Numerous children under age 16 have been treated brutally by law enforcement officers, a recent study concludes. More than half of those in the study were Black.
“The most common types of force were takedowns, strikes and muscling, followed by firearms pointed at or used on children,” The Associated Press reported Oct. 19. “Black children made up more than 50% of those who were handled forcibly, though they are only 15% of the U.S. child population.”
The AP said it analyzed about 3,000 instances of police force against children under 16 over an 11-year period. The data was provided by Accountable Now, a project of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. It covered incidents from 25 police departments in 17 states.
AP reported some incidents show that some kids were armed and others were undergoing mental health crises.
Currently, there are only a few states or cities that have disallowed the use of force against children, the story said. African American children were not viewed with the same innocence as White children; therefore, Black children may have been suspected of a crime and faced the use of force more than their counterparts, noted the AP report.
“He (was) just a happy kid, riding his bike down the road. And 30 to 45 seconds later, you see him basically pedaling for his life,” said Aaron Davis, father of Skyler Davis.
Skyler, a 15-year-old mentally disabled boy of Paris, Ill., was suspected of violating a city ordinance, which prohibits biking in certain areas. He was pursued by police into his home, thrown to the floor and handcuffed, then slammed into a wall, reported the article.
According to Aaron Davis, he saw police pulling Skyler — 5 feet tall and barely 80 pounds — toward a squad car with a “pure look of terror” on his face, said the report.
Surveillance cameras captured the chase on video. The family has filed a federal lawsuit against the police officers.
“When you are close to the kids, you work with kids every day, you see that they are just kids, and they’re doing what every other kid does,” said Kristin Henning, director of Juvenile Justice Clinic at Georgetown University’s law school. “Talking back, being themselves, experimenting, expressing their discomfort, expressing their displeasure about something — that’s what kids do.”
Savannah, 14, Telia, 11, and Jhaimarion, 7, were ordered to get down on the ground by police during a drug raid in Chicago. The family door was kicked in. Krystal Archie, the girls’ mother, said she didn’t know the people the police were looking for.
“(They) were told, demanded, to get down on the ground as if they were criminals,” said Archie. “They were questioned as if they were adults.”
Telia said she witnessed an officer put his foot into Savannah back. Alleging emotional distress, every time Savannah sees a police car coming, her hand starts to shake, said the report.
Police officers may view minorities as being older than they actually are, reported the article.
X’Zane Watts, an eighth-grader of Charleston, W.Va., was playing with his two-year-old cousin when three White plainclothes officers jumped out of a car with guns drawn and chased Watts into his house. He was mistakenly suspected of a burglary.
“The wrong flinch, they could have shot him,” said Charissa Watts, X’Zane mother. “The wrong words out of my mouth, they could have shot me.”
The family filed a lawsuit and a settlement was reached, said the report.
While there is some guidance on how to handle juveniles accused of crimes or under mental distress, AP found no policy that addressed both issues together.
“I think that when officers understand the basic core components of development and youth development — their social, emotional, physical, psychological development — it can really help them understand why they might need to take a different approach” said Dylan Jackson, a criminologist at Johns Hopkins University.