Four-Year-Old Girl Asked to Remove her Hoodie for Vague "Security" Reasons

In the UK:

Ms Lewis, 36, said: “I was having a game of bingo while the little one was on the 2p machine with my dad Desmond.

“She had her hood up on her cardigan, a young lad came across and asked her to take her hood down because of security.”

She asked to speak to a supervisor and pointed out that, as other people were wearing baseball and beanie caps, they should also be made to remove them.

Ms Lewis said: “The manager told me I was being unreasonable, that I was making a scene and that my daughter was not going to be emotionally scarred because of the incident.

“I complained that she was being victimised and that she was four-year-old child.”

Posted on September 12, 2007 at 2:26 PM53 Comments


Safety First September 12, 2007 2:49 PM

She could have been smuggling shampoo under that hood. Easily more than 4 ounces. Maybe 6. Or even 7.

CGomez September 12, 2007 2:54 PM

It’s stupid and ridiculous, but these kinds of things have happened for a long time. I think there’s a magnifying glass over it now, but we’ve all heard anecdotes from friends how they were asked to do something for vague “security reasons”.

Twenty years ago a few friends of mine were eyed suspiciously and finally asked if they could be searched just to enter Disneyland. Why? They liked to wear trenchcoats.

They consented. Sure, it was a ridiculous thing to ask for, but they clearly decided the incentive to enter Disneyland (even as a paying customer) that day with their friends was worth more than the privacy inconvenience and violation. Clearly in their heads, they weighed that violation and decided on this instance to ignore it.

Each case is different. Another time, it may not be worth it to you so you take your business elsewhere.

It was just as ridiculous then as it would be post 9-11, but sometimes these relatively untrained people given the job of “security guard” or “manager” at public places make bad calls.

Joseph September 12, 2007 3:11 PM

Regarding the Disneyland incident, it’s all CYA. Remember, it’s always CYA. If somebody in a trenchcoat shoots a bunch of people in Colorado, or more recently, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and then five days later a Disneyland security guard allows somebody with a trenchcoat in without double-checking, and they go on a shooting rampage, there’s going to be hell to pay.

It’s the same way in the corporate world. I do things all the time that normally don’t seem to make much sense, but I do them so that when something goes wrong in the future, they can’t blame it on me personally.

mrs_helm September 12, 2007 3:43 PM

I agree it is stupid policy, and should be changed. Most likely it is the result of having simple profiling rules instead of hiring experienced security guards and trusting their instincts.

BUT as a parent you often have to decide which is more important – your sense of self-righteousness, or your child’s calm (and everyone else’s). Why ruin the day for you, your child, the manager, and innocent bystanders? The woman WAS being unreasonable and making a scene. The manager was right that the child wouldn’t be scarred (or victimized) by taking the hood down on her sweater, especially if the parent reacted calmly and positively about it. The child will more likely be permanently influenced by the parent’s attitude toward security.

This is a case where you decide there’s really no harm in removing the hood (at least in the guard’s presence). You might be peeved, but you don’t need to spread the attitude to everyone else. Later, you can write a nastygram to the airline telling them how dumb the policy is.

Wicked Lad September 12, 2007 3:49 PM

Yikes! You should warn us when you link to such scary, horrific pictures, Bruce. Did you see the intimidating look on that kid’s face?

Goopy September 12, 2007 3:52 PM

Now we all must wear “security correct” clothing! Reminds me of when I was ready to purchase a traditional Driza-Bone coat, but decided against it. Figured it would trigger a weapons check twice a week.

Roy September 12, 2007 4:07 PM

The kid should have started screaming “Stranger danger!” which might have drawn real cops and then the rentacop would be peppersprayed, clubbed, kicked, cuffed, and hauled away for booking into jail.

I suspect most of these cases are simply a matter of abusing privilege. The thinking is, “I can boss people around, and if they resist I can make real trouble for them! Wheeeee!”

(In sixth grade I was captain of the school safety patrol, and I was repeatedly shocked at how my colleagues liked to bully people, ordering them around for no reason than just the thrill of it.)

Adrian September 12, 2007 4:09 PM

Every time I go through the airport metal detectors I have to remove my hat. Its always for security reasons. A plain cotton hat, but for some reason it is stated that I can hide weapons under it that I can’t hide under any of my other clothes.

Bring on the first nut-case woman who decides to smuggle explosives in her bra! Every bra must be removed at security!

MarvinK September 12, 2007 4:26 PM

It seems like they should have the “no hoodie” policy posted somewhere, or at least be able to refer to it. People are less inclined to feel like they are being singled out if there is something on paper that they can at least refer to. They’re more upset about being personally singled-out or ‘victimized’ than they are about having to comply to ‘some stupid rule’ like everyone else.

You’d see objections at the airport if someone was being harassed for their travel shampoo, and there weren’t signs everywhere raising awareness about those types of policies.

