A Black 11-year old boy was handcuffed by a police officer in Jacksonville, Florida because the cop said he was “being disrespectful” by bouncing a ball, his mother told a local news outlet, WJXT.
Bunmi Borisade said the incident happened last weekend. A police officer told her son, Fatayi, to stop bouncing a ball but he wouldn’t. Then the officer put him in handcuffs.
“A little girl came up to me and said, ‘Hey, excuse me. Your son is being arrested for dribbling a basketball.’ I said, ‘You can’t be serious,'” Borisade told WJXT.
Fatayi was not arrested. Borisade said that the officer told her he was handcuffed for “being disrespectful.”
The incident happened at a Police Athletic League basketball game at one of its gyms. The gym’s entrance is emblazoned with the words, “Filling playgrounds, not prisons.” According to the Police Athletic League’s website, its mission “enriches the lives of children by creating positive relationships between law enforcement officers and the youth of our community through educational, athletic and leadership programs.”
It’s not surprising that by handcuffing the 11 year-old, the police officer did the opposite of “creating positive relationships.” Borisade told WJXT her son is now afraid of the police. She said her own views of police have also changed as a result. An Internal Affairs complaint on the matter is being investigated by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
There is a history of accusations of police brutality and racism, with little consequences, from Jacksonville police. In April, First Coast News reported that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was facing three separate lawsuits related to police brutality, one of which involved an officer, Timothy James, who beat a handcuffed teenager, Elias Campos. Those charges were dropped and although the officer, who had a history of internal affairs complaints, resigned, he can still work as an officer outside of Duval, Clay or Nassau counties.
In 2016, a Jacksonville police lieutenant, Trudy Callahan, a white woman, was investigated for racist posts on a social media site, where she posted a police composite of a Black man with dreadlocks and a caption that used racial slurs repeatedly, along with other racist posts. During her 20 year-career she has been involved in almost 50 citizen and internal complaints, according to the Florida Times-Union. She was issued a 10-day suspension and resigned from her board of directors role with the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police. According to the Florida Times-Union, the sheriff’s office did not come to the conclusion that she was racially biased in her treatment of others as an officer.
Children of color, and Black children in particular, are often targeted or over-disciplined by police officers and security guards, whether they are in or outside of school. In May, a white Wisconsin police punched a 17-year-old Black teenager in the face multiple times, as he asked for someone to call his mother. A mall security officer helped the officer restrain the teenager as he did so. A bystander filmed the incident.
In 2017, an 11-year-old Black girl named Honestie Hodges was held at gunpoint, handcuffed, and put in the backseat of a squad car by officers from the Grand Rapids Police Department. Officers were at Honestie’s residence looking for a woman who was suspected of a stabbing, Carrie Manning. Honestie, Manning’s niece, was walking outside the back door when officers told her to walk backwards with her hands up. Then they handcuffed her, patted her down, and put her in a cruiser.
“I wanted to be a detective or a police officer, but now I don’t want anything to do with those kind of things. I’m just wondering why they did that to me,” she told NBC News at the time.
In 2016, a woman sued the Chicago Board of Education and a security guard after her Black 6 year-old daughter was handcuffed at school after other students claimed she took candy from a teacher’s desk. The child, Madisyn, who has special needs, was told to sit under a stairwell near the school boilers for about an hour where she was “crying, sweating, and visibly scared,” according to the lawsuit.
Black kids are perceived to be less innocent than white children, research shows. In 2014, research published by the American Psychological Association found that Black boys as young as 10 may not be perceived to be as innocent as their white peers and are more likely to be seen as older, and thus more likely to face police violence. One of the authors of the study, Phillip Atiba Goff from the University of California, Los Angeles, told the APA, “Our research found that Black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.”
A 2017 report from Georgetown University found that Black girls, especially in the age range of 5 to 14, were considered less innocent and more adult-like than their white female peers. One of the authors, Rebecca Epstein, said in a statement published by Washington Post, “What we found is that adults see Black girls as less innocent and less in need of protection as white girls of the same age.”