Police Abuse

Arrest of 9-Year-Old in Portland Illustrates Public Safety Threat Police Unions Can Pose


9 year olds dude
Portland Police Bureau

Last May police in Portland, Oregon, arrested a 9-year-old girl for getting into a fight with another girl after the other girl's mother called police later that day. A few days later cops came to question the 9-year-old on suspicion of fourth-degree assault, and then arrested her and took her downtown for fingerprinting. The girl was never charged with any crime. At The Washington Post, Radley Balko has a great point-by-point breakdown of the whole series events, and how the girl is only 9 years old and common sense should dictate a cop knows better.

Cops often don't know better, of course, and hide behind what the policies say to avoid having to think critically on the job or use their better judgment. The Portland arrest wasn't originally reported widely by the press. A police review found cops did nothing wrong during the arrest: procedures were followed. The story got more publicity last month, when the girl's mother told the story to the Citizen Review Committee. And unlike in many other outrageous police cases, this time it may lead to substantive policy changes. Via The Oregonian:

[Executive director of a legal non-profit focusing on children Mark] McKechnie and Joseph Hagedorn, chief supervising attorney for the Metropolitan Public Defender's juvenile unit, said they've talked in the last week about two potential changes to city ordinances and police directives that would:

— Prevent police from taking a child under 10 years old into custody without an order from a juvenile court judge.

— Allow police to take children ages 10 and 11 into custody only on Class A or B felonies. For less serious offenses, a court order would be needed.

Both said they were concerned about why police made the arrest almost a week after the fight, and particularly, when the girl was at home with a parent.

"It was way over the top for them to do that," Hagedorn said.

If the policy actually passes, this is good news. On another level, it's pretty bad news, insofar as it means you can't trust police to be appropriate with young children unless there's a fucking policy to tell them to do so. It increasingly makes the police appear to be a serious public safety threat. We should expect those people the government arms to be able to act appropriately and above reproach because of their qualifications and the high standards that should be applied to a duty like that. Instead, the proliferation of police unions and deals with police unions have dumbed down the requirements of being a police officer while creating more protections for a class of employee that ought to be held to stricter standards than your typical private sector employee, not looser ones.

So great, now in Portland cops may have a policy that governs how they arrest 9 year olds. They shouldn't need one. And if the police unions have helped to create this kind of a dangerous situation, perhaps it's time for local governments to deal with the public safety threat they represent. Those governments can start by reclaiming the power to fire cops not just when they've been convicted of crimes in a court of law or condemned by some administrative judge but when the police chief or other city bureaucrats have made the decision to fire someone. Cops should serve at the pleasure of the people, not the other way around.

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  1. Cops should serve at the pleasure of the people, not the other way around.

    They serve the public, which is everyone but you.

    1. While I agree with your and the article’s sentiments that the cops in this ONE case failed to exercise proper judgement, the solution offered in this article is APPALLING. I thought this was a libertarian blog, not a dictatorship blog. The idea of allowing the “the police chief or other city bureaucrats” (assumably the mayors who already have excessive control over police chiefs) to fire cops on any whim is dangerous. It would mean cops would have to serve their political agendas instead of the public peace.

      Allowing for the public a large to recall unpopular officers is a better approach although even that can be abused. But that’s certainly closer to “serving at the pleasure of the people” than the article’s suggestion which is more like “serving at the whim of the mayor”.

      Most mayors, FYI, are worse scum than Congessmen because over 90% of conservatives/libertarians do not even know who their own mayor is and have basically given up politically on their own cities. So basically the unions control the mayors anyways (most mayors were endorsed by police and firefighters unions which were the decisive factor in their winning election).

  2. after the other girl’s mother called police later that day

    This is also a problem. What ever happened to parents handling issues with their kids?

    1. One reason the state keeps expanding: people LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the opportunity to use the power of the state as a blunt instrument of force on their “enemies” whenever they get the chance. Can you imagine the look of smug joy on the face of the mother that called police when she found out that the other child was arrested?

      “That’ll teach em’ to mess with my little snowflake!”

      1. It’s funny when you hear the police bitch and moan about having to go on a domestic call only to find it’s a mother trying to use the police to force her kid to brush his teeth and go to bed.

