging on the man’s door. As seen in the video, the father told the officers that his daughter was sleeping now and noted that he called them hoping they could talk to her about the severity of the situation.
“I mean she can probably get charged with child porn,” the female officer said in the video.
“Who? She can? She’s 11 years old,” the father responded.
“She’s creating it, right?” the female officer is heard asking in the video. “It doesn’t matter. She’s still making porn.”
“No, she’s not. She’s being manipulated by a grown-ass adult on the internet,” the father said. The encounter was brief, with the father ending it by telling the officers to enjoy the rest of their night.
The incident highlights how child sexual abuse laws were initially meant to hold adults accountable but that in many instances minors have faced charges as sexting has become more common. Advocates who work with sexual assault survivors told The Associated Press that the Columbus incident reflects a flaw in how police officers are trained to respond to exploitation reports.
“It was a complete fail on a legal level and on a human level,” Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, told AP. “I don’t know who immediately goes to blaming a child in a situation like that. It’s inconceivable.”
The father said the man online has continued to reach out to his daughter since the police encounter, reported CNN, which identified the parent by his artist name, Billy Blocka.
In his Facebook post, the father explained that he asked his daughter for approval to share the video online. He then posted the video of the police encounter on TikTok on Monday, where it has logged more than 760,000 views and received more than 16,000 comments, with many people criticizing the officers’ response.
A TikToker with the username TizzyEnt, who regularly posts news to a following of nearly 6 million people, criticized the police in a stitch of the original video.
“She is being manipulated. She is being groomed. She cannot consent. That’s the whole point of all of this. So Columbus police department, explain to me what is wrong with you that you have a father whose child has been victimized, who has been preyed upon, and your officer shows up at his home with the intention of blaming that child for what happened,” TizzyEnt said.
Chief Bryant has since said that the officers would be held accountable if the investigation finds that there was wrongdoing.
“My expectation is that our officers treat every victim of crime with compassion, decency, and dignity. What I saw in that video did not reflect that ― which is why we referred this case to the Inspector General,” Bryant said in a statement emailed to HuffPost on Tuesday.
The father said Wednesday on Facebook that he doesn’t believe the police are being sincere about addressing the incident.
“They have been leaving victims to their abusers for a long time and it Has to stop,” the father wrote. “This is a problem that is everywhere. The insensitivity of the police department is ridiculous.”
The father did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
David Moye contributed to this report.