Police in the District of Columbia will no longer be allowed to handcuff children 12 years or younger unless the situation is deemed dangerous to the child or the public, Chief Peter Newsham announced, according to the Washington Post.
Newsham announced the changes to the department’s juvenile detention policies amidst outrage over how police have handled previous cases, particularly one in which an officer was shown on video chasing a 9-year-old boy and forcibly handcuffing him. The child was never charged with any crimes.
“We just want to handle our juveniles in the most professional way,” Newsham said in an interview, according to the Post. “You have to have an understanding that these kids aren’t fully developed emotionally and mentally.”
“We want the public to know that when we do come in contact with kids who have been involved in criminal behavior, they are going to be treated very, very carefully,” he added
Newsham is expected to go over the changes in full detail with DC Council members on Tuesday morning.
However, according to the post, effective immediately, no officer will be allowed to handcuff kids ages 12 and younger. For teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17, officers will be asked to use their discretion, depending on the nature of the alleged crime and “the behavior of the child that’s involved,” including whether they are considered a danger to themselves or others.
The new policies also favor custodial arrests “when there are no immediate public safety concerns” and if there are no crimes committed against others, meaning that the minors will be released to their parents or guardians. The authorities will then seek an arrest warrant, and, if that warrant is approved by a judge, the minor may then be taken into custody at a later time.
“That has been our policy for our school resource officers, but now we’re expanding it to our whole police department,” Newsham said.