Friday, August 07, 2015

A child in handcuffs

For a couple of days this past week a video of a large cop and a 3 1/2-foot-tall elementary school boy handcuffed at his biceps made the news. It came out that the boy has ADHD. On seeing the video there was a general outcry. The images are shocking. As a public we often do not see what goes in as part of the day-to-day life of schools, and maybe if we did we would be more concerned.

A still from the video.

As I wrote in 2007, this is not an unusual thing to see when one goes from school to school during an average day, as I did from 1976-2009. I am re-presenting that post, unedited and unchanged, below.

What I did not consider in 2007 is how such images makes us look like a police state. When even a small, relatively harmless child can be cuffed, what does that say about giving the cops near limitless powers? As a society, in the age of surreptitious filming with cell phone cameras, we are seeing a side of police work we have not usually seen.

At some point in the history of our society we decided that bad behavior in schools would not get a child humiliated by being stuck in a corner wearing a dunce cap, or rapped on the knuckles with a ruler (like was done, several times, to my father in the 1920s). But nowadays the cuffing of a 52-pound boy for having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (a problem with the workings of the brain, uncontrollable by the boy) is somehow better. As long as it is out of he sight of the public, that is. This way the kid can grow up to hate and fear police and uniforms, but by golly, he won't have to be publicly embarrassed.

This is my original article on the subject, published December 7, 2007:

When the goin' gets tuff, the tuff get cuffed

A week or so ago on the national news there was a story of a 10-year-old girl being taken out of school in handcuffs. Her mother was outraged, the child was upset, and the school was keeping mum, probably out of privacy concerns. The mom will probably sue the school district and police, but this wasn't an isolated incident, and I wonder how it ended up on the national news. Must've been a slow news day.

I turned to my wife and said, “I see children in handcuffs occasionally.” Yesterday on my route, for instance. A small boy in cuffs was being led to a school district police car. The officer arresting him was at least 6’4’, and the child was an average third or fourth grade kid. I've seen this scenario repeated at times over the years. I admit the first time I saw an elementary school child in restraints I was startled; I’ve seen several kids of junior high and high school age in handcuffs. Not so unexpected, there.

I won’t find out why the child I saw yesterday was taken out in handcuffs, and I won’t ask. The officer smiled and waved as I pulled away from my parking spot, and I returned his friendly gesture. Just another day in the life of a school district cop.

Our police officers have been through the state police academy, and have full police powers. We are the only school district in the state with such a police force, and they are busy 24 hours a day, protecting our buildings and students. I’m pretty sure it’s policy to handcuff everyone being taken to a police car, even the elementary school kids.

Once I walked into a school and saw an officer holding a sixth grade boy from behind. The boy had a large kitchen knife in his hand. The officer had his arm around the boy's neck; he had the boy’s arm extended fully to keep the knife away from himself and the child. The officer was squeezing the boy’s wrist to make him relax his grip. The officer was twice the weight and height of the student and could have just thrown him to the floor and taken the knife away, but he was disarming the boy in a manner that would minimize the danger or damage to the child and himself. The boy dropped the knife and the officer got the boy’s arm behind his back where he cuffed his hands together, all in a smooth motion. Throughout the whole situation, which took seconds, no sound was made by either the boy or the cop. You walk in on a situation like that and you wonder if you’ve been dropped into a movie. Nope, it’s real. Life in a school district does have difficult moments like that, and you hope all of them turn out as well as the situation I saw. For the lady on the national news who was upset because her daughter was removed in handcuffs, it’s just the facts, ma’am...that's life in a school district.

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