“When they put the handcuffs on I thought, `Wait a minute, this has got to be a joke,’” recalled Latoya Harris, describing the arrest of her 9-year-old daughter last May. “The look on my daughter’s face went from humiliation and fear, to a look of sheer panic.”
At the time, the girl was wearing a bathing suit and a towel, still damp from running through a neighborhood sprinkler. She was taken away in handcuffs by officers David McCarthy and Matthew Huspek, fingerprinted, photographed, but never charged with a crime. She was held at police headquarters for an hour before her frantic mother — who didn’t have a car — could retrieve the girl from her captors.
The stated purpose of the visit was to investigate a playground fight that had taken place a few days earlier. The actual purpose of the arrest was probably to serve some depraved impulse on the part of the officers to assert their supposed authority over an intimidated but uncooperative child.
According to the Oregonian newspaper, Officer McCarthy — who, like others in his disreputable profession, fancies himself a mentalist of sorts — believed that the child wasn’t telling the truth in her account of the scuffle. His report characterized her statements as “vague,” and recalled that he observed her “breathing speed up,” an entirely appropriate response to the unwelcome presence of an armed and bellicose stranger.
“They repeatedly asked her, `Why don’t you tell me what really happened?” recalls the mother. The officers hauled her away on suspicion of fourth-degree assault. They refused to allow the mother to accompany the daughter in the back of the police car.
“In my opinion, they were trying to scare and humiliate her,” Harris said in testimony before the independent Citizens Review Committee. “All they had to do was give her a talking to. We’re talking about two grown men in uniform with guns.”
This act of gratuitous official sadism was — let’s recite it together — done in accordance with policy, according to department spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson. Handcuffing a nine-year-old is “justified” as a “safeguard,” Simpson asserted.
The Portland PD, which is under scrutiny by the Justice Department (for whatever good that would do), is notable for the tender solicitude its officers display toward vulnerable children. During a presidential visit by George W. Bush in 2002, police assigned to keep protesters caged in “free speech zones” unleashed a pepper spray fusillade against demonstrators who wandered beyond their pens. Among the victims was Don Joughin, who had brought his wife and three children to the event.
After the Jackboots had subjected the protesters to a caustic shower, Joughin turned to a Portland PD officer obstructing an exit and asked how he and his family could leave.
“He pointed and said to exit to the [northeast], into the spraying police opposite him,” Joughin recalled. Trapped between a panicked crowd and pepper spray-wielding assailants, Joughin pleaded with the officer to allow his family to pass.
“He looked at me, and drew out his can from his hip and sprayed directly at me,” testifies Joughin. His three-year-old son caught most of the blast. The Berserker then turned on Joughin’s wife and newborn son “and doused both of their heads entirely from a distance of less than three feet,” he recounts.