Black children comprise about 15 percent of the U.S. child population but frighteningly make up more than 50 percent of those handled forcibly by law enforcement officers.
An eye-opening new report prepared by Accountable Now, a Leadership Conference Education Fund project revealed that Black children as young as six years old have been handcuffed, pepper-sprayed, tasered and assaulted by law enforcement in America.
The Accountable Now report provided to the Associated Press further revealed that police departments have few or no guardrails to prevent such incidents.
The news outlet analyzed information on about 3,000 police use of force reports against children under 16 over the past 11 years.
It includes incidents recorded by 25 police departments in 17 states.
Because just 25 of the 18,000 police agencies nationwide provided statistics, experts conclude that the number of incidents against children – particularly African Americans – is far worse.
“There are children who are living with this trauma, many of whom have found it difficult to express, but their actions speak volumes,” said Dr. Nathan Wright, a behavioral therapist in Montgomery County, Maryland.
“Being assaulted by the police is a tough enough pill for adults to handle but for kids, especially as young as six, you’ve created a life of distrust for authority and a life that in many cases potentially could lead to violent confrontations,” Dr. Wright insisted.
There’s currently no national standard for the use of force data and no federal requirement for local law enforcement agencies to collect and report the use of force data, Accountable Now officials remarked in an earlier news release posted on its website.
“This means we know very little about how police interact with and treat community members in thousands of cities around the country, outside of anecdotes documenting the disproportionate use of violence against communities of color,” the officials stated.
Accountable Now seeks to address this knowledge gap by collecting use of force data and making it publicly accessible. They said this allows researchers and advocates to understand and demonstrate the full scope of police violence.
Accountable Now officials concluded that it also equips communities with the information they need to demand a transformed public safety system that protects and serves them well. The new report spelled out that authorities often perceive minority children as being older than they are.
Officers have used takedowns, muscling and pointed their firearms at children of color. One troubling incident spelled out in the report involved police officers in Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd died after former officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes.
Researchers found that Minneapolis officers pinned children with their body weight at least 190 times. More than 160 kids were handcuffed in Indianapolis and in Wichita, Kansas officers drew or used their Tasers on kids at least 45 times.
Most children in the dataset are teenagers but the data included dozens of cases of children ages 10 or younger.
Dr. Richard Dudley, a child psychiatrist in New York, told analysts many officers have an implicit bias that would prompt them to see Black children as older, more threatening than they are.
“It all becomes a vicious cycle,” Dr. Dudley said. “Police react badly to these kids and to the people they know, so kids react badly to police, leading them to react badly to kids.”
“Minority children have negative everyday dealings with police and are traumatized by them. Whatever they’ve seen police officers do in the past, all of that is the backdrop for their encounter with a police officer,” he said.