A fight between two 9-year-olds ended with Portland police officers handcuffing and arresting one of the girls, who was wearing only a bathing suit, towel, and flip-flops.
Latoya Harris, the girl’s mother, said she could hardly believe that the cops were actually handcuffing her daughter as she stood outside a local youth club, still wet from having run through a sprinkler.
“When they put handcuffs on, I thought, 'Wait a minute, this has got to be a joke,''' Harris told the Oregonian. "The look on my daughter's face went from humiliation and fear, to a look of sheer panic.''
Harris’ daughter had gotten got into a fight with another 9-year-old on the basketball court of a local Boys & Girls Club six days earlier. One had told on the other for drawing on a desk in school earlier that day.
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Staff members broke up the fight, separating the girls, who apologized to each other. They didn’t see any evidence of obvious injuries from the kicks and jabs. Harris’ daughter was suspended from the club for one week.
Later, however, the other girl’s mother called the Portland police and said that Harris’ daughter had assaulted her daughter, banging her head into a brick wall. Police took a picture of a bruise on the girl’s face and went to find the other girl.
According to Harris, the officers questioned her daughter aggressively, asking repeatedly, “Why don't you tell me what really happened?”
"In my opinion, they were trying to scare and humiliate her,'' she said. "All they had to do was give her a talking to. We're talking about two grown men in uniform with guns.''
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According to the police report by Officer David McCarthy, the girl gave “vague answers” and became angry when pressed to respond.
The police eventually took the girl downtown on fourth degree assault charges. They fingerprinted her and took her mugshots, keeping her in a holding area until her mother could come and pick her up an hour later.
Harris is planning on suing the police department, having complained to the city’s Independent Police Review Division and receiving no satisfactory response. She wants new guidelines to prevent police from taking children under the age of 10 into custody without a juvenile court order.
"I'm just a mother at the end of her rope,'' Harris said. "I'm going to advocate for my daughter, but no child should have to go through that.''