By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A police commander in Tennessee has been placed on administrative leave as a new report raises even more questions about how children between the ages of 9 and 12 came to be arrested, with some of them handcuffed, at their elementary school last month.
The report released Thursday raises questions about why Murfreesboro Police were so determined, even as at least one of the department’s own officers raised repeated concerns about the plan to arrest the kids at Hobgood Elementary School.
The arrests have caused a furor in Murfreesboro and beyond.
The department’s review of the incident deals with the arrest of four children at the school April 15. Two of the four juveniles arrested at school were handcuffed, the report said. However, it did not say why. One, the report said, was handcuffed and transported to juvenile detention. Police took the cuffs off one before placing the child in the back of the patrol car.
There were six other children named in juvenile court petitions, said Kyle Evans, a spokesman for the Murfreesboro Police Department. The other six were all at least age 9, Evans said, and none of them was handcuffed. Those children were either brought in by their parents or picked up by police without incident, he said.
The report does not say why the children were arrested.
Records show that the children were charged with “criminal responsibility for conduct of another,” because of an off-campus incident. A video of the incident shows one boy being bullied and followed by a group of children, some of them hitting him at the urging of other children.
The report does not indicate the children were charged with anything serious because the parents were allowed to pick up their children and take them home, said Terry Maroney, a law professor at Vanderbilt University.
“There’s nothing in this report that indicates any kind of urgency that would justify such an extreme action against such small children in school, especially given the fact that the people who were executing these actions themselves seemed to have a lot of concerns about it,” Maroney said.
The report highlights miscommunication between officers and concerns by some of the officers who worked at the school. It also says one child not even named in a juvenile court petition was wrongly taken into custody.
The 10 children are all African-Americans and mostly boys, the police spokesman said.
The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators has called on both the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case.
Evans said the department is aware that the public wants answers.
“Many of us have children, and we understand the frustration and the concerns that our community has raised — both as police professionals and as parents,” he said.
The department is still investigating the arrests and has asked the Metro Nashville Police Department to also conduct a peer review, Evans said.
A group of pastors who have been concerned about the arrests is going to help the department draft a new policy concerning juvenile arrests, he said. In addition, policies from the International Association of Chiefs of Police also will be considered.
School resource officer Chris Williams, unhappy about the impending arrests at the school repeatedly raised concerns, the report said, going all the way up the chain of command to Maj. Clyde Adkison.
“Major Adkison asked if (Williams) had spoken to a patrol supervisor about the arrests since he (Adkison) was not the arresting officer,” the report said. “Major Adkison expressed liability concerns to Williams if the arrests were not made.”
Adkison is now on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation, Evans said. Public records do not list a number for him.
Maroney, the law professor, said there is nothing in the report to indicate that the kids couldn’t have just been given a citation.
“It really doesn’t make any sense,” she said of the arrests. “Why traumatize the children?”