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There’s a reason not many Black people are likely to recommend Black parents sign their Black children up for programs run by police officers. There’s just far too much opportunity for things to go left and end in a Black child being criminalized.

In Richmond, Virginia, one mother entered her son who has autism into an athletics program run by officers from the Richmond Police Department because she wanted her son to feel comfortable around cops.

“I wanted him to have a positive view of police officers and not all the negativity he sees on TV,” Shelia Jackson told 6 News Richmond. Instead, she said she found her son surrounded by officers as he was on the ground in handcuffs.

From 6 News:

She signed him up for the after-school tennis program at Virginia Commonwealth University, where officers from the Richmond Police Department volunteer through the Richmond Police Athletic League.

But, on Nov. 3, Jackson showed up at the tennis courts to find her son on the ground in handcuffs.

“We ended up going to VCU emergency room. They diagnosed him with a TBI concussion,” Jackson said.

Jackson said the staff at the tennis program said her son was getting frustrated on his serves, and they told him to practice off to the side. But she is unclear on what happened next.

Her son said one of the police officers raised her voice at him, and he started to walk away from her.

“He knows to try to self-regulate and walk away from a situation, she may have thought he was being defiant,” Jackson said.

And see, that’s the problem with cops exactly. Far too many police officers believe that in any and all circumstances when an officer’s orders aren’t immediately complied with, the appropriate response is to start breaking out the handcuffs and using force—even when dealing with children, and especially when dealing with Black children.

It’s unclear if the officers involved in this incident were aware Jackson’s son had autism, and that he may need to be handled differently because of it, but what is clear, according to Jackson’s recollection of events, is that a cop felt her authority superseded a Black child’s well-being, and the other cops involved followed suit.

“When I got here my son was handcuffed on the ground right behind where that fence is opened,” Jackson said. “There was an officer holding his head, there was an officer on his left leg, someone on his right leg, there was an officer on his right side kneeling holding his shoulders down and then there was another officer standing up.”

Jackson said Richmond Police told her that her son headbutted an officer while they detained him, which still would not explain why they were detaining him in the first place, but whatever.

“That is not how he should be dealt with, not only my son, anyone,” she said. “Where is the training? Are you just going to the training and you’re not taking it in?”

Jackson also said that somehow her son ended up with a concussion and that she has no idea how that happened just as she has no idea why he was handcuffed even after trying multiple times to discuss it with Richmond police.

More from 6 News:

Jackson said she has spoken to various people with the Richmond Police Department about the incident a number of times, but she still has not gotten answers to her questions.

The police report she paid $5 for does not have an incident description.

A spokesperson for the Richmond Police Department said they are conducting an internal investigation that is ongoing, and they could not provide any more details at this time.

Meanwhile, Jackson says her son is still dealing with trauma from the incident. She said he went from having the best grades in his middle school grade to struggling just to make it through a school day.

“As soon as the concussion it’s like bam bam bam.  I’m like ‘oh my gosh’ it’s something every day,” Jackson said.

Jackon’s son was never arrested, fortunately. VCU Police said they responded to a disturbance call involving a juvenile and Richmond Police but when they arrived, neither the juvenile nor their parent was at the scene.

Still, none of this should ever have happened. Maybe cops aren’t the best people to run programs like these.


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