By now most Floridians have heard about the five-year-old who was handcuffed and arrested by St. Petersburg police officers when she refused a math exercise and threw a tantrum. The incident occurred on March 14, but a video showing the arrest was made public last week. The most worrisome fact involving the incident remains how matter-of-factly the police officers went about handcuffing a minor, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there could have been alternatives.
While the actions of the three officers involved cannot be taken as an indication that all police officers would have acted in the same fashion, it does raise the question of whether police officers receive the right training.
The lawyer representing the family of the child said to the St. Petersburg Times, “The image itself will be seared into people’s minds. When you have three police officers bending a child over a table and forcibly handcuffing her, it’s incomprehensible. She was sitting calmly at the table. There was no need for that.”
This is certainly true as the video of the girl was broadcast not only on most news outlets in this country, but also aired on many news programs abroad. It is now an image associated with U.S. police officers. This is probably not what the officers had planned.
While the incident is still under investigation by the sheriff’s department, it would be an understatement to say that it was regrettable the officers did not at least try other methods. Judging merely by the actions recorded on tape, though, the officers did not seem to hesitate at all to handcuff a minor.
The question has to be asked: How representative is such an incident of police officers on the whole? To be successful, officer training will have to include how to defuse a situation. This is part of most training, but apparently some officers either did not pay attention or went against their training.
Either way, it should be examined how representative such actions are of other police officers.