Police Abuse

Cincinnati Cop Tased 11-Year Old Girl, Told Her 'This Is Why There Aren't Any Grocery Stores in the Black Community'

The girl was in tears as firefighters removed taser barbs from her body.


Martin Brayley/Dreamstime.com

A Cincinnati cop failed to follow department policy when he tased an 11-year-old girl for shoplifting last month, police investigators say.

As Reason reported last month, Brown was off-duty and working security at a Kroger on August 6 when he investigated three girls believed to be shoplifting. According to a police use of force review, he told one of the girls, 11-year-old Donesha Gowdy, to stop and show her receipt, but she wouldn't listen. Gowdy exited the store, at which point Brown tased her from roughly 10 feet away.

The tasing itself wasn't caught on Brown's body camera, but he turned it on soon after. Then he took Gowdy into the Kroger manager's office. "Sweetheart, the last thing I want to do is tase you like that. When I say stop, you stop. You know you're caught. Just stop. That hurt my heart to do that to you," Brown can be heard telling Gowdy. "You broke the law, and you fled as I tried to apprehend you."

He adds: "You know what, Sweetheart, this is why there aren't any grocery stores in the black community." Brown and Gowdy are both black.

Additional body camera footage shows Gowdy crying as firefighters remove the taser barbs from her body.

Gowdy was eventually taken into custody on charges of theft and obstruction of official business. According to the use of force review, she was accused of stealing $53.81 worth of merchandise, including a backpack, clothing, and drinks. The charges have since been dropped.

But Brown is in hot water. The Cincinnati Enquirer summed up the four department policies he's accused of breaking:

The [grocery stores] comment constituted prejudice.

He did not turn on his body camera until after he deployed his Taser.

He did not warn the girl he was going to use his Taser. He told her to stop three times as she was exiting the store, but did not warn that he was going to escalate his use of force.

The incident wasn't serious enough to deploy a Taser. Police investigators said officers should use the least amount of force necessary when dealing with juveniles.

The Cincinnati Police Department's use of force policies aren't great to begin with. As the Enquirer notes, officers are allowed to tase suspects as young as 7 and as old as 70. But Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac has defended the use of force policies. "There may be some areas in which we can tweak," he told the Cincinnati City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee yesterday, "but I believe we do have a very solid policy around our use of force."

This isn't the first time Brown has gotten in trouble with the department. Last year he was written up for using a homophobic slur to describe an alleged domestic violence victim. It's not clear what his punishment will be this time around. That's up to Isaac, who will make a decision after Brown gets an internal hearing.