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The Cleveland Police Department's response to kids in crisis is marked by disparities in footage


In an investigation conducted by The Marshall Project - Cleveland and Eye on Ohio, it was found that the Cleveland Division of Police


reported responding to 268 children under 13 between February 2020 and April 2022, in calls described as crisis interventions. There were 26 cases in which the child was handcuffed.

The Marshall Project - Cleveland and Eye on Ohio examined five body camera videos showing incidents in which children under 10 were handcuffed during crisis interventions. Experts who reviewed the videos said they reveal vast disparities in how officers handle children in crisis, despite training and policies.

According to experts, some officers were respectful and empathic toward children, while others used demeaning language or didn't speak to them at all.

Other videos analyzed by experts include a March 2020 incident of a nine-year-old boy with autism and ADHD wandering by himself, a ten-year-old girl who attempted self-harm after her mother punched her in April 2021, a nine-year-old boy who shattered a squad car window in January 2022, and a ten-year-old boy who was found hiding under a trampoline in April 2020.


Both the police department and the mayor's office received the videos from The Marshall Project - Cleveland and Eye on Ohio. “The Cleveland Division of Police has specific policies in place regarding both interactions with youth and crisis intervention and expects members to adhere to the guidelines set forth in the policies,” police spokesperson Jennifer Ciaccia replied in an email.


Although a child may not be physically harmed in their interactions with police, experts said that treating children in crisis in a disparaging or hostile manner can have long-term consequences.


“In some cases, the kid was probably traumatized,” forensic psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Aaron said. “Not only is that bad for the kid at that moment, that leaves a kid with worse mental health problems, more animosity toward police, more likely that they're having behavioral problems down the road.”


These cases illustrate how a lack of empathy and accountability from law enforcement have had disastrous consequences for children who should be protected and nurtured. The mistreatment of children by police officers is a disturbing and unacceptable reality that demonstrates a disturbing disregard for their well-being and basic human rights.

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