        Because the police LOVE using their blunt force – but only when they’re in the mood.

    2. That to me is the bigger issue. How did we get to the point that someone calls the cops over a fight between 9 year old kids?

      I think it is mostly due to the government taking authority away from parents and adults. If you are the mother of the nine year old who gets beaten up, what are your options? If you lay a finger on the offending kid, you are going to jail for felony child abuse. If you call the parents and they refuse to do anything, then what?

      1. To me the bigger issue is, when is the hiring of that temporary proofreader going to be completed? I read the above as some weird time travel scenario. While it can be parsed correctly as written, it’s unlikely to be on 1st reading.

        1. Why is that? I would be curious to hear why. It reads fine to me. What about it confuses you?

          1. Fine by me.

      2. Sorry to be so late getting around to this.

        I think it’s because the more government meddles in our lives, the more time and effort we spend in making sure we get ours, as a defensive measure against others getting theirs at our expense. We don’t, most of us, actually want the state to do things “for” us, but when so many other people do, not only do we suffer the unintended consequences, and notice it, and want to get our own control to prevent a repeat, but we also figure why shouldn’t we get a cut too?

        I really believe that most people want to do the right thing, but the incentives are so perverse that it’s really hard to even know what the right thing is any more, at least as far as cooperating with the government.

    3. In a more civilized society, this woman would be hung from her ankles in the public square so that passersby could throw rocks at her.

  3. Here’s one problem I have with going after the police for this:

    We had, for a very long time, a widespread culture in this country of excusing violence between children. And by “children” I mean up to high school graduating age.

    So kids could beat up other kids, and routinely threaten other kids, and the police would never intervene because everyone thought that parents and schools should take care of it.

    Except parents and schools didn’t take care of it, and still don’t take care of it.

    That’s the REAL “bullying” problem we have: the routine use of violence, and the threat of violence, to create schoolyard hierarchies.

    The only way, ultimately, to solve that problem is the way we solved it for adults: by creating a system where the law is available as redress. Is there a minimum age where that should be the case? Of course. Is 9 below that age? I think so.

    But don’t tell me that police should never be involved in “kids’ fights” because that’s just not true.

    But instead of taking the simple and direct step of making kids physically secure in schools, we’re currently trying to solve the problem indirectly, by trying to force all kids to love each other and by taking away kids’ 1st Amendment rights in the name of avoiding conflict.

    And I can’t help but say: Fuck that shit. How about we just punish violence, and call it a day? And not worry about what kids say about each other on Facebook?

    1. You don’t see a clear difference between, 9 year olds and 16 year olds fighting? They just magically start being people who need armed intervention at 4? Are you crazy?

      1. Look cuntwad, I just said 9 is too young.

        But you know what? I don’t think 11 is.

        12 definitely is not.

        Should 12 year olds go to juvie hall until they’re 18 if they get in a fight? Nope. But should they be able to think that no matter what happens, the law won’t be involved, and if they’re willing to sit through a detention they’re home free? Nope.

        The job of the police is to respond to valid complaints that fit the definition of the statute. If I walk into a police station and file a complaint that fulfills all the requirements of the assault statute, should they be able to say, “You know what? You should find a way to take care of this yourself. Get the fuck out of here,” I really would be morally entitled to burn the fucking place down with the cops inside. The police shouldn’t be entitled to decide on their own initiative that they won’t pursue my valid complaint.

        1. The police shouldn’t be entitled to decide on their own initiative that they won’t pursue my valid complaint.

          The neighborhood drunk once vandalized my car just for the hell of it. Fortunately, he injured himself during the attack and left incriminating blood. The cops refused to pursue the case “because DNA testing is too expensive”.

          1. Gotta teach your car to fight back:

            1. “That’s it.” 😎

          2. Remember that the public is everyone but you. They don’t have the time or money to pursue crimes against you. They’re too busy serving and protecting the public.

          3. The cops refused to pursue the case “because DNA testing is too expensive”.

            A burglar broke into my house and left visible handprints around the entertainment stand where he lifted my TV. I told the cop that she could get fingerprints from that spot. The cop told me to let them know if I get any leads from that. They were too busy fighting real crime you see, like hassling gun owners, clubbing homeless people and arresting marijuana users.

