One would think that people whose job is upholding the law would at least be somewhat aware of what the law is, but somehow the U.S. seems to have a number of police officers who don’t know that public breastfeeding is legal. A nursing parent can feed their baby wherever they are legally allowed to be themselves, and they don’t have to use a cover. Some police officers don’t seem aware of that, though, and this week a mother complained that a Colorado police officer told her and her friends to nurse in the IHOP bathroom or use a cover.
According to PopSugar, Colorado mother Tiara Wilson and her friends went to IHOP for pancakes last week, and they brought their babies. A family came and was seated near them, and everything was still relatively normal. Then a couple of the mothers started nursing their babies, while just sitting and chatting and eating pancakes, like you do, and the family at the next table decided they absolutely could not sit there and eat their pancakes and mind their own business. Instead, they started making gross comments at the women, making nasty faces at them, and actually took out their phones and started taking pictures and filming them as they were just sitting there feeding their babies.
Wilson says the whole family joined in, even the 14- or 15-year-old son was just taking their pictures and leering at them. (Great kids you’re raising there, guys. I’m sure they’ll all go far in life and not peak as “high school kid harassing nursing moms at the IHOP.”) The whole family thought this was totally acceptable behavior and refused to stop when the women told them to leave them alone.
One of the mothers complained to the IHOP manager that the people at the next table were harassing them and taking their pictures and refused to stop filming them. The manager did not want the family harassing or photographing other customers without their consent or otherwise causing a disruption in his restaurant, so he told them he was calling the police to deal with it.
At that point the family reportedly decided to beat it before the cops showed up, but the manager wouldn’t bring them their bill, so the family couldn’t actually leave without being guilty of theft.
When the police showed up, however, Wilson says they were on the side of the photo-taking family.
“The Aurora Police Department COPD said: ‘GO TO THE BATHROOM or USE A COVER, if you don’t want to be bothered or have pictures snapped while feeding,'” Wilson wrote on Facebook.
Wilson was furious at the policeman’s response, because an IHOP bathroom is not a place most people would want to feed a baby.
The Aurora police have said that support women’s right to publicly breastfeed, and that they’re very aware of the IHOP situation and are investigating it now and will release a statement after the investigation is complete.
The police issued a statement regarding the incident on Facebook. “Today Chief Nick Metz of the Aurora Colorado Police Department (APD) met with a group of local mothers about an incident that occurred on Thursday, March 2nd at a local eatery regarding them being photographed while breastfeeding, and the subsequent response of the Aurora Police Department to investigate this matter,” their statement begins.
The police then recounted what their investigation unfolded and told their side of the situation saying they believe the officers “were correct in their assessment of the situation” but said they “could have communicated more effectively.”
The statement continued, “This afternoon, we were met with this group of mothers and their children. We proactively discussed privacy laws, how they felt violated at the thought of being photographed in public while breastfeeding their children, as well as how the responding officers could have communicated more effectively.”
Adding, “Following our discussion, we decided to make this joint statement to address the many inaccuracies reported via social media, and to highlight how working together in a collaborative manner presents opportunities to learn and build respectful rapport as we resolve these issues together. One of these opportunities is to remind all our officers on the importance of how effective communication can not only help resolve matters more effectively, but can also leave a positive lasting impression on those we encounter. #NormalizeBreastfeeding”