New York City police handcuffed and “interrogated” 7-year-old Wilson Reyes for hours on December 4, after a playground dispute in which $5 went missing. Wilson’s family alleges that he was held at the 44th Precinct ststioj house in the Bronx for a total of ten hours during which he was handcuffed to a metal bar, says the New York Post.
Rather excessive treatment of an elementary school student who was not guilty of any wrongdoing and certainly of no criminal action.
According to the New York Post, $5 belonging to another student that was to be used for a cancelled school trip “had fallen on the ground” in front of Wilson and two other boys. One boy took the money; Wilson was falsely accused of doing so as a result of which he “scuffled” with one of the other boys.
NYPD police appeared at PS X114 around 10:20 am. Wilson was handcuffed and held in a room at the school for four hours. After that, he was taken to the police station and, according to a lawsuit his family has filed, was held there until his mother, Frances Mendez, picked him up. “My son was crying, ‘Mommy, it wasn’t me! Mommy, it wasn’t me!’ I never imagined the cops could do that to a child. We’re traumatized,” she says to the New York Post.
According to Mendez, she and her sister were first not allowed to see Wilson when they were to the police station to pick him up. She also says that her son’s insistence that he was innocent was ignored.
These concerns are apparent in the family’s lawsuit, which contends that her young son “was handcuffed and verbally, physically and emotionally abused, intimidated, humiliated, embarrassed and defamed.”
On December 26, the charges against Wilson were dropped. An NYPD inspector says the family’s version of events is “grossly untrue in many respects, including fabrication as to how long the child was held in the precinct which was less than half of the time mentioned.” Law enforcement offiicials also say that “We responded to a 911 call of a robbery and assault . . . Eventually, [Wilson] was taken back to the precinct and placed in the juvenile room.”
Specifically, Wilson was charged with robbery, punching another child and taking the child’s money “forcibly.” The 3 hours and 45 minutes the police say that Wilson was held in the precinct house for were described as “standard for a juvenile arrest.”
What’s missing from all this is any acknowledgement of Wilson’s young age — he is seven years old — and of why the school went right to the step of calling 911 regarding what the New York Post says was a dispute among students. What is going on at our schools when an altercation at an elementary school is referred directly to law enforcement?
There have been other, and too many, cases of students handcuffed at school by law enforcement personnel who had been summoned by the schools. Why Wilson was taken from school grounds to a police station and questioned for so many hours, and over $5, is simply excessive and all the more for a child in elementary school.
Schools themselves need to have policies and protocols in place to address such incidents. Even more, they should devote their energies to being pro-active and teaching students ways to resolve conflicts that do not involve fighting or other physical actions. There was no need to traumatize a 7-year-old boy who, as it turned out, had done nothing wrong.
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