ACLU Settles Lawsuit against Flint Police for Handcuffing 7-Year-old

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[Cameron McCadden\ACLU]
ACLU's Mizner: “What happened to Cameron is far too common...Black students are more than twice as likely as their white classmates to be referred to police.”
Photo: ACLU

The ACLU and ACLU of Michigan have settled a lawsuit against the Flint Police Department and the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce for handcuffing a child with disabilities while at an after-school program.

In 2018, the ACLU sued on behalf of Cameron McCadden and his mother Chrystal McCadden after a Flint police officer handcuffed Cameron, who was 7 years old at the time. The behavior, as described by witnesses and that prompted the police response, was not unusual for a distressed child of that age. Cameron was at an after-school program run by the local chamber of commerce when the police were called, and an officer placed Cameron in handcuffs. The child remained in the restraints for almost an hour because the officer did not have the key.

“What happened to Cameron is far too common — children with disabilities are three times more likely to be referred to police than children without disabilities, and Black students are more than twice as likely as their white classmates to be referred to police,” said Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Program. “These children need compassion, not handcuffs and counselors, not cops.”

The settlement agreement includes the creation of a fund to help address Cameron’s needs, and new policies adopted by the after-school program and the Flint Police Department.

The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce agreed that the after-school program will adopt the following policies, among others:

  • No physical restraint or intervention except as a last resort;
  • No school resource officer involvement except when there is imminent danger;
  • Require documentation of physical restraint and notice to parents; and
  • Provide training for staff regarding disabilities.

The Flint Police Department’s juvenile offender policy will be revised to encourage officers to do the following, among other things, whenever possible:

  • Limit police involvement at schools to criminal offenses and not become involved in school discipline issues;
  • Use alternatives to arrest for juveniles; Use the lowest level of enforcement for elementary school children;
  • Involve parents whenever possible;
  • Release children without further action when there has been no property damage or physical injury;
  • De-escalate whenever appropriate; and
  • Participate in training related to implicit bias, de-escalation, special education, and positive behavior intervention.

“What happened to Cameron is highly alarming and we don’t want any other child in Flint to have a similar experience,” said Mark Fancher, staff attorney for the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU of Michigan. “We have been greatly encouraged by the willingness of the after-school program and the Flint Police Department to, as part of this settlement, give high priority to the protection of very young children, and to recognize that the role of police officers does not include tasks best performed by educators, counselors, therapists and other trained professionals.”

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