Two Portland, Oregon police officers arrested a 9-year-old in her bathing suit last May, putting her in handcuffs and transporting her to the station to be fingerprinted — all after questioning her about the role she played in a youth club fight days earlier.
"When they put handcuffs on, I thought, 'Wait a minute, this has got to be a joke,'" her mother Latoya Harris recalled Monday to the Oregonian. "The look on my daughter's face went from humiliation and fear, to a look of sheer panic.''
[sharequote align="center"]"When they put handcuffs on, I thought, 'Wait a minute, this has got to be a joke.'"[/sharequote]
Harris is now speaking out after a complaint filed with the Independent Police Review Division procured no significant disciplinary action.
"I'm just a mother at the end of her rope,'' Harris told the Oregonian. "I'm going to advocate for my daughter, but no child should have to go through that.''
Harris' daughter had allegedly put herself in the middle of a dispute days earlier between two girls who were arguing over who told on the other about a desk-drawing incident.
The 9-year-old ultimately ended up in a fist fight with another, but it was broken up by a staff member. The girls apologized and no significant injuries were observed by the staff member, according to the Oregonian.
But, later in the day, the mother of one of the girls called police, contending Harris' daughter had bashed her child against a wall and struck her in the face. Officers went to interview Harris' daughter, but were told she was at her aunt's place. Days later they went back to her house to question her when they found her in a swimsuit.
The police report said officers found the 9-year-old girl's answers to be "vague" and "inconsistent."
"I observed (her) breathing speed up, she looked down at the ground ... crossed her arms and would eventually answer my questions,'' an officer wrote in the report.
They then arrested her and took her into custody to be fingerprinted and have her mugshot taken. She was released and charges were never filed against her by the district attorney.
The Independent Police Review Division later found no wrongdoing on the part of officers and simply forwarded the complaint to their supervisors for a "service improvement opportunity."
Harris, however, maintains that the tactics used by police were excessive.
"In my opinion, they were trying to scare and humiliate her,'' she told the Oregonian. "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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