Police ordered the news reporter to leave the park to try to interview a child

A cop who ordered a man to leave a suburban New York amusement park for talking to a child has been reprimanded by his department and ordered to attend First Amendment training.

Jeffrey Weiss, commanding officer of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety’s Special Investigations Unit, wrote in a department review that kicking a reporter out of the park was a “violation of department policy.”

According to Rockland/Westchester Journal News, David McKay Wilson — tax columnist for a Westchester, New York, newspaper — visited Rye Playland for a story on the park’s changing tax status. He bought a ticket for the ride and stood in line for the locally famous Dragon Coaster as he struck up a conversation with the kids waiting next to him.

One of the children told his father how he spoke to an adult. The father reported Wilson to a guard, angry that a man had spoken to his daughter without her permission. The guard called the police.

When a policeman arrived, Wilson told him he was there on assignment. The police called the newspaper, which confirmed this. Then the police kicked Wilson out of the park, anyway.

Later, the newspaper requested a review of the officer’s conduct. To its credit, the department concluded that the officer was in the wrong. “This department is committed to high standards of professionalism,” Weiss wrote. “Misconduct by its officers will not be condoned.”

On the other hand, normal human interaction should be forgiven—even encouraged. And it sometimes involves an adult talking to a child he or she is not related to. (Readers may recall that one of my school supervisors called me last year when I stopped by my local elementary school during recess to watch the children play outside.)

There is something deeply misguided about a society that automatically sees this sort of thing as both terrifying and criminal.