An investigation has been launched in Washington, D.C. after a local boy was placed in handcuffs for leaning against a car.
The incident occurred on April 22 and was captured on video. The footage shows the boy being chased around several times by a policeman and falling down. That’s when the officer grabbed the boy and put him in handcuffs.
The boy is heard crying as others surround the officer, who is flanked by one other member of the Metropolitan Police Department, and ask “what did he do?” and “where’s his parents?”
The boy’s mother, Autumn Drayton, and police said the incident began when the boy was leaning on a car, according to Fox 5. Police told the boy to get off and the boy talked back, then a chase ensued. The boy was screaming almost for the entire duration of the encounter, which also saw him soil his pants, according to the news outlet.
“I was devastated. I was devastated. I was traumatized for my son having to go through that,” says Drayton, who also works in law enforcement. “His use of force was unnecessary. My son was not a threat. He was not committing a crime. He was not harming anyone. It should have never been to that.”
The boy’s name has not been released but Drayton gave Fox 5 permission to speak with him. When asked how he felt while he was handcuffed, the boy said he was “scared.”
“Because I was in handcuffs,” he says. “I thought I was locked up. It hurted.”
He was not charged and released to his parents.
Drayton told the outlet she was never contacted by police about the incident and only heard about it through a family member.
As police investigate the officer’s actions, others in the community have weighed in.
When asked if handcuffing a 9-year-old in such a situation is justified, MPD Patrol Chief Lamar Greene told Fox 5 every case is different.
“It just depends on whether the officer feels that there is a threat or what situation led up to,” Greene said. “We have juveniles that are involved in all sorts of different activities within the city.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser hesitated to give an answer and said, “every case is different.”
“I would also suggest you not promote pictures of juveniles in this situation,” she added.
Meanwhile, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced his office will review the MPD’s policies surrounding the treatment of children and possibly recommend changes following other high-profile episodes involving local law enforcement and Black youth. The latest one came in March where video surfaced of cops handcuffing a 10-year-old during an armed robbery investigation. The boy was eventually cleared.
“This is an urgent priority for the Office of the Attorney General. In coordination with the Chief and the Mayor’s office, we are moving quickly to determine a timeline to assess MPD’s current practices and reach out to experts in the District and across the country,” an OAG spokesperson told the DCist in a statement.
Currently, the MDP’s most updated internal policy on handling youth calls for officers to reach the Youth and Family Services Division before apprehending a child under 12-years-old. The circumstances under which a child can be handcuffed is not outlined in the policy.