PIEDMONT — A police officer who issued a $2,500 ticket to a woman Sunday after her 3-year-old son tried to urinate in the family's front yard should have handled the situation differently, Piedmont Police Chief Alex Oblein said Tuesday.
Ashley Warden got the ticket for public urination after her son, Dillan, who is being potty trained, dropped his pants in the front yard of the family home at 4505 Ryan Drive.
Warden and several other members of her family were outside when Dillan got the urge to go.
Officer Ken Qualls was sitting in his police cruiser nearby when he saw Dillan drop his pants, said Jennifer Warden, the boy's grandmother.
“The policeman pulled up and asked for ID,” Jennifer Warden said. “We didn't know why and he said it was for public urination. We were like, ‘He's 3 years old.' And he said it didn't matter.”
Ashley Warden said she was so enraged she tore up the ticket before taping it back together. She filed a complaint with Piedmont police.
Oblein said the incident could have been handled better. The officer was in the area because several neighbors have complained of young people vandalizing property and being out of control. He saw a teenager in the Warden family lead the boy to a spot in the yard to urinate and decided to take action.
The officer later amended the complaint to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Oblein said he is waiting for word from the district attorney's office as to whether they will pursue the complaint, but he doesn't think it will go any further.
“My personal recommendation is I don't think the charge would stand up in court,” Oblein said. “I would strongly support them not filing it.”
Since the incident was first reported in the media, Oblein said his department has fielded hundreds of phone calls from across the U.S.
“It would have been a good opportunity for the officer to have a teaching moment with the parents,” Oblein said. “It's certainly a teaching moment for us. We are going to be talking about it quite a lot.”
Ashley Warden said she is happy police have acknowledged the officer reacted poorly, but said she still doesn't know whether she will have to pay the $2,500 fine.
“There is always that worry there that I might have to pay it, but I'm really hoping they will throw it out,” she said.