The criminalization of children, and more specifically children of color, reached a new low with the news of a 7-year-old kid from the Bronx that was handcuffed, detained, and questioned for hours for supposedly stealing five bucks from another boy.
The mother of the child, Frances Mendez, told the New York Post, that on December 4, NYPD held her son for 10 hours before releasing him.
Mendez went to the police station to see her son, Wilson Reyes, and claims she wasn’t allowed to see him at first, but when she finally was let in she found her son handcuffed and scared.
From the Post:
“My son was crying, ‘Mommy, it wasn’t me! Mommy, it wasn’t me!’ I never imagined the cops could do that to a child. We’re traumatized,” Wilson Reyes’ distraught mom, Frances Mendez (above, with Wilson, at home yesterday) told The Post last night.
“Imagine how I felt seeing my son in handcuffs!’’ she said. “It was horrible. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
The mother snapped a photo of her son handcuffed to a metal bar inside the precinct.
But a police source told the newspaper Reyes was only arrested for a bit over four hours, “just like any other juvenile suspect”.
From the Post:
But law-enforcement sources insisted that Wilson was treated like any other young suspect.
“We responded to a 911 call of a robbery and assault . . . Eventually, [Wilson] was taken back to the precinct and placed in the juvenile room,” a source said.
“He was charged with robbery. The allegation was that he punched the kid and took his money. He took the money forcibly.
“The kid came into the precinct a little bit after 3 p.m., and he was out by 7:45 p.m. . . . That’s standard for a juvenile arrest.”
In the end, the city’s law department dropped the charges but now the family is suing for $250 million.
Reactions started to come up. NYC’s public advocate Bill Blasio, issued a statement saying that “7-year-olds don’t belong in handcuffs”.
“Our school system’s overreliance on the NYPD as a disciplinary tool traumatizes our young people, sows distrust in our communities and drains vital City resources away from responding to genuine crimes. This has to stop,” he said in the statement.
But this is far from an isolated case, as Jaime Koppel from the Children’s Defense Fund told El Diario in a story on today’s paper.
“In the city, these cases are more common that one would think” among minorities, Koppel said.
In a recent Vice article, Dan Denvir wrote that the criminalization of childhood misbehavior is becoming a norm in schools across the country, and specially in New York City, where the police department has some 5,000 agents assigned to the school safety division.
“That’s a lot of cops to keep high-schoolers in line,” he writes.
Denvir also says that New York is one of the fronts where the fiercest fights for students’ rights is being fought because crimes in schools don’t seem to happen as often as people think.
In New York, 95 percent of the 882 arrests made by the NYPD School Safety Division in 2012 were of black or Latino students. Meanwhile, sixty-three percent of summonses were for “disorderly conduct,” a catchall charge in both the street and classroom.
Mixing cops and schools is only working against minorities, and the case of Wilson Reyes is an expensive reminder of that.