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A police officer and his union defended the arrest and tasing of an 11-year-old girl


What you’ll read today

  • Spotlight:  A police officer and his union defended the arrest and tasing of an 11-year-old girl

  • How decriminalizing sex work became a campaign issue in 2018

  • A new power for prosecutors is on the horizon—reducing harsh sentences

  • Dallas police officer arrested three days after fatal shooting of Botham Shem Jean

  • Harris County jail fails to meet state standards

  • Oregon lawsuit challenges driver’s license suspensions

  • Lawyers for exoneree ask disciplinary board to take action against prosecutor

In the Spotlight

A police officer and his union defended the arrest and tasing of an 11-year-old girl

Last month, a Cincinnati police officer, while working security at a grocery store, tased an 11-year-old girl whom he suspected of shoplifting. An internal review, released last week, concluded that the officer, Kevin Brown, had violated multiple rules. His police powers have been suspended pending a departmental hearing. After the hearing, the police chief will decide what, if any, disciplinary action to take against Brown. [Mihir Zaveri / New York Times] See also Our Aug. 16 newsletter looks at police use of Tasers on people who are considered “high risk” by Taser’s manufacturer.

The footage from Brown’s body camera was also released last week. The video, which begins after Brown shot the girl with the Taser, shows Brown taking her into an office in the grocery store and questioning her. “The last thing I want to do is tase you like that,” he tells her. “When I say stop, you stop. You know you’re caught, just stop.” [Mihir Zaveri / New York Times]

Brown tells the girl, “You know, sweetheart, this is why there’s no grocery stores in the black community.” Both the girl and Brown are Black. The internal review concluded that the remark constituted prejudice in violation of departmental rules. [Sharon Coolidge, Cameron Knight and Mark Curnutte / Cincinnati Enquirer]

Brown’s other violations of department rules were for using the Taser in the first place, not warning the girl before firing the Taser at her, and not turning on his body camera until after he had shot her with the stun gun. The internal review concluded that the incident did not warrant the use of the Taser, especially as officers are required to use the least amount of force necessary when dealing with children. [Sharon Coolidge, Cameron Knight, and Mark Curnutte / Cincinnati Enquirer]

Immediately after reports that Brown fired his Taser at the 11-year-old, some elected officials called for revisions to the department’s use of force policy, which allows the use of Tasers on children as young as 7. The police chief, Eliot Isaac, has said the department would examine its policy. [James Leggate, Evan Millward, and Abby Anstead / WCPO]

After an intervention by the Cincinnati mayor, the county prosecutor dropped all charges against the girl, “saying police are supposed to confer with his office on charges related to children and that did not happen.” [Cincinnati Enquirer] The girl was alleged to have taken a backpack, candy, beef jerky, and baby clothes. [Sharon Coolidge, Cameron Knight and Mark Curnutte / Cincinnati Enquirer]

In the Cincinnati Enquirer, columnist Kevin S. Aldridge asks whether an 11-year-old suspected of shoplifting should have been arrested at all. “Is stealing a candy bar, or whatever food items this little girl took, a crime punishable by 50,000 volts of electricity?”  Aldridge described his own experience stealing a toy car from Kmart as a 9-year-old and how, “instead of treating a little boy like a hardened criminal, the adults in my case handled me like the kid I was. Irresponsible, but not irredeemable.” [Kevin S. Aldridge / Cincinnati Enquirer]

A 2016 report from the Sentencing Project looked at the disparities, by race, in the incarceration of youth—disparities that are set in motion by differing arrest rates. It found that between 2003 and 2013, despite a decline in the rate of youth sent to juvenile facilities, the disparity in the treatment of Black and white youth went up. As of 2013, Black youth were four times more likely to be incarcerated in juvenile facilities than white youth and “[t]he growth in commitment disparities begins with the growth in arrest disparities.” Despite little difference in behavior across the most common categories of youth arrests, including stealing property, “black teenagers are far more likely than their white peers to be arrested … a vital step toward creating the difference in commitments.” [Sentencing Project]

These disparities are compounded for girls of color. Girls are more likely than boys to be arrested and locked up for minor offenses and the majority of girls in the juvenile justice system are there on low-level offenses. In New York City, Black girls under the age of 16 face a misdemeanor arrest rate more than 20 times higher than the rate for their white peers. Latinx girls are arrested for misdemeanors at six times the rate of white girls. [Lindsay Rosenthal with Michelle Diaz / Bustle]

