A citizens panel in Portland, Ore., that investigates police misconduct is looking into an incident from last year during which two officers arrested and handcuffed a 9-year-old Black girl who had gotten into a fight with two other girls outside a local Boys & Girls Club.
The arrest on April 26, 2013, occurred when the mother of one of the girls called police and demanded that the 9-year-old be arrested for hitting her child in the face.
A week later, Officers David McCarthy and Matthew Huspek questioned the girl and arrested her on a fourth-degree assault charge.
The girl was taken in handcuffs to police headquarters in a wet bathing suit, where she was fingerprinted and photographed and put in a cell for an hour.
The girl’s mother, Latoya Harris, was not allowed to ride in the patrol car with her.
“When they put handcuffs on, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, this has got to be a joke,'” Harris told The Portland Oregonian. “The look on my daughter’s face went from humiliation and fear, to a look of sheer panic.”
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Joseph Hagedon, chief supervising attorney for the Metropolitan Public Defender’s juvenile unit, said the actions of the officers, who showed up a week later at the girl’s home, “was way over the top.”
But police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson told the Daily Mail that Portland officers use handcuffs as a safeguard, and the two officers were following proper procedure.
The now-10-year-old girl was traumatized by the incident and had to change schools because of teasing. She has been in counseling since last June.
The girl’s mother last month went to the Citizen Review Committee, an advisory and monitoring panel that hears complaints of alleged officer misconduct against Portland police. The committee agreed to hear her testimony and it was first reported in the weekly Portland Mercury. Harris said she is planning to sue the department.
Critics of the department are asking for a change in policy to sharply restrict officers from taking a child younger than 10 years old into custody.
After she was held in a cell for an hour, the 9-year-old girl was released. Prosecutors declined to pursue prosecuting the little girl.
The fight occurred between two girls because one of them tattled on the other in school for drawing on a desk. After a staff member broke up the fight, Harris’ daughter continued trying to kick and punch her nemesis — though the girls eventually apologized to one another and the 9-year-old was suspended from the club for a week.
But the parents got involved when the mother of one of the girls 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.
Harris said the experience has changed her little girl, a gifted student.
“I didn’t get the same girl back,” she said.