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Arrest and Fingerprinting of Nine Year Old Girl Called "Gap" in Police Regulations

In May 2013, two uniformed Portland Police officers handcuffed and arrested Latoya Harris' nine year old daughter, who was wearing a wet swim suit. They did not let Harris accompany her in the police car. She was fingerprinted and had her mug shot taken before being released. Her mother brought this case to the Independent Police Review Division (IPR - see article). IPR Director Constantin Severe stated the Bureau had wanted to dismiss the complaint since no policies prevented the officers from arresting her daughter. After pushback from IPR, the Bureau reluctantly handled it as a "Service Improvement Opportunity" (PPR #62). While the City cries "lack of policy," there is a state statute (ORS 419A.250) that forbids fingerprinting a child 10 years old or younger without an arrest warrant or the permission of the parents. Neither of these two conditions existed, yet nobody has been held accountable for this apparent violation of state law.

Harris told her story to the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) in April, where Severe talked about IPR's limitations due to the lack of policies. By May, the police were calling this a "gap" and began seeking citizen input on remedies. At the May CRC meeting, former CRC Chair Jamie Troy invited Joe Hagendorn from Metropolitan Public Defenders (MPD) and Mark McKenzie of Youth Rights and Justice to speak to the issue. They seemed to feel that because there was no abuse, neglect or safety issue, there was no reason for the child to be fingerprinted and photographed. Citing the state statute, Hagendorn said you can really only arrest a child pursuant to a warrant, or if the youth is to be put in criminal court for a measure 11 prosecution, or on consent of youth and parent after their rights are advised. He said that for a child under 10 they can't retain pictures, and doing so is against juvenile code (this statement made the attending City Attorney squirm). McKenzie agreed that a warrant was needed, and noted that adults were present at the original incident and had imposed appropriate consequences on the child not involving the criminal justice system. They spoke about the idea of changing City Code and/or State Law as long term strategies.

In addition to an "officials only" work group, the Bureau asked for public comment in a 30-day window. Portland Copwatch (PCW) submitted suggestions to the Police generally in support of proposals from Youth Rights and Justice, MPD's juvenile unit and the National Lawyers Guild that would:

--prevent police from taking a child under 10 years old into custody without an order from a juvenile court judge; and

--allow police to take children ages 10 and 11 into custody only on Class A or B felonies.

PCW is concerned that none of the discussion is directed towards modifying directive 870.20, Handcuffing, which does not discuss the appropriate age to handcuff children. Further, PCW would like to ensure that anyone regardless of age is adequately clothed. Also PCW wondered if 12 might be a more appropriate age than 10, a concession Captain Dave Famous indicated would be made at CRC's August meeting. Unfortunately, nobody but PCW brought up the question of whether part of the reason McKenzie had "never seen anything like this" is that Harris and her daughter are African American-- would a little white girl have been treated the same way?

Harris told CRC her daughter was a straight A student until the incident, and that after other young people saw her get cuffed, they teased her as a "jailbird." She wanted to make sure this would not to happen to other children.

  People's Police Report

September, 2014
Also in PPR #63

Third '14 PPB Shooting:
  Homeless Man

Judge Wants Annual DOJ Hearings
Board Finds Excessive Force
PRB Favors Cops Over Civilians
Updates PPR 63
  • Ex?-Nazi Cop Discipline Purged
  • Mohamud Appeal Denied
  • Mounted Patrol Update
  • Immigrant Holds on Hold
Training Council Looks af Force
Profiling Work Stumbles
War on the Poor Continues
Handcuffing 9 Yr Old Rattles City
Rulings on Cell Phones,
  No-Fly List

Copwatching May Day 2014
Quick Flashes
  • Taser Suit: $110K
  • OSP Cop Stole Gas
  • Ferguson Rocks Nation
Police Shootings in Oregon

Rapping Back

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #63 Table of Contents
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