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A Year After Myls Dobson's Death, Loophole That Led to His Killing Remains

By Janon Fisher | January 12, 2015 7:43am
 The NYPD has taken their time adopting US Department of Justice recommendations on how to deal with children of incarcerated parents.
NYPD Slow to Implement Child Safety Protocols
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ONE POLICE PLAZA — A year after the death of 4-year-old Myls Dobson, the legal loophole that left the boy in the hands of his killer has still not been fixed.

Myls was starved, burned and beaten in a Midtown high-rise, allegedly by a woman he barely knew while his father was in jail.

City officials pledged immediately after Myls' death to ramp up oversight of children whose primary caregiver has been arrested to ensure they are in a safe environment while their parent is in jail.

The proposed reform would have made it part of a police officer's routine to check city databases for child welfare history and child custody details whenever making an arrest, in line with protocols developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice.

But police still have not made the change.

"The NYPD is aware of the IACP policy and we are taking steps to assess our internal protocol as it relates to children left in the custody of an adult, once the guardian or adult has been taken into police custody," NYPD Deputy Chief Kim Royster said.

"There has been no final determination made at this point."

For Myls' grieving relatives, the delay is unacceptable.

"After 12 months, you should be able to point to something and say progress is being made," said Will Brown, Myls' great-uncle.

"I think it's been enough time to formulate a strategy — it goes to the degree that they are committed to making change."

Myls' father, Okee Wade, left his son with Kryzie King, a friend, on Dec. 18, 2013, a day before Wade was arrested in a bank fraud scheme. Authorities asked Wade after he was arrested if he had children, and Wade said Myls was staying with a friend.

No one at the Administration for Children's Services was notified, even though the agency had previously been involved with the family, removing Myls from his mother's care three years earlier and giving custody to Wade.

King took Myls to her apartment in Midtown's Ritz Plaza, where prosecutors say she starved him, burned him with a George Foreman grill and beat him with belts. She finally called 911 on Jan. 8 and told emergency responders she had found the child unconscious in a bathtub after a fall.

Myls died a short time later.

After Myls' death, Public Advocate Letitia James promised to work with the Administration for Children's Services to ensure the agency monitored kids whose parents were jailed, especially if the family had a history with ACS.

"I believe it is important that when a custodial parent whose child has been in the ACS system is incarcerated, the agency be notified to take action to place the child with an appropriate caretaker immediately," James wrote at the time in the Daily News.

"There is nothing more horrific than the death of a child... we must act with the highest sense of urgency to address the gaps in our system that allowed this to happen," James told DNAinfo at the time.

Since then, reforms have failed at both the city and state level.

Upper West Side Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and Bronx state Sen. Jose Serrano introduced legislation requiring police to check if a person being arrested was the primary custodian of a child and, if so, to alert ACS to the arrest.

The bill was deemed too expensive and too burdensome on the city bureaucracy and never made it out of committee.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also made promises after Myls' death and he has honored some of them.

He allocated money to hire 362 more staff members to ensure better oversight of vulnerable children, as well as additional Family Court judges.

He also required ACS case workers to request extra hearings in Family Court to determine whether parents whose children were under city supervision were appropriate caregivers, and he proposed legislation that would require background checks on people sharing homes with children under ACS supervision.

The centerpiece of de Blasio's work was the creation of a 23-agency Children's Cabinet to foster better communication between agencies that deal with child safety.

Brown said he was appreciative of the city's efforts, but he was skeptical that the Children's Cabinet would enact reforms. He wants the city to bring in outside consultants who could better identify the flaws in the system that agency employees would ignore.

"If they are managing themselves, they're not going to do what needs to be done," Brown said.

And as the one-year anniversary of Myls' death has come and gone, Brown is getting tired of waiting for action.

"What I fail to see in all this is an endgame," Brown said. "What are those new procedures doing specifically to address the loss of Myls? That's not being addressed."