A Cincinnati police officer who used a Taser on an 11-year-old Black girl at a grocery store last month was placed on restricted duty and will face a pre-disciplinary hearing.
Although the Cincinnati Police Department says officers are allowed to use a Taser on children over the age of 7 and adults under the age of 70, an internal review found that Officer Kevin Brown violated the department’s use of force policy in using the Taser. The department is currently considering revisions to the policy, with Chief Elliott Isaac telling local media this week that “A lot of places have moved to, instead of specifying age specifically, that they talk about small children. Considering the stature and size of the individual you’re using force against.”
The officer was doing off-duty security work at a Kroger’s grocery store when he spotted the girl, Donesha Gowdy, attempting to leave with her friends. The officer said that he asked her to stop and she ignored him. Gowdy told NBC News that she was not “aggressive” to the officer and did not try to fight him. Again, she is 11 years old.
Gowdy said she stole items from the grocery store, including soda, chips, candy, and baby clothes, according to NBC News New York. She was charged with theft and obstructing official business, but the charges were eventually dropped.
By Brown’s own admission, the girl did not pose a threat to the officer, who violated department policy by failing to warn Gowdy before using the Taser. His body camera was turned off as he Tased her, which also violated department policy, and he turned it back on afterward.
“It hit my back real fast and then I stopped, then I fell and I was shaking and I couldn’t really breathe,” Gowdy told NBC News.
After the incident, Brown told Gowdy, “You know what, sweetheart, this is why there’s no grocery stores in the black community, because of all this going on.”
"You made me hurt you" is 100 percent the language of abusers https://t.co/abvXUD9e3V
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) September 6, 2018
As NBC News New York reported, Brown defended his statement to investigators and defended his behavior during the incident, telling Gowdy, “When I say stop, you stop. You know [you’re] caught, just stop. That hurt my heart to do that to you. Then I got to listen to all these idiots out here in the parking lot telling me how I was wrong for tasing you.”
Incidents of officers using force and handcuffs on Black children occur all too often. Last month, an 11 year-old Black boy was handcuffed by a Florida police officer for continuing to bounce a basketball after he was asked to stop. Last year, an 11-year-old Black girl was held at gunpoint, handcuffed, and put in the backseat of a squad car by officers from the Grand Rapids Police Department during an incident in which police were looking for her relative. In 2016, a mother sued the Chicago Board of Education and a security guard because a guard handcuffed her 6 year-old Black daughter at school.
In one particularly tragic incident, a Black teenager, Damon Grimes, died after he crashed an ATV last year. According to ABC News, a combination of dashcam, bodycam, and surveillance video showed that, before the crash, an officer Tased the teenager. Grimes’ family’s attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, said that the officers involved in the incident “killed [Grimes] when they shot him with a Taser and electrocuted him and he ran into another vehicle and broke his neck.”
Research shows that people, including cops, often see Black kids as less innocent than white children. As a result Black boys as young as 10 are more likely to face police violence, according to 2014 American Psychological Association study. A 2017 report from Georgetown University found that Black girls were considered less innocent than white girls. One of the report’s authors, Rebecca Epstein, told The Washington Post that adults see Black girls as “less in need of protection as white girls of the same age.”
There have been cases in which police have Tased and used other kinds of force against the elderly, as well as children, such as the case in Georgia last month when police Tasered an 87-year-old woman. Police were called to the scene by a Boys & Girls Club employee who found the woman cutting dandelions with a knife at the club. Officers did not attempt to take the knife from her, but instead, immediately resorted to Tasing her after she did not respond to their requests to drop the knife. The woman was later found to have dementia and only speaks Arabic. As The Root reported, the police failed to call emergency medical personnel or tell her family that she had been Tased.