TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Detectives with the Tampa Police Department receive hundreds of reports of suspected child abuse every year. The Special Victims Unit investigates these cases, which are often aided by officers on the street.
Sometimes, a case stays with them long after they’ve left the scene. Any investigation involving children can be heartbreaking and are hard on the men and women who pursue them. For Cpl. Lance Baker, the call he’d never forget came last summer. A year has passed and he still gets emotional.
“It was just really sad, really sad,” Baker said. “It eats at you.”
In June 2021, paramedics and Baker responded to a call of a 2-month-old girl struggling to stay conscious. The children’s parents, who called 911, adamantly refused to go to the hospital. But for Baker, that answer just wasn’t good enough.
“I felt like if that child was not seen that day, that child may not make it,” he said, “Something’s not right here and I’m not letting this child go anywhere but the hospital.”
It was a decision that made the difference between a life lost and a life saved, according to TPD Special Victims Unit detective Kevin McKniff, who was assigned to the case.
“Injuries to the skull, to the ribs, various bleeds to the brain,” he said, “Medical treatment was basically forced, against the parents’ wishes, on the child, which ultimately saved her life.”
The Special Victims Unit’s nine detectives investigate more than 100 child abuse cases a year, often relying on officers like Baker to alert them when a child is in danger.
“It’s important for the role that we play to give them a voice, to elevate their voice and make sure they’re not put back into these dangerous situations,” the detective said.
The investigations are lengthy and some cases don’t end in prosecution. However, this case did. The child’s parents were charged with failing to report abuse to 911.
An end to a tragic case that reminds Baker why he dedicates his life to law enforcement.
“Somebody has to speak for those who are less fortunate and who can’t speak up for themselves,” he said, “I did something to help this child have a shot because she did not have one before that day.”