Friday, March 23, 2007

This is Bull...Stop Demonizing And Criminalizing Our Kids...

Baltimore Mayor Apologizes For The Arrest Of 7-year-old

(Kristine Buls/Baltimore Examiner)
Recounting the story of his arrest by Baltimore City Police, Gerard Mongo Jr., 7, broke down in tears at his East Baltimore home. Mayor Sheila Dixon apologized for the arrest. Stephen Janis, The Examiner
Mar 17, 2007
Mayor Sheila Dixon apologized at a news conference Friday to the parents of Gerard Mongo Jr., the 7-year-old boy who was sitting on a dirt bike Wednesday when police arrested him and hauled him away in handcuffs to fingerprint him.

“I want to let the parents know I am disheartened by this, and that I’m sorry,” Dixon said. “It is clear to me the arrest was wrong.”

“The officers on the scene should not have arrested the child,” she said.

In a rare acknowledgment, Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm, who attended the news conference, said that the arresting officer could have acted differently.

“He had other options,” Hamm said. He declined to elaborate on what the officer could have done.

City leaders were still fuming Thursday about the arrest that was first reported by The Examiner.

Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, president of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Friday the group’s members were outraged by the arrest. “It is inexcusable and angers us that we have a police force that feels this is what it means to protect and serve.”

Baltimore Del. Jill Carter said, “We’d be better off if the police were spending their time going after people who are harming our children.”

Hamm said the case against the child has been dropped. None of the officers involved have been suspended pending investigation, Hamm said.

Hamm also said vhe did not know if the child was riding the bike at the time of his arrest.

“That’s a gray area,” he said.

Gerard and his mother, Lekisha Dinkins, who wept during an interview with The Examiner, disputed the police claims. Dinkins said her son was sitting on the bike, and she had the key in her house. Police officials initially said he was observed riding the bike by the arresting officer. Since the arrest, Dinkins said her first-grade son has had trouble sleeping after being detained at the Eastern District headquarters where he was questioned by police.

Dixon said she hoped the arrest would not strain the relationship between the police and the community.

“It is my hope that by increasing cooperation between the police and our citizens we can prevent incidents like the one on Wednesday,” she said.

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