Another video surfaced recently of a Metropolitan Police Department officer handcuffing a young child. The video, first reported by Fox5 and provided to the outlet by the boy’s mother, shows officers chasing the 9-year-old as he runs in circles, then grabbing him and putting him in handcuffs as he struggles.
The boy’s mother and the police have said the confrontation began when officers scolded the boy for leaning against a vehicle, Fox5 reports.
The video is the fourth such recent encounter between juveniles and police in D.C. to draw attention from the public and city leaders.
Their reactions to the most recent incident are telling:
Mayor Muriel Bowser, in response to questions from a Fox5 reporter said “every case is different. As you know, I can’t comment on juvenile cases, and I would also suggest that you not promote pictures of juveniles in that situation.”
Pressed by the reporter to speak generally about putting juveniles in handcuffs, Bowser said “we can’t speak in generalities. Each case is different.”
At-Large Councilmember Robert White called the footage “appalling and unacceptable.”
In a tweet today, White wrote: “We must never be so numb to bias we forget these are children & that these actions cause permanent harm to these kids & undercut effective policing. It’s time to change policy.”
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine called the footage “obviously concerning” and pledged to review the MPD policies that direct officers’ interactions with juveniles, compare them with best practices around the country, and potentially recommend changes.
The news release from Racine says his office will review MPD’s policies with MPD Chief Peter Newsham and Bowser’s blessing. A spokesperson for the AG could not estimate when the office would finish its review, but said in an email “we are moving quickly to determine a timeline to assess MPD’s current practices and reach out to experts in the District and across the country.”
MPD’s internal policy on “handling juveniles” went into effect in 1990 and appears as if it was created with a typewriter.
The policy was updated in 1991 and again in 2018, most recently with instructions for juveniles 12 and younger. The most recent update, signed by Newsham, tells officers to contact the Youth and Family Services Division prior to arresting a child under the age of 12. The policy does not dictate when officers are allowed to put children in handcuffs, though police brass have previously said that discretion is generally left up to each individual officer.
The scanned document posted to the department’s website says officers should consider “age, attitude, prior involvements, nature of the offense, and the seriousness of the complaint” when interacting with juveniles. If officers interact with a kid “due to unruly or mischievous behavior,” the policy directs them to record the child’s name and address, provide counseling, and suggest other activities.
In more serious circumstances, MPD’s policy directs officers to notify the child’s parents or guardians and contact the “Youth Services office.”
The 9-year-old boy was not charged with any crimes, according to an MPD spokesperson. Newsham tells City Paper the department has opened an internal investigation.
“MPD arrests 3,000 juveniles every year,” Newsham writes in an email. “In every case where force is used, the case is investigated.”
In late March, police arrested a 10-year-old boy who officers claimed was involved in an armed robbery. Video footage of an officer cuffing the child and escorting him to a police cruiser quickly spread online. Within a few days, Racine released a statement exonerating the 10-year-old. Surveillance footage revealed that police had arrested the wrong kid.
Racine, whose office has jurisdiction over juvenile crime in D.C., said in a news release that officers acted in accordance with MPD’s policies, but that the 10-year-old was “totally innocent.”
In late February, officers detained a group of juveniles near the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro station as part of a robbery investigation. Several videos circulated online, and show at least two juveniles in handcuffs. In a statement to DCist, MPD said one subject was arrested on suspicion of first degree theft and the others were released.
And last December, officers detained a group of boys on Capitol Hill. Police said they’d received a call that someone had been threatened with a knife. A resident filmed the interaction and posted the videos to Facebook.
Officers searched the boys but they were not charged, according to news reports.