Court Says Handcuffing 7-Year Old In School is Legal
Police brutality or misconduct is bad enough when an adult is the victim. But when the victims are young children, the wrongs by policy officers seem even worse. Earlier this year, a story of needless force by an officer on a child was found to be just fine by a court.
Boy Handcuffed for Being Disruptive
The case involved a police officer who felt the need to handcuff a defenseless 7 year old boy for the “crime” of refusing to go to the principal’s office. According to the report, the boy was being taken to the principal’s office by the officer. The boy had to be removed from class because he was being bullied, but the boy refused to follow the officer to the principal’s office.
The boy was put in handcuffs for 20 minutes, leaving his wrists red. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued on behalf of the boy, claiming that his right to be free of unreasonable seizures and to be free from excessive force were violated by the officer.
The problem with the case was the doctrine of qualified immunity, a common defense that officers assert against brutality or misconduct claims. Qualified immunity allows police agencies and officers to escape liability if they have infringed on a constitutional right that is “clearly established,” which means that prior case law establishes that the officer’s behavior was improper.
However, no two cases are ever exactly alike, which means there rarely is established law saying whether an officer’s conduct is right or wrong. That means that many officers escape liability. Even one Presidential candidate has spoken out about the doctrine of qualified immunity, and how it allows officers to get away with violating citizen’s constitutional rights.
The Court in the case mischaracterized the child as if he were an adult, instead of the frustrated, bullied, and immature child that the boy actually was. The Court characterized the child as trying to “flee” from the officer, and said that the boy had committed an “act of violent resistance.” Further, the Court said that handcuffing the boy was acceptable because it was a way of preventing the boy from “posing harm to himself,” even though there was no evidence that the boy ever was a risk of doing so.
The Court also noted that qualified immunity would apply because there is no case that specifically says that handcuffing a young boy for 20 minutes while in school is unconstitutional.
The case also demonstrates how many law enforcement agencies are not trained to deal with minors. For example, in the case, it is no wonder that having a uniformed police officer handcuff a child would lead the child to become even more rowdy or upset.
Have you been a victim of excessive force, or police brutality? Contact the Alabama police misconduct attorneys at Lasseter Law Firm today to discuss whether you have a cause of action for damages.