Tim September 12, 2007 4:31 PM

This is a good example of how our freedoms are slowly eroded over time. Sure, it’s not a big deal to ask the kid to remove her hood just this once. But if the parent responds by saying “go ahead, remove it” without asking any questions, then the next time the kid won’t ask any questions. Little by little, the kid will get the idea that any authority figure that asks her to do any little thing should just be obeyed. This kind if indifference to minor violations of civil liberties are what lead to things like the Patriot Act being approved.

Dom De Vitto September 12, 2007 4:37 PM

She should have whispered to her 4-year old to kick the guy between the legs. 4 is way below the age of legal responsibility, so the kid would get away with it.

Then he’d be a lot more respectful.

darkuncle September 12, 2007 4:42 PM

@mrs helm: are you seriously advocating doing anything anyone in authority says, without question, whether or not it makes any sense or infringes on your civil liberties, just because they said so? It’s that attitude of “go along to get along” that results in a populace that silently abdicates their rights because exercising them might “make a scene”.

The problem here was that there was no reason whatsoever for the guard to require a 4yo child to remove her hood. It’s not the parent that’s at fault, it’s the guard, who should be fired and sent to work somewhere that good sense is not a job requirement. I’m always astonished at the number of people who defend this type of baseless fear-mongering. 8 times out of 10, if you hear someone use “security reasons” as a justification, it’s an excuse for a request or decision that would otherwise be totally indefensible and has nothing whatever to do with security.


Dom De Vitto September 12, 2007 4:44 PM


Goot point – I think it’s quite plausible that women terrorists could stuff bras and panties with explosives, and get caught in the act.

I think that only G-strings and push-up bras less than a C cup should be allowed on board planes – just to be EXTRA secure.

Anyone got a number for the DHS?

Dom De Vitto September 12, 2007 4:45 PM


Good point – I think it’s quite plausible that women terrorists could stuff bras and panties with explosives.

Only G-strings and push-up bras less than a C cup should be allowed on board planes – just to be EXTRA secure.

Anyone got a number for the DHS?

Timbojones September 12, 2007 5:25 PM

Note: this happened at a seaside arcade. At least 2 commenters appear to have read the summary and assumed it happened at an airport.

Here’s the arcade manager’s reasoning behind the policy: “If there is an incident to a hoodie or with a hoodie, we’ve got CCTV all over the place. If anything happened..I want to see and be able to recognise him.”

Apparently in the UK “hoodie” has been extended to refer not only to hooded sweatshirts, but to their wearers, and now children’s cardigans as well.

bzelbob September 12, 2007 6:03 PM

Does anyone else see a problem with ordinary citizen always having to show their ID and faces while the police increasingly wear masks and remove their badges?

(This is supposed to have happened to protesters recently in Australia. It definitely happened at a protest up in Canada, where the police were infil-traitors into the crowd attempting to incite violence.)

People, it’s time to push back! Governments are becoming more and more closed while at the same time demanding that the average citizen become more and more open.
And all in the name of security. Ha!


Anonymous September 12, 2007 6:21 PM

Used to work in an offlicence in the UK. We had a lot of rules: no head coverings, only two under-18s in the shop etc. A little later we simply banned under-16s entirely unless in tow of supposedly responsible adult.

This probably makes us Nazis, but it made quite a lot of sense. We had security cameras. We had large stock losses. Many of the kids in the area tended to misbehave, and not a few of the adults either come to think of it, but at least we could prosecute them if we got video evidence. Not so with the kids.

I doubt I would’ve asked a four-year-old to remove her hood (pointless waste of breath). OTOH, it’s easier to enforce a blanket ban than it is ‘Oh, I don’t mind that kid, she’s nice. But your kids, they’re clearly dangerous and hence I will enforce policy on them’. This is typically where stupid policies come from – might as well ask why you can’t take a baby into a UK pub, when it’s likely that a three-month-old is below the age at which it is going to start learning bad habits from patrons 😛

For me this is a total non-story, which should probably have the headline, “Employee follows orders to letter, consequently looks like idiot”.

Eric September 12, 2007 7:46 PM

I believe Paul McCartney was busted carrying pot into Japan by hiding it in his kid’s hoodie or similar clothing. “Security Reasons” are not just for things like terrorists. Many more mundane reasons are lumped together under security.

averros September 12, 2007 7:51 PM

Well, I guess you have to start training them for bending over and submitting to the search early.

Because otherwise later some of them would get smarter and start challenging the “authorities”.

Alex September 13, 2007 1:14 AM

Bruce, this seems like a lot of fuss over nothing. A private woned amusement hall has a no-hoods policy. Agreed with it or not, if they enforce it everyone has the choice to leave. They do not have a monopoly. Besides the owner reasonable explained why he has this policy and I very much tend to agree with him looking at the kind of place he runs and teh average customers that come there.
What’s a four year old doing anyway in an amusement hall where her mother is playing bingo? I think I have a pretty good idea how this incient evolved and how the mother behaved.

csrster September 13, 2007 2:18 AM

Alex – this was at a seaside holiday resort, not some city-centre dive. Why wouldn’t a four-year-old be in an amusement arcade?

inthepub September 13, 2007 2:40 AM

@Anonymous “might as well ask why you can’t take a baby into a UK pub”

You are perfectly able to take a baby into a UK pub.

frog51 September 13, 2007 4:05 AM

&Inthepub – many pubs do not allow it. My son used to come to the pub with us of a Friday (he didn’t sleep, there was a nice restaurant section, and no smoke) from about 10 days old. Never caused trouble, just sat there in his baby seat. But about 8 months later the pub changed policy to ban babies and he was banned…

Bang went our social life 🙁

Alex September 13, 2007 4:43 AM

@csrster: Sea side or not, an amusement arcade where they have these bingo machines for adults are imho no place for a four year old. But I agree, that opinions on that differ.

