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“Handcuffed” and “soiled pants” are not words most children would use to describe their day, but for a nine-year-old D.C. boy they are part of a narrative he will never forget.
On April 22nd, the child was told by an officer to stop leaning on a car at the corner of 14th and Girard street. After talking back to the officer, a chase ensued resulting in the child being placed on the ground and handcuffed. In a brief interview with his mother, the child stated he was afraid he was being “locked up.” That fear rolled over into him soiling his pants.
Video taken at the time of the incident shows a child crying and screaming for help, and residents asking why he was being handcuffed.
Although he was not placed under arrest and was later released to his mother at the scene, the damage had already been done. His mother stated she was “traumatized for her son” and that the force used by the officer was “unnecessary.”
While I do not condone the child’s actions of leaning on a vehicle that does not belong to him or talking back to police, I also do not condone the officer’s reaction. The child did not commit a crime, nor was he a threat, so why would handcuffing him seem like the best option?
We can all speculate.
The officer responded with excessive force because the child is black.
Police officers hold negative views and/ or stereotypes of the communities they police and therefore there is a disconnect between officers and citizens.
Maybe the officer’s ego was crushed.
Whatever the reason, one thing is certain. A child’s perspective of police officers (if it was not already tainted) will never be the same.
The incident is under investigation and has sparked debate about the protocol officers should follow when dealing with children.
As a Baltimore City resident, and mother to a nine-year old boy, I found myself interested in what my city has in place. What I found was disappointing but not surprising. If someone is interested in learning about different types of force and/ or resistance, he/ she is in luck. However, if someone wanted to explore differences in how officers respond to incidences involving children versus adults, it’s a no-go.
According to the “Use of Force” policy, “BPD members will use only the degree of force that is objectively reasonable, necessary under the circumstances, and proportional to the threat or resistance of a subject.” What I gather is that an officer’s response is based on the potential of a situation to be a threat, not a person’s age. There are no differences outlined in how police should manage a situation when a child is involved versus an adult.
What stands out in that excerpt is “objectively reasonable.” There are bound to be instances when officers are walking into dangerous situations that call for rational thinking and reliance on their training. So, it makes sense that he/ she would have to think carefully about his or her moves. But how much objective reasoning is needed to tell a kid to get off a car?
While the officer’s thoughts at the time of the event are unknown. What I do know, along with countless others, is that that young child will never view police the same. His family will never view police the same. And as for his community, their fears and/ outrage involving police brutality have only been confirmed.
About the author: Latanya Muhammad is an advisor, group facilitator and freelance writer. Her writing has appeared on Her View From Home, Blunt Moms, Reality Moms, marriage.com, and Mamapedia. When she is not writing, she is wrangling her two children and husband. To read more of her work, or to connect, visit www.shetanagain.com and Shetanagain Writes on Facebook and Instagram.