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Another day, another instance where cops prove how easily the adultification of Black children comes to them.
When a prepubescent child shoplifts a bag of chips, there are plenty of simple, non-traumatizing ways to deal with the situation. The simplest thing to do is to have the child return the item, scold the child and send them on their way—because, when it comes down to it, kids stealing small things from stores is common snd isn’t exactly symptomatic of a child on a path to criminality. You can call the child’s parents and let them come get them and handle it. Or, if the cops must be called for something this petty, they can give the child a good talking to and, again, send them on their way.
But in a recent case that took place in Syracuse, New York, the young child was Black, so once the police got involved, it was no surprise that things would be handled wrongly.
Many reports on the incident in which three police officers were seen pinning a child’s arms behind his back and forcing him into a police car have put the boy’s age at 10-years-old, but others have him as young as eight. Eight years old.
Let’s start with the video, which, according to WHAM 13, was taken by bystander Kenneth Jackson.
“What is y’all doing?” Kenneth Jackson asks an officer holding the little boy by his arms as he cries.
“Guess. Guess what I’m doing,” the officer responds.
Jackson continues to ask officers to explain why they’re taking the boy into custody.
Another officer tells Jackson the boy “was stealing stuff.”
Jackson cuts off the officer and says “Nah man, so he’s stealing a bag of chips you’re treating him like an old cold ******** killer?”
An officer can also be heard saying to Jackson, “If he breaks into your house…,” because, in a cop’s mind, a Black child who might be as young as eight committing the relatively mundane act of stealing a snack from a store might also be a potential burglar or even a career criminal. Jackson even offered several times to pay for what the child allegedly stole, but that wasn’t enough for the police officers hellbent on treating a young Black body any kind of way, which is why one officer told Jackson, “Keep walking dude, you don’t know even know what you’re talking about.”
Three cops have an 8 or 10-year-old child hemmed up while he appears to be terrified, and they don’t understand why a witness to it might show concern. That, in and of itself, says a lot about the attitudes of police officers dealing with Black suspects of any age.
“There’s a way that the police need to interact with kids and what they did that day was completely unacceptable,” Jackson said to reporters.
According to Meaww, the Syracuse Police Department released a statement saying they were investigating the incident, but the statement also appeared to intentionally make the crime committed sound more sinister than it actually was.
“We are aware of a video being shared on social media involving several of our Officers and juveniles accused of stealing from a store on the City’s northside,” the department said. “The incident, including the Officers’ actions and body-worn cameras, are being reviewed. There is some misinformation involving this case. The juvenile suspected of larceny was not placed in handcuffs. He was placed in the rear of a patrol unit where he was directly brought home. Officers met with the child’s father and no charges were filed.”
Granted, taking the child to his father and not filing charges was the correct way to handle it, but the way they did it is still a problem. Why does it take three cops to escort a young child to his parent? Even if he wasn’t handcuffed, why are his arms pinned behind his back? Why is there no effort by the cops to comfort a child so young as opposed to traumatizing him without any apparent empathy? Why couldn’t his father come to the store as opposed to a child suffering the trauma of being forced into a police car?
In regards to the statement, where were the other “juveniles accused of stealing from a store” since the department is officially claiming there were multiple suspects? Why is the department intentionally using legal terminology that describes the child as a “juvenile suspected of larceny?” Could it be because officials knew “8-year-old suspected of stealing a bag of chips” would make the officers sound petty and excessive?
Then, of course, there’s the obvious question: Would a white 8 to 10-year-old who had committed the common AF crime of stealing a small item from a store have been treated the same way?