Military and Police

Using Cops as Tools Can Be Binding

One of the indelible traits cops confront on the daily is phantoms trying to pass the smell test police officers must use to determine the agenda, veracity and misguided interests of the many folks they encounter. Even seeming “officials” working under the auspices of a government agency needing police assistance must meet muster. And a few rookie cops in training with the Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) got to test their keen cop instincts and senses when a “child protective services” worker called upon them to aid her in investigating (removing) a three-week-old infant from the home of the baby’s parents.

Generally, CPS investigators are not sworn law enforcement officers; they are civilians trained in matters regarding reports of abused/neglected children. They are the state’s arm reaching out and into residences in the community so as to ascertain welfare of both child/children and environments in which they are being raised. If/when it is determined the living conditions of the home is not suitable and/or responsible parties raising the child/children are deemed unable to properly care for youngster(s), the state does what they call a “removal,” placing young ones in state custody temporarily until hearings are held in court and dispositions are adjudicated in the best interest of the child.

It is universal that CPS workers call cops to meet/assist them at locations of reported/suspected abuse/neglect of children. If any portion of the CPS investigation bears out definitive foul play against any child, someone is responsible. Usually, the person accountable is on scene and in the home. That implies arrest(s) for which CPS workers are not trained/authorized to effect. Quite a number of those “responsible” parties resist the state’s system and become combative, expending more energies when they realize the child is being removed than when they should have invested…well before it even got that far. Hence police officers being summoned to almost every CPS interest/investigation (returning a child to a home is considered a happy moment, not requiring police presence).

With that said, I can tell you that, in all my years working as a cop, it was rare to meet the same CPS worker twice. The pay is not necessarily the issue; the type of work they do can be emotionally draining. They get to see the dregs who house kids in deplorable conditions and whose attitudes embrace abject denial of toxic environments unsuitable for children. Thus the revolving door and short-lived careers of CPS workers keeps on turning; newer faces trying to do the right thing on behalf of children quickly become sort of disillusioned and resign. Bear this background in mind, because it is an operative feature in our foreground.

LVMPD Captain Nichole Splinter briefed media on a brazen concoction which transpired on Monday. Captain Splinter explained that a woman identified as Joanna Boyd, 39, called the Metro police dispatch line to request law enforcement assistance regarding her “investigation” at a certain address in Vegas regarding “an emergency pickup of an infant child.” Given the circumstances (newborn baby), ordinarily that would amount to something observed or overheard at the labor/delivery hospital whose personnel are legally bound to report suspicions of child abuse/neglect to the state and/or law enforcement authorities. In this particular case, the supposed endangered infant was a mere three weeks old and just arrived back home, post-discharge from the hospital, so the smell test was already needed.

When LVMPD cops met self-professed CPS worker Boyd at the residence in question, she produced “A court order and some additional paperwork” mandating removal of the infant. As Captain Splinter described, “The officers looked at [affidavits] and recognized [they] did not look legit.” Moreover, Boyd did not possess any identification to verify her authority and position as a bona fide CPS worker. (Every CPS worker I’ve ever accompanied on child abuse/neglect investigations wore their state-issued ID hanging from a lanyard around their neck or clipped to their waistline like a badge signifying some authority. With the exception of undercover cops, state employees are required to advertise IDs when on duty.)

The red flags are piling. The rookies and their respective field training officers (FTOs) sniffed something foul in the air. State CPS authorities were contacted to ascertain Boyd’s association with them. There was none. Never heard of her, they said.

Closely examining the purported “emergency removal documents” amounted to the police officers realizing that the signatures were fraudulent. Imagine that!

How’d this hairbrained scheme to abduct a baby get born? The infant’s parents were exchanging social media messages pertaining to buying baby clothes for their soon-to-be-born child. Boyd reportedly saw the parents’ posts on Facebook and started to un-hatch her plan by befriending them and inserting herself into their lives. It worked, to the point Boyd had garnered personal information from the infant’s mom and dad, enough detail to concoct a scam to kidnap the newborn under the guise of being a state CPS worker investigating a would-be report of abuse or similar purpose. Cops hear desperation each duty day, and this one pinnacles many others.

