A Southern California police chief apologized to a Black teenage girl’s family for the outcome of an arrest in which one of his officers using force on their loved one.
The Rialto police officer was caught on camera after placing his hand on the 16-year-old’s neck and forcefully spinning her to the ground while trying to detain her for illegally riding her motorbike.
The girl was riding a motor vehicle called “a pocket bike” in a residential area, which is not legal to ride on the street in California. According to Bikehike.org, states like California and Texas consider the operation of pocket bikes and/or mini-motorcycles illegal on all public streets, sidewalks, and trails.
However, the issue at hand for the child’s parents is not whether she was right or wrong, but that the officers used what they considered force on a minor. The girl’s family is calling for the officer to be fired.
In a statement released Tuesday, Feb. 15, Rialto Police Chief Mark Kling said he “personally viewed” the bodycam footage and is reviewing the officer’s actions in this case.
Kling said, “Although the video depicts the juvenile resisting officers, we are investigating the officer’s decision to trip the juvenile to the ground and later placing his hand on the juvenile’s throat during the arrest.”
He further offered his apology to the family.
“We apologize to the juvenile’s family regarding these unfortunate circumstances,” he wrote. “At a time when our police department strives to build community relationships, we certainly fell short in this encounter. We look forward to building rapport with this family now and in the future.”
On Friday, Feb. 11, the Rialto Police Department reports the teenager was stopped around 4:10 in the afternoon for riding “an illegal street pocket bike and traveling at an unsafe speed” near the intersection of Linden and Pinedale avenues.
After stopping her, the officer asked her to identify herself, KTLA reports. According to their account, she refused to identify herself and resisted being brought into custody.
Video footage of the encounter shows the next moves of one of the officers, who placed his hands on her throat as he forced her down. He grabbed her by the neck asking, “Did you try to bite me?”
The girl was arrested and taken to a juvenile detention center where she was kept for almost four days. Her representatives say as a result of the incident, she has sustained “shoulder, neck and back injuries.”
Some reports say the girl suffered a concussion and that the extent of these injuries has not been fully determined.
Use of force has come into question after the video of the altercation went viral, circulating on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter.
Popular comedian D.L. Hughley used his Instagram to advocate for social justice. He wrote, “This is becoming all too familiar on our timelines, POLICE BRUTALITY being carried out in situations that SHOULD AND COULD HAVE EASILY BEEN HANDLED WITHOUT PHYSICAL ASSUALT!! DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO BECOME WHITE NOISE. DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELVES TO BECOME NUMB TO THESE IMAGES. ALL THIS over a raggedy little moped.”
Understanding the public’s concern, the chief stated that he has called for “an independent investigation by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations to determine if the officer’s use of force options were lawful.”
“I have also ordered an internal affairs investigation into the officer’s actions. Our investigation will determine if department policies, rules, or procedures were violated,” his statement continued. “Per department directives, confirmed violations of policy will lead to disciplinary action.”
Her family has secured an attorney, Caree Harper, to assist in supporting their daughter’s needs. The first was to help get her released from the juvenile detention center.
The 16-year-old was booked Friday, Feb. 11, evening into juvenile detention on suspicion of resisting an officer by use of force. She was released to her family on Tuesday, Feb. 15.
Harper told The Los Angeles Times, “They initially told her that they would release her to her father, and then based on some verbal exchange with the officers, he started to forcefully put her into custody.”
The teen allegedly said something that unhinged the officer, according to the attorney, who claims, “He arrested her to put her in an attitude check.”
The attorney offered that the young person in fear of her life may have attempted to bite the officer.
“She thought she was going to die,” Harper said the child rationalized. “You have two grown men throwing around a 90-pound girl. It’s their job to de-escalate those situations. These two officers are the adults in the room. It wasn’t a pretty moment, to begin with, and then it turned into a nightmare.”
Harper was also hired to represent the family’s wishes.
Chief among those desires is to have the arresting officer fired from his job for his use of force on the teen.
Harper said, “If you choke a child you should be relieved of duty right now and I’m speaking directly to supervisors. Fire him now, send a message. Let them learn now so that other children don’t have to be punished later.”
While the officer has not been fired, the chief said that he has been placed on leave.
“The officer, whose identity is being withheld due to the ongoing investigations, has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is appropriate under these circumstances,” Chief Kling said.
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