ROCHESTER, N.Y. - "The one-year-old was in a crib and crying and her mouth was dry, and the three-year-old was crying and her hair was all matted down and cried when we got there," said Kody Middlebrook, a Rochester police officer with Lake section's first platoon.
The scene Middlebrook describes was what RPD officers found when they showed up to do a welfare check at Sharisa Vasquez's house on Ridgeway Avenue. Officers say the children had been left in filth for who knows how long.
"They were scared, they were dirty, they were crying out for their mom, crying out for anybody," said Officer Russell Ferguson who also responded to the scene. The responding officers got to work, tended to the toddlers, and called for an ambulance.
As their boss, Lieutenant Jeffrey LaFave describes it, glowing with pride, "Officer Middlebrook sees the girl, her feet are caked in feces, he scooped her up cleaned her off, and put clothes on her, that's remarkable for someone with only two years on the job."
In the days following, concern for the kids was still nagging at the officers.
"We wanted to get them services and if we can't, we're no better than the people who left them there," said Officer John Laclair, who was one of the first officers on scene.
"I'm proud of the fact that not only did they feel a need that day, but they approached me afterwards and wanted to do more," said Lt. LaFave.
So he says, his officers did more.
"We felt that it was important to follow up with the family, and we found out they didn't have a crib for the youngest and they didn't have other things," said Officer Russell Ferguson.
The responding officers approached Lt. LaFave and told him they'd heard the family members who'd taken the toddlers in were still in need.
"The best therapy sometimes isn't sitting around talking about it, especially with cops, it's doing something so they took a bad situation and tried to do something good moving forward," said LaFave.
The most rewarding part for the officers, they say, was not the gratitude from the family, but the knowledge that those children were doing well.
"Just to see how happy they looked, how healthy they looked compared to a week ago it felt really good," said Ferguson.
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