Iphigenie September 13, 2007 5:06 AM

She could have countered the one “exagerated security concern” with a stronger one such as saying loudly:

“If you try to undress my 4 year old girl again I am calling the police”

RC September 13, 2007 8:14 AM

A large part of the harm done to the world because of terrorism comes from us terrorizing outselves out of unreasonable fear and abuse of power.

Bruce is right.
We should refuse to terrorize ourselves.

moonglum September 13, 2007 8:20 AM

I guess it all depends on your poitn of view Mrs Helms…see I think she set a wonderful example for her child…”athority” figures must be questiond at all times, espicaly if there requets seem complealty asinine…thes jerks are allready on power trips why amplify it.

boco September 13, 2007 9:35 AM

Pardon my lack of street cred (or my lack of Britishness, as the case may be), but what’s the whole “hoodie” thing? Clearly that’s what the issue was, not terrorism. Still stupid, of course, to worry over a four-year old.

Wolfger September 13, 2007 12:04 PM

Ok, from reading the article (people do know how to read articles, right?), it wasn’t an “untrained security guard” or “jerks […] on power trips”, it was an arcade employee, most likely a kid earning minimum wage, just trying to not get in trouble for not enforcing the arcade rules. Blast the policy maker, not the enforcer. If we all quit our jobs or allowed ourselves to get fired every time the boss instituted a stupid rule, we’d all be unemployed.

jayh September 13, 2007 1:27 PM

A co-worker of my wife had a similar experience in a US airport. She is a 65 year old black woman with short cut hair… TSA folks prodded her hair and repeatedly asked “is this yours?” “are you hiding something in there”

Christopher September 13, 2007 5:29 PM

In a day and age where crime is so widespread in practically every city, one has to act in prudent ways. This also means that security personnel have to be vigilent in their duties and funcitons, of course in lawful and legal manners, in order to properly protect public safety.

Unfortunately, this sometimes means that there are those who might overreact or engage in conduct that my not have or seemingly fails to have justified purpose and foundational cause.

In the instant case of those entering an amusement part with trench coats, if such is being done on a hot sunny day then they establish reasonable or probable cause to be their conduct is suspicious and indicative of possible criminal intents.

However, in the instant case of the fourm article, it is not so easy to argue legitimate ground to claim that a “four year old child” poses such a substantial security risk that it is necessary to have her hoodie removed. Legitimate store policies and security measures are one thing – but here, it was a case of unnecessary actions taken.

DougC September 13, 2007 8:41 PM

I have an interesting one about hats. It’s about culture, set and settings.

I live in a pretty small town, and use the local bank. Everyone knows everyone else, more or less, and especially the bank tellers know the customers on sight. Especially me as I’ve been a customer longer than most of them have been alive and am a major depositor (for this bank, that’s not real hard, so I’m not attempting to boast).

Our bank recently put up the dumb sign “no hats” which is actually pretty inconvenient, as it gets cold here. And what robber would obey the sign? Bruce has already pointed this out in an earlier article.

I also often carry a gun, sometimes concealed, sometimes not.

So, I took off the hat, mentioned how stupid this was to the tellers and officers ( and gave them a link to Bruce’s original article), then said, well, what about this (reveals gun)?

They said, “fine Doug, we feel safer with you in here and armed” — and they were sincere about that. But no hats. And no sign about guns, at least so far.

I feel sorry for those who force themselves to live in the big city where it’s all anonymous (heck, you might be rightly afraid to meet your neighbors), and the rules have to be tougher and far more restrictive as a result. And it’s sad that some of those rules inappropriately get shoved on people like us out here in the boonies who get zero benefit from them.

This brings to mind the effective attack on the Capitol building — they guy just walked up to the GSA guards and shot them both before walking through the metal detector. He doesn’t have or need an assault weapon, just a 5 shot snubbie and wreaks complete havoc because he’s the only armed person in the building.

What law, sign or rule could prevent this sort of thing? I can’t think of any.

Anonymous September 14, 2007 2:58 PM

The stupidity continues…
“FBI Wants Law Targeting Hats, Sunglasses in Banks”
Seattle Times (09/14/07)

realist October 17, 2008 11:53 AM

I have kids and don’t like the idea of a security guard hazing my kid like this. On the flip side these terrorists don’t care who dies. I’d rather have my kids remove their hoodie than a terrorist use their own kid to smuggle something on a plane and end up harming my kids.

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