Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham announced a new policy to the D.C. Council regarding how the department treats juveniles, reports The Washington Post. The Tuesday morning announcement came with a packet that outlined the new orders and was littered with images of Black children and officers.
Before Tuesday, the D.C. police department allowed juvenile suspects to be handcuffed. Multiple videos showing abhorrent treatment of minors received criticism online, including one showing a 9-year-old boy who was chased and handcuffed for leaning on an officer’s car, as Blavity previously reported. Another video shows D.C. police scuffling with two juveniles for selling food on the street — one of them was 15 and the other only 10 years old.
“Put her in handcuffs,” one of the officers in the video said.
Public backlash from the controversial videos seems to be the motivation behind the department’s announced overhaul.
The initiative, named Interacting With Juveniles, now prohibits handcuffing minors under the age of 12 “unless the juvenile presents a danger to themselves or others,” but allows an officer’s discretion in regard to those aged 13-18. In an effort to minimize juvenile arrests, officers are ordered to obtain information and release the child to a parent or guardian. The policy does still include a curfew that allows an officer to detain a juvenile suspected of being out past 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and states a juvenile may not be returned to their parent if found to be "at risk."
Some Twitter users wanted to know why on earth children under this age were being arrested in the first place.
this was just a regular thing before? https://t.co/vJD6HMWFeC— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 28, 2020
DC police used to handcuff children under 12 https://t.co/qv990qV0zG— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) January 28, 2020
Others said the wording of the new initiative has too big of a loophole.
"no longer handcuff children under age 12, except in situations deemed dangerous to the child or the public"— Apparatus Of Kwalish (@aparatusofkwal1) January 28, 2020
They're still gonna do it.
Wait . . . that means before this, they were handcuffing children in situations where they *weren't* a danger to themselves or anyone else. WTF were they handcuffing them for, then? Fun??— Ashton Lattimore (@ashtonlattimore) January 28, 2020
During the hearing, Newsham told Councilman Trayon White, “The mere image of having a child in handcuffs can paint the police force in a bad light," WTOP reports.
At-Large Council Member Anita Bonds said “One of the biggest complaints we have is that the young people are the ones creating the havoc,” while highlighting worries of some residents, reports WAMU. Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, praised the new policy but mentioned that the incidents that caused the initial outrage had a racial basis.
“The cases that brought this discussion to the public’s attention were outrageous and were examples of police overreacting. I don’t think it was an accident that it was young boys of color,” Schindler said.