Skip to comments.9-year-old led away in handcuffs by Portland police prompts outrage
Posted on 05/07/2014 9:04:55 PM PDT by PaulCruz2016
Two uniformed Portland police officers showed up at the home of a 9-year-old girl last May, questioned her on the front porch about a fight at a youth club six days earlier, then handcuffed her as she stood in a blue-and-white bathing suit.
They drove her to police headquarters in downtown Portland, where she had her fingerprints and mugshot taken.
Latoya Harris couldn't believe what was happening as she watched the officers head off with her daughter in the back seat. The girl was still wet after running through a neighborhood sprinkler, wearing flip flops and a pink Velco wrap-around towel over her swimsuit.
"When they put handcuffs on, I thought, 'Wait a minute, this has got to be a joke,' '' Harris recalled Monday. "The look on my daughter's face went from humiliation and fear, to a look of sheer panic.''
Harris is speaking out publicly after she complained to the city's Independent Police Review Division and no significant discipline resulted.
Her account is now prompting citizen members of a police oversight panel and youth justice advocates to press for new city guidelines that would prevent police from taking children into custody under the age of 10 without a juvenile court order.
"I'm just a mother at the end of her rope,'' Harris said. "I'm going to advocate for my daughter, but no child should have to go through that.''
The police encounter resulted from an argument between several girls near the basketball courts outside the Boys & Girls Club on North Trenton Street in Portland's New Columbia neighborhood on April 26, 2013.
Harris' 9-year-old daughter, witnesses told police, got in the middle of a dispute between two other girls who had been arguing because one told on the other in school earlier in the day for drawing on a desk.
The 9-year-old ended up in a fistfight with one of the other girls outside the club, according to a police report. A staff member broke the fight up, but said Harris' daughter continued to try to strike and kick the other girl before they were separated in different rooms.
Both girls apologized to each other. Staff members found no obvious injuries on any of the girls, they told police. The 9-year-old was sent home and suspended from the club for one week.
But later that day, the mother of one of the girls called Portland police to report the fight. The mother accused Harris' daughter of striking her child in the face and bashing her head against a brick wall, and told police she wanted an arrest made. Police took a cell phone photo of a red bruise on the girl's cheekbone. Officers went to Harris' home to try to talk with her daughter, but were told she was at her aunt's house.
Portland Officers David McCarthy and Officer Matthew Huspek returned to the Harris home six days later on May 2 to question the girl. McCarthy wrote in his report that the 9-year-old gave "vague answers'' and appeared to get angry when pressed for more details.
"I observed (her) breathing speed up, she looked down at the ground ... crossed her arms and would eventually answer my questions,'' McCarthy wrote.
Finding the 9-year-old's statements "inconsistent'' with witnesses who described her as the aggressor, the officers took her into custody, accusing her of fourth-degree assault, the police report said.
"Officer Huspek and I handcuffed (her) and no inventory was performed due to the tight clothing (the girl) wore,'' McCarthy wrote. The report did not mention that the girl was wearing a bathing suit.
Harris said the officers aggressively questioned her daughter. "They repeatedly asked her, 'Why don't you tell me what really happened?'"
When they led her daughter to the patrol car, Harris asked to go with them, but said the officers wouldn't let her. They did offer to drive the 9-year-old girl back home after she was fingerprinted and photographed.
Harris said she wasn't about to let police bring her daughter back in a police car. "This has got to be some kind of mistake. She's just a child,'' Harris said she kept thinking.
Harris said she took a bus to police headquarters because she didn't have a car. The girl was photographed and fingerprinted on the 12th floor of the Justice Center at the police Forensic Service Division and held in a holding area for just over an hour until her mother arrived.
A year later, Harris said, her daughter "is a different child.'' The girl, now 10, had been a talented and gifted student at Rosa Parks Elementary, but transferred in October to another school because of teasing and has been in counseling since June, Harris said.
The district attorney's office never brought charges against the girl, and Harris filed a complaint.
The Independent Police Review Division, under oversight of Portland's auditor, found officers violated no Police Bureau policies, and forwarded the complaint to the officers' supervisors at North Precinct for a "service improvement opportunity,'' essentially a debriefing.
Perturbed by the lack of response, Harris last month told her story to the Citizen Review Committee, a panel that hears complaints of alleged officer misconduct against Portland police. The Portland Mercury first reported Harris' account.
On Wednesday, the panel is inviting Harris back, and digging deeper into whether the city or Police Bureau should adopt more restrictive guidelines for taking children into custody.
"We really don't think there's circumstances where children under 10 should be taken into custody,'' said Mark McKechnie, executive director of Youth, Rights & Justice, a not-for-profit law firm that serves vulnerable children.
The Citizen Review Committee also has invited juvenile advocates to the meeting. "We just want to hear what some of these experts say, and based on that, decide if we want to weigh in and make a recommendation,'' said Rodney Paris, the committee chair.
