We already knew that Florida cops were willing to electrify a 6 year old boy and a 12 year old girl with a 50,000 volt blast from a taser. The 6 year old was distraught and threatening to hurt himself (after all, why hurt yourself when you can have a cop immobilize you with pain?); the 12 year old’s crime was playing hooky and maybe being a little tipsy, and the incredibly dangerous imminent threat she posed was that she ran away from the cop and so might have been able to skip school. Back when it happened, I mentioned that the main reaction from the police brass was to review the decision to equip cops with tasers—as if the equipment were the primary problem here. I also mentioned that we might be better served by scrutinizing the paramilitary police culture that we have, in which
peace officers are trained to
take control of every situation at all times, by any means necessary, and where any notion of proportionality between the possible harm and the violence used to maintain control is routinely chucked out the window in the name of
law and order and winning the
war on crime.
I hate being proven right.
It doesn’t take fancy electric tasers for Florida cops to be overbearing, brutal assholes. They can do it the old-fashioned way: for example, by sending three adult officers to pin a five year old girl’s arms behind her back and handcuff her.
A lawyer has threatened to sue police officers who handcuffed an allegedly uncontrollable five-year-old after she acted up at a Florida kindergarten.
The officers were called by the school after a teacher and assistant principal failed to calm down the little girl.
The incident was caught on a video camera which was rolling in the classroom as part of a self-improvement exercise at the St Petersburg school.
A lawyer for the girl’s mother said the episode wasncomprehensible.
The video, made public by the lawyer this week, shows the unfolding of the violent tantrum, which started when the little girl refused to take part in a maths lesson.
She then ripped some papers off a bulletin board and lashed out at staff trying to calm her down.
After calling her mother and learning she would not be able to pick up the child for at least one more hour, the teachers resorted to calling the police.
Three officers rushed to the scene and handcuffed the girl, by that time apparently calm, after pinning her arms behind her back.
The footage showed her in distress after being handcuffed.
One of the minor consolations of subjecting schoolchildren to a school police state is that the surveillance has left a video record of the handcuffing.
So a kindergardner is
uncontrollable and this justifies calling the cops, and then (even though she wasn’t doing anything anymore, just in case she got any ideas) hand-cuffing her as she screams.
Trayvon McRae is 6 years old.
After throwing a tantrum in music class, and kicking and hitting a St. Petersburg police officer who was taking him home, this kindergartener was handcuffed and arrested on a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer. Both of his wrists fit neatly into a single cuff.
Mikey Rao was 8 when he got arrested.
He didn’t want to go to the principal’s office, so he ran out of his class and kicked and scratched a teacher’s aide. He spent several hours in the Citrus County Jail.
Demetri Starks turned 9 last week.
One day this summer, when he was still 8, he swiped a neighbor’s jar of change. Police stopped the 60-pound St. Petersburg boy wearing a T-shirt covered with monsters from the cartoon Digimon. They handcuffed him and sent him to a detention center where he stayed locked up for nine days.
Two boys, aged 9 and 10, were charged with second-degree felonies and taken away in handcuffs by the police because they drew stick figures depicting violence against a third student.
There was no act of violence, no weaponry. According to news reports, the arrested children had no prior history of threatening the student depicted in the drawing. The parents were not advised or consulted. The school’s immediate response was to call the police and level charges “of making a written threat to kill or harm another person.”
The incident was not an aberration but one of three similar occurrences in the Florida school system during the same week. In another case, a 6-year-old was led away in handcuffs by police. And those three incidents are only the ones that managed to attract media attention.
(Just in case you Blue Staters were thinking about getting smug about those barbarians down yonder in Florida, you might also be interested to know about the California cops who beat the shit out of a non-verbal autistic teenager who didn’t follow their orders—using bludgeons, a taser, and pepper spray.)
Hello, we’re the cops, and we’re here to keep you safe!
The cops, of course, continue to treat these cases as a P.R. management problem, not a public safety problem created by out-of-control cops. That’s because the cops aren’t out of control; they are doing what cops normally do in our society; we only know about it here because the victims were vulnerable enough that their caretakers were able to get the attention of the newsmedia and the civil courts. We are not talking about a few bad apples here; we are talking about a systematic feature of policing in our society. We’re not talking about something that a bit of administrative hand-wringing and P.R. management and tinkering with equipment will solve. Police brutality, especially police brutality against
unruly Black people, ain’t exactly new. This is what happens when the means of defense are almost entirely in the hands of a professionalized paramilitary force. You get an institutional culture of command-and-control. You get unaccountable
peace officers who go on a rampage when their orders are questioned, and who apparently don’t have any principled inhibitions about using force on people that is wildly out of proportion to any possible threat. (Restraint can especially go out the window if they are Black. Or if they are otherwise thought to be unlikely to get sympathetic attention from the courts.)
So just remember, Johnny: the cops are here to keep you safe. By hurting you for no reason when you pose absolutely no threat to anyone.
- Marian Douglas 2004-04-22: 3 Florida Police Handcuff A 5 Year Old [Black] Child- The Continued Criminalisation of Being Black
- Marian Douglas 2004-04-22: CNN.com Video: Police Handcuff Five Year Old Girl - after White School Teachers Call Police
- Marian Douglas 2004-04-23: BBC: US Police Handcuff Five-Year-Old; Black Child Mobbed and Handcuffed by White Adults
- Marian Douglas 2004-04-24: “On handcuffed and felonious children” - Wendy McElroy, published in February
- Marian Douglas 2004-04-24: What kind of society handcuffs a five year old, arrests a seven year old, and more??
- GT 2004/11/14: Civil defense
- GT 2002/02/13: More police brutality in Montgomery
- GT 2002/01/30: Corporate elites meet & greet; New York Times makes shit up
- GT 2001/04/22: History of Race Riots Reveals — and Obscures