This serves as a stark reminder to never post personal information on social media. “Facebook accounts posted openly by the parents” were the lead-in for Boyd’s posing as a consigner of baby clothing. Caught up in the joy of having a baby, the expectant parents were duped into offering personal information to an infant clothing retailer who had nothing but empty promises and a sinister plot to rob the cradle.

Captain Splinter said, “We all know that we are proud when we have new children but posting the personal information, the date of birth, as well as the parents’ dates of birth was able to provide this suspect the information she needed to make these documents look legit. She made an effort to make these documents look legit, but again, it was through the solid police work from these officers that actually recognized that there’s something wrong here and went further to prevent this.” Offering that kind of personal data to a virtual stranger anonymously via a computer is extreme.

Splinter went on to chronicle how the rest of the plan unfolded, stating Boyd called the PD to ask for a police escort. As mentioned, alleged child abuse cases have a tendency to become “emotionally charged” and “unsafe,” whether with or without police standing by. A hunch says Boyd somewhere in her past either worked in government or knew someone who did, someone with the knowledge that CPS workers typically call police and meet up at a clandestine location to discuss the case details and a strategy…before going to the home in question. Captain Splinter confirmed for the media that that is exactly what happened. And as the police talked with her while scrutinizing the falsified documents she proffered, their probable cause was sufficient enough to place her in custody. Boyd never got to the new parents’ home, but the police did, whereupon they asked the mom and dad questions. Their answers corroberated not only the information Boyd was using to facilitate her scheme but to also lure cops into her web of deception.

What was Boyd’s motivation for trying to pull this off? Her biological children were taken by state CPS workers…and she wanted to have a child, any other child, to mother and raise as hers. Aha! So that is where she knew how the process worked and how the police interact in such cases.

LIVE: Metro Police detailing attempted kidnapping

LIVE: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police are giving details on an attempted kidnapping in the northeast valley.

Posted by FOX5 Las Vegas on Wednesday, November 28, 2018

“Attempted kidnapping of an infant” and the “outstanding police work that actually prevented this horrendous crime from occurring,” Captain Splinter said, thwarted Boyd, an ex-felon originating from California, in her attempt to use police as “unwitting tools.” I’d say they came sharper than tacks and pinned her ass to the wall, solving other crimes in the process (read on). Boyd was arrested and is now in county jail, facing varied felony counts to include attempt kidnapping, forgery, impersonating a public officer, possession of a stun gun/device by a felon, and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Oh, and at the Clark County jail she has neither a bond nor access to social media while spending time wondering where she went wrong. Or her next scheme, whether in or out of prison.

Since I currently do not have comedy club tickets to hand out, please ponder the grand plan of Boyd. Wrap your head around the particulars: the very notion to mastermind such a bizarre plot; the gall (cockiness) to dupe police officers for entry, authenticity and authority; the pitiful idea to kidnap a newborn in order to fill the void left by the state taking custody of her own children (we might even hazard to say that day was one of reckoning to get even, in her own demented fashion); and of course the stupidity that her operation would somehow go off without a hitch…so she could live happily ever after with a hijacked baby tooling around in a stolen auto, stun gun tucked in her bra.

Joanna Boyd, 39, posed as a CPS worker and tried to dupe cops to help her kidnap a newborn baby. (Credit: LVMPD)

This kind of mindset and behavior underscores at least some of the reasoning for why real state CPS workers removed Boyd’s kids. One can imagine the probable cause affidavits (authentic ones) contents when that went down.

Training or not, those brand-new cops are now immediately seasoned with a major story of their own to share when they become FTOs down the road. Not to detract from those two police trainees who followed their gut and logic, any other cops would have likely smelled the same foulness, bear-trapping Boyd from making off with a child. Nonetheless, kudos are definitely applicable for the two rookie cops who knew the pieces didn’t quite fit together.

What’s next in such an investigation? The police expanding their scope (looking for the potential of more victims left behind by Boyd) and the media plastering TV, newspapers, and computer screens with the booking photo of Boyd, so that others familiar with her in any way can render testimonies. You never know until you ask. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”? Nah, we need this one to go far and wide.

It takes quite a set of things to float what Boyd thought would fly. I miss police work.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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