McKechnie and Joseph Hagedorn, chief supervising attorney for the Metropolitan Public Defender's juvenile unit, said they've talked in the last week about two potential changes to city ordinances and police directives that would:
-- Prevent police from taking a child under 10 years old into custody without an order from a juvenile court judge.
-- Allow police to take children ages 10 and 11 into custody only on Class A or B felonies. For less serious offenses, a court order would be needed.
Both said they were concerned about why police made the arrest almost a week after the fight, and particularly, when the girl was at home with a parent.
"It was way over the top for them to do that,'' Hagedorn said.
Jamie Troy, a member of the Citizen Review Committee, said he was disturbed that the 9-year-old was handcuffed. "While there are some instances where handcuffing of kids may be necessary, I would hope that would only be in very rare instances. As a community, we need to come together and sort this out."
Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said officers use handcuffs as a safeguard, and acted according to bureau policy.
The policy (PPB Directive 640.70) says juveniles taken into custody for any felony or Class A misdemeanor "shall'' be fingerprinted and photographed at the forensics division, while juveniles taken into custody for Class B and C misdemeanors "may'' be fingerprinted and photographed. It makes no age distinctions. Police consider those under age 18 as juveniles. Fourth-degree assault is a Class A misdemeanor.
Harris said she never got an answer about why the officers needed to handcuff her daughter and lead her off.
"In my opinion, they were trying to scare and humiliate her,'' she said. "All they had to do was give her a talking to. We're talking about two grown men in uniform with guns.''
First off, 9- year olds should not be going clubbing...
“We’re talking about two grown men in uniform with guns.”
How come they didn’t shoot her dog, and her 93-year-old great-grandmother?
1st thing I thought of.
armed govt agents should not be allowed to just take minor kids into custody for this kind of crap and refuse parents to come along. this is complete bullsh1t.
“The look on my daughter’s face went from humiliation and fear, to a look of sheer panic.”
Unfortunately, so many inner-city youths need a real lesson in actions vs. consequences, because they sure as hell aren’t going to get it at home.
This may be the best thing that could happen to her.
How about black on anyone? Then what’s it down to?
Magic words to teach kids. “I wish to speak to an attorney.”
“I observed (her) breathing speed up, she looked down at the ground ... crossed her arms and would eventually answer my questions,’’ McCarthy wrote.”
Slapping the cuffs on her taking her down to the station isn’t going to help matters in regard to better relations between the cops and the entire neighborhood. I got visited by the cops a couple of times when I was that age for various things. I would have rather them taken me to the station, rather than leaving me with my mom and dad after a stern talking to!
Looks like this is from May 2013.
When does the Reverund Jahksun show up?
Taught me that the "Officer Friendly" BS that they were peddling at school was bogus, and that 90% of cops are retarded degenerate psychos on power trips.
Army of the rich.
I don’t think so. Not in this case. A revenge mom sicked cops on a case where the girls already apologized to each other.
What you have here aggravates youths when they have no rights, no respect, and are helpless. It can cause justifiable rage in some so disposed.
WTH we’re talking about a fight between 9 yo kids. What are the police doing here. Insanity.
“WTH were talking about a fight between 9 yo kids. What are the police doing here. Insanity.”
That’s really all that needed to be said.
Everybody can look sheepish and slink on home now.
Good! Maybe they scared her straight!
Yeah, no cops should be involved. Should have been settled the old fashioned way with a hair weave and extension pulling, slap and scratch cat fight between the moms.....
apparently the kids had already made up and apologized
You were 9 and swore at a cop who was telling you off about playing a game in the middle of the street? What do you think he should have done?
Congrats - you get to be the thread dunce.
But they went too far.
The Portland pigs are what you get when you vote for the candidates who claim the loudest to be for the children!
This may be the best thing that could happen to her.
Absolutely. Nothing teaches a 9 year old respect for law and order better than a cuffing and completely absurd arrest for a kid’s fight.
He really should rename his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to Shakedowns R Us!
Some folks are born idiots/posterior orifices, and some grow up and become that. Would you care to declare?
It was an honest mistake. They will be back to correct it.
I was a kid in the ‘40s-50s. Neighborhood was full of kids about the same age. We frequently had fist fights in our yards and would be out later or the next day playing our games, etc. ......Parents considered it just part of growing up and never called police.
When about 11, I put a good whooping on a neighbor boy the same age, who was a playmate for many years. That afternoon, his dad brought him to my house (only four houses away) and demanded that I should come into the yard and fight his son again. .....My dad told him that if he wanted to force the two of us boys to fight that he would instead come off the porch and beat the crap out of the neighbor. The neighbor left.
It sickens me to see how cultural values have changed. Parents used to permit their kids to grow up while experiencing conflicts, boo-boos from wrong decisions, pride from achievements and discipline from parents when doing wrong (such as bending over bed and getting some swats from daddy’s belt).
In Portland they protest the police with pitchforks and torches.
Or better yet: "I am a protected person, a minor, whom cannot and will not speak to the police without my parents AND lawyer available".