May 19 2014

9-Year-Old Girl Handcuffed, Detained in Bathing Suit


When Latoya Harris’ nine-year-old daughter got into a fight at the local Boys and Girls Club in Portland, Oregon, the children apologized and that seemed to be the end of it. However, a week later, police showed up on Harris’ doorstep and arrested her little girl on assault charges. The child had been playing in a sprinkler on her front lawn and was detained in her wet bathing suit.

Several young girls were involved in the argument in front of the Boys and Girls Club. The confrontation centered around one child telling on another earlier in the day for writing on a desk. According to witnesses, Harris’ daughter was not a part of the original dispute, but instead got in the middle in an attempt to break up the fight. According to police, the girls started swinging and staff intervened.

Both girls apologized to one another, and all seemed well. No injuries were reported and Harris’ daughter was sent home with a one week suspension from the club.

Arresting officers Matthew Huspek, left, and David McCarthy at an earlier Boys and Girls Club event.

Arresting officers Matthew Huspek, left, and David McCarthy at an earlier event.

However, later that day, one of the other mothers called the police to report the fight. She stated that the nine-year-old had struck her daughter in the face and slammed her head into a brick wall. She demanded an arrest be made. Police arrived and found a red mark on the girl’s cheek.

Portland Officers David McCarthy and Officer Matthew Huspek returned six days later to question Harris’ daughter. When they arrived, she was running through a sprinkler in the yard. According to the police report, the child gave “vague answers,” seemed unwilling to talk, was breathing quickly, and staring at the ground with crossed arms. Police decided this was a sure sign of guilt and arrested her on a fourth-degree assault charge. When the officers led the girl to their patrol car, the child’s mother asked to go with them. Police refused.

Though the report does not mention her attire, she was still dripping in her bathing suit, flip flops, and pink towel. After the arrest, the child was fingerprinted, photographed, and held in a cell at an adult jail for over an hour. The district attorney’s office never filed charges. Even so, Harris says her daughter has never been the same.

The incident happened a year ago, and a Citizen Review Committee is just now investigating the officers’ actions. The mother had previously complained to the Independent Police Review Division, who found the officers had acted accordingly. In fact, police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson stated that the handcuffs were a necessary safeguard required by bureau policy.

The Citizen Review Committee is now lobbying to change that policy. Current policy states that any juvenile under 18 “shall” or “may” be fingerprinted and processed, depending on the seriousness of the charge. They are attempting to change the policy so that children under age 10 cannot be arrested without the permission of a judge, and 10 and 11-year-old children can only be detained on felony charges.

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