CINCINNATI — Some officials in Cincinnati are calling for a change to police policy after an officer used his stun gun to shock an 11-year-old Ohio girl suspected of shoplifting from a supermarket.
Cincinnati police can use stun guns to incapacitate people as young as 7 years old if they’re actively evading arrest, under current policy.
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman has proposed raising the minimum age for stun gun use by police to 12 years old. Police Chief Eliot Isaac said the department will review policies on use of force on minors, and that he was “extremely concerned” such force was used on a child that young.
Police said the officer suspected the girl was shoplifting Monday night from a Kroger Co. supermarket when he approached her. They said she ignored several commands to stop before the officer fired his stun gun at her back. She was taken to a hospital and later released to a parent.
The girl was charged with theft and obstructing justice, but Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters dropped charges Wednesday after a call from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.
In an interview with Cincinnati television station WLWT, the girl admitted putting snacks in her backpack, saying her friends dared her to take them.
“They bet me to walk out, so I walked out,” she said. “When he told me to stop, I kept going because I was scared.”
Her mother told WLWT the officer should’ve known better than to use his stun gun, adding that her daughter didn’t deserve that kind of treatment.
“I’m not defending what she did, what she did was wrong,” the mother said. “But two wrongs don’t make a right.”
The Associated Press typically does not identify minors accused of crimes, and is not identifying the mother to avoid identifying the girl.
Police said the officer involved has been placed on restrictive duties while the department investigates his actions.
The Cincinnati branch of the NAACP issued a statement Thursday saying the officer used “very poor judgment.” Cranley also criticized his actions, saying that stunning the girl who “posed no danger to the police” was wrong.
“I want to understand … why the officer thought that tasing was the best use of force and not detaining the child,” said Smitherman.
Dan Hils, president of the local police union, said despite all the blowback, he is certain the officer acted in accordance with procedure.
Police are told they can use stun guns on individuals between the ages of 7 and 70 who are actively evading arrest. But they’re also tasked with weighing the severity of the crime and the risk the person poses to the public.
“There was no threat to the public, but there was a clear offense and active resistance,” Hils said.
He added he thinks the officer’s only mistake was failing to start his body camera recording until after he fired the stun gun, but said police have obtained footage of the incident from Kroger.