NEW YORK - A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Friday, on behalf of a Bronx girl, Sofia Bautista, 10, who was arrested by the NYPD last April.
Following a fight Sofia had with another girl in her third grade class, in which nobody was injured, the police were called. The officers who arrived refused to consult either Sofia or her mother about what happened. Instead, a police officer announced to the girl, “you’re arrested,” and placed handcuffs on her. Flanked by police officers, she was then walked – crying – out of her school, as various school employees looked on in astonishment.
At the police precinct Sofia was cuffed to a bench, where she waited, along with two older girls, to be interrogated. When her turn came, one of the officers began by telling her that if she lied she would be “arrested,” which Sofia understood to mean jailed.
The police then interrogated her. Her mother, who was at the precinct, was not allowed to see Sofia, though she asked to see her daughter multiple times. Approximately three hours after being arrested, Sofia was released to her mother’s custody. No charges were ever brought against her.
Interrogating a ten-year-old in the absence of a parent is in blatant violation of the NYPD’s own stated policy (2011 NYPD Patrol Guide Section 215-09).
“There are also serious constitutional issues involved” contends Attorney Steven Goldman, citing two cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court (J.D.B. v. North Carolina 09-11121 and Camreta v. Greene 09-1454).
“The police increasingly treat young children as though they are hardened criminals”, said Goldman, in a statement released Friday. “It is simply unacceptable to slap cuffs on a ten year old, haul her into the precinct, and interrogate her for fighting with another girl in her third grade class. Sofia was severely traumatized by the experience. The NYPD needs to train its officers in how to deal with children in an age-appropriate manner. Until that is done, every child in our city is at risk.”
April 1, 2011