The criminalization of today’s youth is a crime. More and more we read about children who are yanked out of school for the most benign actions or who are arrested or even killed when they are seen as a “threat”. But, a recent story out of Miami illustrates just how law enforcement power has gone too far in regards to children, and race.
Fourteen-year old Tremaine McMillian was playing with friends at the beach. They may have been horsing around a bit too rough for local Miami-Dade police on beach patrol. Apparently they mistook the kids’ playing as a fight—despite Tremaine being somewhat limited in mobility because he was holding his new 6-week old puppy the entire time.
The police stopped and asked what was going on. Tremaine began to walk away, towards his mother, when he was tackled by the cops.
According to the officers, Tremaine had clenched fists and gave them “dehumanizing stares” which warranted their reaction. They say his body language suggested he was a threat. It’s an interesting defense to a use of force that we see often—the “suspect” (and I use this term loosely) had his back to the cops when the cops felt threatened enough to pounce.
“I don’t like it. I feel sad,” Tremaine told local reporters. “He got in front of me on the ATC (sic) and he slammed my hand. Then he started choking me. Then my 6-week old Pit Bull mix named Polo got hurt and bruised his front paw when the police grabbed me and slammed me down. It makes me feel sad.”
The officers stand by their actions—they say Tremaine was threatening. Not what he said, not even his movements (remember, he was walking away), but whether they say it or not—it was how he looked. A young boy holding a tiny puppy, playing with friends, and encountered by police—most 14-years olds with their mother nearby would give the cops a dirty look. But a dirty look is not cause for police brutality; it does not constitute a threat, particularly when no crime had been committed.
This story is just one of many—where police are able to get away with using force by saying they felt threatened. And their defense works. To add insult to injury, there is a chance Tremaine’s mother could face charges too—for recording the incident.