Moss Point PD criticized for not freeing child in locked car

By Patrice Clark - bio | email

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Holly Bingham says her 1-year-old son Hunter gave her the scare of her life when he locked himself in this car.

"I put him in the car, I turned around like this, shut the door. By the time I turned back around, he crawled up through the center and pressed the lock on the door," Bingham said.

Panicking, Bingham immediately dialed 911. That's when she says a Moss Point Police dispatcher told her the unthinkable.

"All she told me was no one on the shift had an unlocking device, here is the number to the towing company we use."

The mother says the towing company charged her $30 to get her child out. Bingham said she was so angry she called her mom and her mom's best friend, Dolanda Sims. Sims called Moss Point Police Chief Shelia Smallman to discuss the incident.

"I told her I was very upset, and her response to that was it was against our policy," Sims said about her conversation with the chief. "I said even with child in a car, it's your policy? That does not make sense."

Chief Smallman told WLOX, "There was no mention of policy. I did state that the previous administration determined to stop unlocking vehicles due to the volume of complaints that vehicles were being damaged. It is unfortunate that this incident occurred at a time we did not have the necessary tool. Since this incident, I personally purchased an unlocking device for each shift to ensure that this will not happen again."

But Mayor Xavier Bishop says this is mistake that should have never happened.

"Common sense should have prevailed. We should have gone out of our way to assist; anything from breaking the glass on a vehicle, to calling in another department, or taking extreme measures to free the child from the vehicle," Bishop said.

The mother said although she's upset about this incident, she can't help but to be happy her child is alive.

Chief Smallman said she's already decided to re-instate the unlock vehicle service, particularly when a child is in the vehicle, or the vehicle is running. She also said dispatch has been advised that in the future an officer will respond to those types of calls immediately.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.