"That's a little boy, get off of him," a bystander can be heard shouting at the cop while another screamed: "You're choking him!"
Trigger Warning: This report has details of police brutality and racism that readers may find disturbing
The Baton Rouge Police Department has come under scrutiny yet again after a bystander video captured an officer pinning a Black teenager to the ground with a brutal chokehold to his neck. According to Atlanta Black Star, after the now-viral video sparked outrage and calls for reforms within the police department, Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome petitioned for the officer's body camera footage to be released and pledged a thorough investigation into the incident. "We're going to conduct an investigation into the incident and report our findings at the appropriate time," Chief of Police Murphy Paul promised during a press conference last week.
FFLIC is saddened and angered by the news of a Baton Rouge police officer choking a thirteen year old boy. We will continue to speak out to condemn the disproportionate violence against youth of color by police. https://t.co/J056VMfwlP pic.twitter.com/3bic4TOa1a— FFLIC (@fflicla) February 26, 2021
"Until then, we're asking the community to respect the process that is in place right now so that we can conclude that investigation and present all of the facts that have been known to us," Paul added. According to WAFB, police say that officers were responding to complaints about a fight between a group of teenagers on February 21 and that one of the callers had reported seeing baseball bats in some of their hands. Although the officers arrived, calmed the children, and left without incident, the fight soon resumed. The officers returned 30 minutes after their first visit and arrested two 13-year-olds, a male and a female.
I keep thinking about this image from Baton Rouge: a White police officer pinning a 13 year old Black kid to the ground.— Senator Troy Carter (@troyc4Congress) February 22, 2021
It’s sick. But it’s not surprising.
Police reform can’t wait. It’s a matter of life and death for our communities. pic.twitter.com/D5JNJ68E3E
The 23-seconds-long footage of the boy's violent takedown shows one officer — whose identity hasn't been revealed yet — pinning the teen to the ground with his arm wrapped tightly around his neck. "That's a little boy, get off of him," a bystander can be heard shouting at the cop while another screamed: "You're choking him!" The officer involved in the altercation hasn't yet been placed on administrative leave as of now as the department has reportedly decided to complete the investigation before taking further action. "The investigation will make sure and determine if our officer was in compliance with his training and his procedures and if we need to change the procedures and training based on a review of the incident," said Paul.
A video is circulating showing a @BRPD officer trying to arrest a teen. The family says, the teen, 13, was allegedly mistaken for someone else when the incident occurred.— Jonah Gilmore (@JonahMGilmore) February 22, 2021
They say, tonight he’s home, but they want answers from the department on what’s they’re calling excessive. pic.twitter.com/G6LYJVZlmX
Meanwhile, advocacy groups say the incident reinforces longstanding concerns over the department's use of excessive force on juveniles. "If that officer did not have a badge or a uniform on, and was an adult on the ground with a child in that manner, he'd be arrested," said Ron Haley, a civil rights attorney hired to represent the boy, reports AJC. "Nowhere should an unarmed 13-year-old, who is not a danger to himself or others, be treated like a grown-up."
This is the second time in eight months that a Baton Rouge police officer has been filmed using excessive force on a Black teen. "I appreciate the swift response from Mayor Broome and the promises made by Chief Paul. However, too many times in our community we see obvious police misconduct go unchecked and unpunished," Haley said, alluding to previous incidents of alleged racial profiling and police brutality involving the Baton Rouge police. "I don't know why the police are coming in to handle a dispute between children in the neighborhood. But if called out, I would hope that they would treat them not as adults, but as children, as human beings. And it does not appear that this happened."
Baton Rouge Police Department dogs bit 146 people -- nearly all of them Black, more than 1/3 juveniles -- over 3 years. This rate makes them an extreme outlier among big-city police departments. From @brynstole, @grace_2e and our friends at @MarshallProj: https://t.co/8PGSVIcW8n— Gordon Russell (@GordonRussell1) February 12, 2021
Haley revealed that the teen suffered a busted lip from the altercation and that he has been experiencing headaches and trouble sleeping ever since. Gary Chambers, a long-time Baton Rouge activist and recent candidate for Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District, is now calling for an unambiguous ban on chokeholds. "We have seen too many young people be handled like this by the police. I'm not looking for legal terminology. I'm looking for results," he said. However, Rachel Gassert, policy director for the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, said that a simple ban may not be enough and that an overhaul of the system is needed.
"We have footage of BRPD assaulting yet another Black child, said Gassert. "It’s clear we don't need another review. What we need is accountability and drastic systemic change. We've seen attempts to ban chokeholds, and the practice continues, regardless of whether they're prohibited or not. So I think that's an example of why banning these practices simply is not enough... It becomes very slippery to define whether it was in fact, a chokehold."