In 2018, police in Key West, Florida, arrested, handcuffed, and threatened to take an 8-year-old boy to jail to teach him a lesson about bad behavior.
The incident is gaining attention online after civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is representing the boy's family in court, shared bodycam footage of the entire ordeal.
Unbelievable!! @KWPOLICE used “scared straight” tactics on 8yo boy with special needs. He's 3.5 ft tall and 64 lbs,… https://t.co/2kQ9PrDwNw— Ben Crump (@Ben Crump)1597031930.0
The boy, whose name has been kept private due to his age, was arrested at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West, Florida. He suffered from a disability which required a specialized learning plan which was not followed that day by a visiting substitute teacher.
According to Crump:
"Instead of honoring and fulfilling that plan, the school placed him with a substitute teacher who had no awareness or concern about his needs and who escalated the situation by using her hands to forcibly move him."
@AttorneyCrump @KWPOLICE This country is brutal.— Patricia Arquette (@Patricia Arquette)1597085485.0
When the substitute teacher tried to physically move the small, 8-year-old child, he reportedly punched her in the chest.
The substitute teacher responded by calling the police.
When a child acts out, call the counselor, principal or parent. There is no need to call the police. The child was… https://t.co/Gh4yW9ieKM— Jamaal Bowman (@Jamaal Bowman)1597150724.0
Police arrived and arrested the 8-year-old child on a charge of felony battery. Crump commented:
"When he acted out, the teacher called the police, who threatened him with jail and tried to put him in handcuffs, which fell off because he was too little."
@MaggieDog01 @AttorneyCrump @KWPOLICE yes that's what really stood out to me too. "I hate that you made me do this.… https://t.co/FPnLWaufhN— :) Feral (@:) Feral)1597065100.0
Police attempted to handcuff the young man, but the cuffs would not fit on his small wrists, so they escorted him to the front door of the school where they left him with a warning:
"You understand this is very serious, OK? I hate that you put me in this position that I have to do this. The thing about it is, you made a mistake. Now it's time to learn from it and grow from it, not repeat the same mistake again."
@AttorneyCrump @KWPOLICE “I hate that you put me in this position...That you made me do this.” Spoken like a true abuser.— lib_rarian (@lib_rarian)1597032619.0
Crump said the officers' behavior was a "heartbreaking example of how our educational and policing systems train children to be criminals by treating them like criminals."
"This little boy was failed by everyone who played a part in this horrific incident."
@AttorneyCrump @KWPOLICE My God in heaven. How low can we go?? Does anyone know the follow-up? Were these police di… https://t.co/FTlgew4ElV— Shellyoc (@Shellyoc)1597032473.0
@AttorneyCrump @KWPOLICE @aclu Do not let this stand. It's a blatant misuse of power on a small child with a disability.— Miss Em (@Miss Em)1597032953.0
The Monroe County School District declined to comment due to ongoing legal proceedings, but Key West Police Chief Sean T. Brandenburg said to the Miami Herald:
"Based on the report, standard operating procedures were followed."
@AttorneyCrump @KWPOLICE This is just too hard to witness; alas , it shows just how evil and cruel many, many polic… https://t.co/IKrsraJlRQ— Richard E. Stone (@Richard E. Stone)1597038931.0
Many organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center, have used this incident as an example of why police presence should be removed from schools.
Say it with us: Police have NO place in our schools. https://t.co/3odafdJbAK— ACLU (@ACLU)1597070995.0
@AttorneyCrump @KWPOLICE HORRIFYING!! I would be Key West Police Departments worst nightmare if that was my little boy.— Lori (@Lori)1597060599.0
The SPLC wrote:
"Violent interactions like this between children with disabilities and police cause long lasting harm and trauma to kids and their families."
@AttorneyCrump @KWPOLICE Vicious, bullying abuse on a little boy. Sickening. There is no justification. Who will br… https://t.co/IFrWjIcLIc— nanmorand Equality & Justice (@nanmorand Equality & Justice)1597057027.0
My very first client was arrested on his eighth birthday. They marched him into court in full belly chains. This… https://t.co/Egevn1E0tK— Andrew Crespo (@Andrew Crespo)1597163086.0
The SPLC also wrote on Twitter:
"Arresting an 8 year old child and sending him to jail is NEVER acceptable. Police have no place 'disciplining' our kids in schools."
Get cops out of schools. https://t.co/gYQ3RcabaI— E. Zachary Knight (@E. Zachary Knight)1597161918.0
Incidents like these leave a lasting impression, but likely not the ones police are hoping to make when they threaten young children with imprisonment.
The family of the young boy has filed "a federal lawsuit against the officers, school officials, the city of Key West and the Monroe County School District" according to Crump's statement.