A US soldier has been charged with "waterboarding" his four-year-old daughter because she could not recite her ABCs, police in the state of Washington say.

In a fit of rage and under the influence of alcohol, 27-year-old Joshua Tabor and his girlfriend pushed his daughter's head, face up, under a running tap in the kitchen sink, says Yelm police chief Todd Stancil.

"From what I understand it is very similar to waterboarding," Stancil said on Monday, referring to the interrogation technique - a form of simulated drowning - used on war on terrorism suspects and now banned as torture.

"And to make it only worse, the daughter is afraid of water," the police chief said.

"She would not recite her ABCs, is what we gathered. So according to him (the father), that was a perfectly fine punishment," he said.

Police found the girl hiding in a bathroom after responding to reports of a disturbance early on January 31.

"The suspect was intoxicated, walking around the neighbourhood with a kevlar helmet, threatening to break out windows in the neighbourhood," he said.

"Once the girlfriend of Mr Tabor disclosed that he abused his four-year-old daughter, we shifted our investigation to the daughter.

"We found the daughter hiding in the bathroom. Keep in mind that it was 2am in the morning, so she was up and awake and hiding in the bathroom in fear of her father," he said.

He said the girl had been placed with a foster family.

Tabor was arrested and charged with second degree assault.