Cincinnati’s mayor and other city officials are criticizing the actions of an off-duty officer who used a stun gun on an 11-year-old girl suspected of theft at a grocery store.
The officer was on an “outside employment detail” for the store when he investigated several girls, all juveniles, allegedly stealing items, according to a news release from the Cincinnati Police Department. The officer approached the 11-year-old but she walked away, ignoring several commands to stop, the release said.
He fired his Taser at the girl, striking her in the back, according to the release. The girl was taken into custody and charged with theft and obstructing official business. She was evaluated at a local hospital and then released to a parent’s custody.
“Tasing an 11-year old who posed no danger to the police is wrong. I’m sorry for the harm to her and her family,” Mayor John Cranley said in a statement released Wednesday.
Cranley said he asked prosecutors to drop chargers against the girl, and they agreed.
P.G. Sittenfeld, a member of the Cincinnati City Council, tweeted Thursday: “An 11-year-old child who poses no serious threat to people’s safety should NEVER be tased. Period.”
The police department is doing a “very thorough review” of the incident and its use-of-force policies, Police Chief Eliot K. Isaac said. “We are extremely concerned when force is used by one of our officers on a child of this age,” Isaac said in a statement.
The officer, who has not been identified, was placed on restricted duty “pending the outcome of the investigation,” Isaac’s statement said.
The girl’s mother, Donna Gowdy, said the stun gun struck her daughter at the base of her spine and between her shoulder blades, leaving a small mark in her back.
“If you can’t handle an 11-year-old child, then you really need to get off the police force. You here to protect these kids,” Gowdy told CNN affiliate WCPO.
Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Dan Hils defended the officer, saying, “The tasing was within our policy and procedure and guidelines.”
“I find it disheartening that police and city leaders abandon this officer who was simply doing his job,” Hils added.
Cincinnati police procedures allow the use of a stun gun on suspects as young as 7, WCPO reported. City Vice-Mayor Chris Smitherman released a statement saying he has introduced a motion to raise the age to 12.