The police department of Lansing, Mich., apologized after a white police officer handcuffed a Black child outside his home in what the agency called an “unfortunate case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’”. The department posted the apology on Facebook after cellphone video circulated on social media showing the officer leading the boy – whose hands were cuffed behind his back – through the parking lot of an apartment complex on Thursday. The officer was searching for a suspect in a string of car thefts when he spotted the child, the Guardian reports. The boy was identified as Tashawn Bernard, 12, in a news conference held by his family and their lawyers. Tashawn was taking trash out to the garbage bin when he was approached by an officer who had his “gun unholstered and was holding it in front of him”, said a family lawyer.
About three minutes into the video of the encounter, an officer removed the handcuffs and spoke with Tashawn for about 30 seconds. Tashawn was allowed to join his father. Michael Bernard, Tashawn’s father, said he could sense something was wrong when his son was taking longer than usual to bring out the trash. When he went outside, he said, his son “had cuffs on and police were standing around him”. The Bernard family’s lawyers, Ayanna and Rico Neal, said Tashawn is so “traumatized” that he “doesn’t not want to go outside any more”. Police said they wanted to “provide some background information on this unfortunate misunderstanding” in a statement on Facebook. Lansing’s police chief, Ellery Sosebee, said he reviewed the case and concluded the officer was respectful and professional during the child’s temporary detention. Nonetheless, he said: “We understand that something like this has an impact on all parties involved. As the chief of police, I want to apologize that this incident had such an effect on this young man and his family.”