            1. A burglar broke into my place and the cops ran me for warrants and repeatedly asked if I’d consent to a search of my apartment for drugs. When I didn’t consent they left.

    2. “Yeah, but she started it!”

      How do you make children not fight? Zero tolerance? Constant surveillance? Police in schools? Police on the playgrounds? Police escorts on all known routes to and from school?

      1. How do we make adults not fight? Do we use constant surveillance?

        And the law manages to work out a way to figure out “who started” fights among adults all the time.

        1. Really? So if an off-duty cop gets in a barfight with a non-cop, the result is…

          If an on-duty cop decides he wants to stomp a man for death for being non-violent but schizophrenic the result is…

          You are wrong to think that assault and battery statutes are what keep adults from fighting. What keeps adults from fighting is the strong property law that has relegated only slights of reputation to being settled outside the law.

          1. Brett, your argument undermines itself.

            If cops assault people and get away with it, that proves that the law is what prevents adults from committing assault.

            Because the class of people who can laugh at that law with impunity (cops)…commit lots of assaults.

            Basically we have a sizable group of older children who are in the existential position of cops: they can commit assaults and face only trivial consequences. And so…they commit lots of assaults. We should not be surprised by this.

            1. No, the police get away with it because they have a disproportionate force to call upon should anyone attempt to assert the same level of violence. It is precisely because of the laws that they feel they can get away with assault and battery. If responding to an assault on one’s person by a police officer with violence were legal, the cops would never assault anyone.

        2. Generally people don’t fight. It is an exception. Kids fight more than adults as they are figuring out how to become adults.

          I find it laughable to think the police would be able to determine ‘who started it’ on the school yards. Also, exposing children to the police can lead to much worse outcomes beyond getting handcuffed and printed.

          1. I find it laughable to think the police would be able to determine ‘who started it’ on the school yards.

            I don’t.

            It would be relatively easy, if we applied the same rules we would apply to an adult conflict: namely, that nothing that occurred on any earlier occasion mattered, and nothing anyone said that wasn’t an explicit threat mattered.

            If all that matters is who punched first, it would be no harder to unravel a schoolyard fight than a fight in a bar.

            1. I don’t.

              I don’t either — because all they have to do is view the school yard surveillance videos.

              1. I have one question

                What is a school yard?

                1. A yard at a school methinks.

                2. It’s where they let the inmates exercise for 1/2 hour – 1 hour per day. Otherwise, the inmates are in lockup, as they should be.


                  1. nice

    3. You make valid points. We also have a culture where it is a crime not to report or act on child abuse. Suppose we have the rule that says “the police won’t respond to kids under the age 10 getting into fights” and then some emotionally deranged 9 year old stabs and kills another kid after months of escalating physical abuse. What will people be saying about the police then?

      The police are in a tough spot here. I don’t think you can say they shouldn’t have responded. If this was the wrong call, it is the parents who made the wrong call not the police. Is it possible for a fight amongst children to be criminal? For sure. A few years ago an adolescent murdered his sister by jumping on her chest. Are all childhood fights criminal? No. Children are not the same as adults and shouldn’t be treated as such. Where that line is is a determination that has to be made by the adults in the situation.

      1. If the police merely questioned the girl I don’t think this would’ve ever got any attention outside of Portland. Same if they arrested her but then actually charged her with something and it stuck. I think the outrage comes from the fact that they questioned and arrested her (days after the incident was reported) and then didn’t charge her with anything. If they had just questioned her, or arrested and charged her, it would be a different story.

        You’re right, the determination has to be made by the adults. In this case it doesn’t look like the police did that. They just followed policies and procedures. We pay our cops too well to be OK with that poor standard.

        1. That is true. The police seem to have the attitude of “well we got called out here, so we need to arrest someone”. That is sadly all too typical.

    4. These are good points. Kids are different then adults, but if they don’t learn that predatory behavior and violence is unacceptable, then there’s a non-zero chance they become nightmares as adults.

      1. Ah yes, all of those people who had regular school yard fights are now violent criminals? No. Most people learned that even winning a fist fight hurts like shit and it really isn’t worth pursuing.

        1. exactly, anybody been in a fight will fight whose honest will tell you that winning can and often does hurt as much as losing. This issue is far more complex than some people are trying make it out to be.

