A nine-year-old Portland girl was handcuffed and arrested after engaging in a small feud with another girl. She was treated like a criminal and even detained at a police station.
The incident, which took place a year ago at a Boys & Girls club, is garnering renewed interest now that the girl’s mother has come forward to share her dissatisfaction with the police review of the case.
“I’m just a mother at the end of her rope,” said Latoya Harris, the girl’s mother, in a statement to The Oregonian. “I’m going to advocate for my daughter, but no child should have to go through that.”
The little girls got into a fight because one had ‘told on’ the other for drawing on a desk. The girls eventually apologized to each other, and Harris was suspended from the club for one week.
But that wasn’t enough for the mother of the other girl, who also called the police. Six days later, cops showed up to question Harris’s daughter. They found her statements to be “inconsistent,” and promptly placed her under arrest. She was wearing a bathing suit at the time, and it isn’t clear whether she was allowed to change before being carted off downtown.
Harris’s request to accompany her nine-year-old daughter to the station was denied. She took the bus to get there as quickly as she could.
At the station, the girl received a mugshot, was fingerprinted and placed in holding. An hour later, she was released. She was never charged with a crime.
Still, Harris said the incident changed her into “a different child.”
Police defended the treatment of Harris as unusual, but necessary. Suspects are always handcuffed to ensure officer safety.
The Washington Post’s Radley Balko slammed the police for inconsiderate treatment of the poor girl:
When it comes to the rigid adherence to procedure, there is no difference between a 17-year-old and a nine-year-old. There will be no exercise of officer discretion, good judgment, or common sense when it comes to nine-year-olds. Or, presumably, seven-year-olds. Or five-year-olds. All are juveniles.
I’m not trying to be flip here. It’s just that there isn’t much else to say. We arrest nine-year-olds now. For scuffling with other kids. And then we point to policies, procedures, and rulebooks when someone quite correctly asks what the hell is going on. The utter insanity of all of this ought to be self-evident. But one more time: She was nine.
Portland’s Citizen Review Committee is considering recommending changes to police protocol regarding the treatment of minors.