The most visible support for Officer Brown’s actions has come from the police union. The president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police told the New York Times that “there seems to be a lack of shock that a juvenile suspect of this age has no respect for people’s property rights.” In a Facebook post shortly after the incident, he criticized the “knee-jerk reaction” from local officials and argued that Brown’s actions were justified to prevent injuries to himself and the girl. [Cincinnati Enquirer]  Yet, after watching the body-camera video, few would argue that the girl escaped without experiencing injury or trauma. It shows her asking Brown if the Taser barbs are still in her skin, saying, ”It’s in my body? They in my body?” and then crying and gasping as a team of all-male team of EMTs remove them. She was then taken to the local children’s hospital. [Sharon Coolidge, Cameron Knight, and Mark Curnutte / Cincinnati Enquirer]

Stories From The Appeal

Julia Salazar speaking to canvassers in August. [Melissa Gira Grant/Anagraph]

How Decriminalizing Sex Work Became a Campaign Issue in 2018. State Senate candidate Julia Salazar explains how sex workers’ rights is a key part of reforming criminal justice in New York. [Melissa Gira Grant]

A New Power for Prosecutors Is on the Horizon—Reducing Harsh Sentences. Legislation in California would provide a direct route to resentencing, and a new tool for activists. [Kyle C. Barry]

Stories From Around the Country

Dallas police officer arrested three days after fatal shooting of Botham Shem Jean: On Thursday, Amber Guyger, an off-duty police officer, shot and killed Botham Shem Jean in Jean’s apartment. Jean, a 26-year old accountant with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, lived in the same building as Guyger, in an apartment directly above hers. Jean was Black and Guyger is white. Police waited until Sunday to arrest Guyger on manslaughter charges. She was released from jail on $300,000 bail. The Dallas police department said Guyger had mistaken Jean’s apartment for her own. The police chief had explained the delay in arresting Guyger as the product of another agency, called in to investigate the case, asking the police department to hold off on obtaining an arrest warrant. [Kristine Phillips / Washington Post] Guyger shot and wounded another man, while on duty, in 2017. She was not charged in connection with that shooting. [Ryan Tarinelli / Associated Press]

Harris County jail fails to meet state standards for monitoring those at risk:  After two deaths by suicide in the Harris County jail in a month, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has found that the jail failed to meet state requirements for supervision and observation, in the latest in a string of noncompliance findings since last year. The jail must submit a corrective action plan next month. The jail commission executive director told the Houston Chronicle that if the jails fails to demonstrate “a consistent pattern of compliance,” it could result in a remedial order to the facility to reduce the number of people incarcerated there or close portions of the jail. The most recent noncompliance finding came after the death of Debora Lyons, jailed on a theft charge, who died by suicide in a common area of the jail. [Keri Blakinger / Houston Chronicle]

Oregon lawsuit challenges driver’s license suspensions over unpaid traffic fines: A class-action lawsuit filed last week seeks an end to license suspensions for traffic fines until the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles provides drivers a chance to demonstrate their inability to pay. Between 2007 and 2017, the Oregon DMV issued over 300,000 license suspensions for unpaid fines. Lawyers at the Oregon Law Center, who represent the plaintiffs, argue that those unable to pay a several hundred dollar fine are left with no good options: “They either stop driving, making it impossible to meet their work and family obligations, or drive illegally, placing themselves at risk of being cited for driving with a suspended license and further compounding their traffic debt.” One plaintiff received a $300 speeding ticket in 2010 when she was unemployed and caring for a new baby. Since then her license has been suspended, she has received multiple citations for driving with a suspended license, and her traffic violation debt has ballooned to over $11,000. [Maxine Bernstein / The Oregonian]

Lawyers for exoneree ask disciplinary board to take action against prosecutor:  Anthony Wright spent 25 years in prison before being exonerated. The Philadelphia district attorney’s office, under Seth Williams, then unsuccessfully tried him again. The blog “Open File” looks at the bar complaint Mr. Wright’s lawyers from the Innocent Project recently filed against Bridget Kirn, the lead prosecutor in that second trial. Detectives who had testified at Wright’s first trial also testified at the second. Kirn had informed them of exculpatory DNA test results but the detectives testified that they had no knowledge of any DNA testing or results and Kirn failed to inform the judge, jurors, and defense counsel about her witnesses’ perjured statements. In her deposition during Wright’s civil trial, Kirn acknowledges that she had briefed the detectives on the DNA results but said, “I didn’t correct the record because it didn’t seem inaccurate to me.” Kirn, who was fired shortly after current DA Larry Krasner took office, now works for the Montgomery County district attorney’s office on a contract basis. [Open File]

Correction: In Friday’s newsletter, a news brief and headline on a debate about closing Rikers Island misidentified New York City Council Member Rory Lancman’s debate opponent. He was Queens Assistant District Attorney James Quinn, not District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

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