      2. Even if you are an adult, mutual combat is not assault and battery. So, the typical fight between to willing kids is not a crime. But, one kid assaulting another is and should be a crime. Maybe not a serious life altering crime, but a crime.

        1. Exactly, John. I’m not talking about the good ole fashioned fight, but rather the predatory, bullying behavior. Look no further than Philly schools for some recent, horrifying examples.

          1. And I agree with you. If two kids get together and attack another one, that is a crime. They should go into the juvenile system for that.

        2. I’ve seen cops the winner always goes to jail though.

          1. Of course. But that is now how it should be and at trial the winner is going to have a valid defense. That won’t stop them from arresting him of course.

    5. I disagree. It seems to me that you have personal experience in the matter(if not please excuse my ignorance) but anyway hierarchies are going to develop regardless if violence is present or not. Involving police would cause far more problems than not, in my opinion. Hierarchies exist because at the end of the day humans are pack animals and naturally establish pecking orders (with either the strongest or more intelligent rising to the top) bringing the police into it will in no way alleviate the underlying cause of the issue and will more than likely make it worse.

    6. I pretty much agree with fluffy. Instead of making these stupid anti-bullying laws, just enforce the existing assault laws.

    7. Except parents and schools didn’t take care of it, and still don’t take care of it.

      I’m gonna guess that most kids who are likely to get involved in a “real” fight aren’t going to care, at the moment, that the cops might get involved.

      So the deterrence, which is the only justification I can think of, isn’t really there.

      The problem of kids fighting isn’t going to be reduced much by cops. So we haven’t really helped the problem, and we’ve created a new one to boot.

    8. I was always the new kid and sometimes the wrong race of kid when I was growing up. I got in fights all the time (don’t ever remember starting one). I fought back against bullies and creeps and they would back off. If the police got involved, there is a good chance I would have been booked fingerprinted and possibly blamed, because everybody else had friends with them. I had no witness on my side. I would rather get pounded on my a 300 lbs 7th grader than have to deal with cops that just want to stop the fighting no matter who’s life they ruin. Right now I am a grown adult who is a productive member of society, but you think I should have had cops involved in my life to protect me. You obviously are new to this site and the idea of reality in law enforcement.

  4. So great, now in Portland cops have a policy that governs how they arrest nine year olds.

    Does the policy govern how they arrest nine year olds who are packing heat?

    1. They already have one for that: shoot first, ask questions later. Same as any other person who they think *might* have a gun.

      1. “It appeared to be a Pop Tart chewed into the shape of a pistol!”

        1. You mean, “The kid had a matzah! That matzah could eventually have been chewed into the shape of a pistol!”

          1. “Whatzah matzah for you?!”

  5. A police review found cops did nothing wrong during the arrest: procedures were followed.

    Sounds legit.

  6. Cops should serve at the pleasure of the people, not the other way around.

    That ship has left the barn and has gone right off the rails.

    1. “What the hell are you doing?!”

      “Pleasuring you, I guess.”

  7. Having dealt with LEO casually and in a professional context, I can say that many of them do actually have this belief that they are a higher class of citizen, constantly put-upon by lesser citizens and those higher ups who would rein them in. But not all.

    1. Hey, they’re not called “Heroes” for *nothing*.

    2. But not all? True enough, 99.9% of police give the other 0.1% a bad name.

  8. What ever happened to parents handling issues with their kids?

    Three or more generations of government schools trumpeting the virtues of “expertism” and the incessant drumbeat of “It’s never appropriate to take the law into your own hands. Let the Proper Authorities handle it.”

    1. “If you think something, say something.” 8-(

  9. But not all.

    Get back to me when the “good” cops start weeding out the psychos.

  10. It increasingly makes the police appear to be a serious public safety threat.

    We’re way past that point. They are a public safety threat. Cops are predators, looking to get collars, not to protect people. They will continue to be a threat so long as they receive de facto immunity for crimes that would land an unbadged person in prison.

  11. ” On another level, it’s pretty bad news, insofar as it means you can’t trust police to be appropriate with young children unless there’s a fucking policy to tell them to do so.”
    And this is different from the way they treat adults, how?

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