Thursday, May 15, 2014


Portland, Oregon: "She's just a little girl, why are you arresting her?" 

This is a question that no mother of a nine year old girl should have to ask. However, in Portland, Oregon it happened.

Police officers came to the house of a nine year old girl investigating a "fight" that had taken place between a few kids over a week earlier, it had ended with apologies all around, as most fights amongst children do. The nine year old was running through the sprinklers and was still dripping wet and in a bathing suit when the cops placed her in handcuffs.

To add to the trauma, this girl was paraded into an ADULT jail and held for at least an hour before being released. 

According to her mother, the girl that went to jail is not the same little girl that came home.

Two Portland police officers investigating a fight at a youth club came to the home of a 9-year-old Portland girl, handcuffed her as she stood in a bathing suit, and led her away to be processed downtown on an assault charge.

The girl's mother and some in the juvenile justice system call the handcuffing and arrest a year ago excessive.

Now, a citizen panel that investigates police misconduct plans to look into it. Critics of the incident are calling for the Portland Police Department to sharply restrict officers from taking a child younger than 10 into custody.

When they put handcuffs on, I thought, "Wait a minute, this has got to be a joke,"' Latoya Harris told The Oregonian. 'The look on my daughter's face went from humiliation and fear, to a look of sheer panic.'

Joseph Hagedon, chief supervising attorney for the Metropolitan Public Defender's juvenile unit, said it's a concern that the fight had occurred a week earlier, and the girl was at home with a parent.

'It was way over the top for them to do that,' Hagedon said.

PoliceWe really don't think there's circumstances where children under 10 should be taken into custody,' said Mark McKenchie, executive director of Youth, Rights & Justice, a not-for-profit law firm that serves vulnerable children.

He and Hagedon are calling for changes in city law and police rules to require a juvenile court judge's order before police can take a child younger than 10 into custody.

Children 10 and 11 could be taken into custody without a judge's approval only for serious felonies.

The 9-year-old girl was held for an hour in a cell used for adult detainees and released. Prosecutors didn't take the case to trial.

The action has been reviewed by the Independent Police Review Division, overseen by Portland's independent auditor. It found officers violated no Police Bureau policies and forwarded the complaint to the officers' supervisors.

Last month, Harris took her story to the Citizen Review Committee, an advisory and monitoring panel that hears complaints of alleged officer misconduct against Portland police, and it agreed to hear testimony. The weekly Portland Mercury first reported Harris' account.
According to a report by The Oregonian, the incident that led to the nine-year-old’s arrest unfolded April 26, 2013, outside the Boys & Girls Club on North Trenton Street.

Witnesses told police that Harris' daughter got involved in a fight between two girls who had been arguing because one of them tattled on the other in school for drawing on a desk.
A police report stated that after a staff member at the youth center broke up the young brawlers, Harris' daughter continued trying to kick and punch her rival.spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said officers use handcuffs as a safeguard, and they acted according to bureau policy.

Police rules require juveniles taken into custody for any felony or serious misdemeanor charge such as the one police alleged to be fingerprinted and photographed at the forensics division, he said. It makes no age distinctions.

The girls eventually apologized to one another and the 9-year-old was suspended from the club for a week.

But later that day, the mother of one of the girls involved in the altercation called police and demanded that Harris' daughter be arrested for slamming her child's head against a wall and leaving a contusion on her face.

Six days later, officers David McCarthy and Matthew Huspek came by the Harris' home in North Portland to question her 9-year-old daughter.

The officers wrote in their report that the grade-schooler gave 'vague answers' that were inconsistent with eyewitness accounts of the kids' confrontation a week earlier, and that the child appeared to get angry when pressed for answers.

Eventually, the two officers decided to take the girl into custody on a fourth-degree assault charge. 

The school girl wearing a wet blue-and-white bathing suit was then handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car, which took her to police headquarters to be fingerprinted and photographed.

Latoya Harris said before arresting her child, the two cops acted very aggressively in their questioning and then refused to let her come along with her daughter in the patrol car.

After being processed, the 9-year-old dressed only in a swimsuit and a towel was placed in a holding area to await the arrival of her mother, who came by bus more than an hour later.
Ms Harris said the experience has fundamentally changed her little girl - a one-time gifted student who had to switch schools because of teasing. The girl, who is now 10 years old, has been going to counseling since last June.

‘I didn't get the same girl back,’ Harris said.
Police around the country are engaged in a campaign to get kids to trust them.

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