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Public Safety

Santee Father Questioned By Sheriff's Deputies After Changing Daughter's Diaper In Public

KPBS reporter John Carroll speaks with Miguel Rodriguez in Santee, Calif. on April 30, 2021.
Roland Lizarondo
KPBS reporter John Carroll speaks with Miguel Rodriguez in Santee, Calif. on April 30, 2021.

If you’re a parent, you know there are times when your child’s diaper has to be changed as soon as possible. That was the situation a Santee father found himself in earlier this week after grocery shopping with his 2-year-old daughter.

Miguel Rodriguez often walks the 2 miles to the Vons in Santee with his daughter Scarlett in a stroller.

He’d just finished getting groceries Tuesday evening when he noticed his daughter’s blanket and clothes were sopping wet. She’d somehow punctured her diaper.

“It was bad, it was something where I needed to get her clean right away," Rodriguez said.

He said he looked around for a suitable location and found a sidewalk in a relatively secluded part of the shopping center.

“I just came over here to where I’d think there would be less people," Rodriguez said.

VIDEO: Santee Father Questioned By Sheriff's Deputies After Changing Daughter's Diaper In Public

What he didn’t know then, but would soon find out, was someone called the San Diego Sheriff’s Department on him. At the same time, he was calling his wife.

“And I said hey, Scarlett had an accident. Can you come pick us up?” Rodriguez said.

After disposing of the diaper in a nearby trash can, he walked over to the place he was to meet his wife. Rodriguez was strapping Scarlett into her car seat when a deputy rolled up.

“And he asked something like, 'Hey did you change a kid, a diaper around here?' And I was like, 'Well, yeah.'”

Rodriguez said the deputy gave no other reason for approaching him.

As they talked, Rodriguez said a second deputy rolled up, who he said, just watched what was happening. Advice from his parents long ago came to his mind.

“Stay quiet, try to smile, cup your hands like this and this is what I did," he said, demonstrating with his hands clasped together in front of his chest. "They started asking me questions, a question that came up more than once was whether or not I had been arrested and I said no cause it’s true, whether or not I had a record, which I said no, also true.”

Eventually, the deputy confirmed Rodriguez’s ID, and he and his partner left.

Rodriguez wanted to make it clear that his upset over this incident isn’t directed toward law enforcement. It’s toward the person who called them.

“My problem is that they were called at all for a nothing and that they saw fit to follow up on that call," he said.

As for the Sheriff’s Department, Lt. Amber Baggs at the Santee station told KPBS in an email that the deputies were simply checking on the welfare of the Rodriguez family. She also said the deputy’s body camera showed Rodriguez was treated politely and professionally. Rodriguez confirmed that was true.

KPBS was directed to submit follow-up questions by email. Among the questions asked was whether changing a diaper in public is legal. KPBS has yet to hear back.

Meantime, Rodriguez said what happened to him is an example of one person weaponizing law enforcement against another person, and he said it needs to stop.