Mayor Sheila Dixon apologized yesterday to the parents of the 7-year-old boy whom police arrested after seeing him ride a motorized dirt bike, saying that officers had "better options" available than handcuffing and detaining the child.
"Arresting a 7-year-old is not consistent with my philosophy of community policing," Dixon said at a City Hall news conference. "I know that many people in the community are outraged at this, it was a bad choice."
The arrest, first reported in The Examiner, occurred about 4 p.m. Tuesday when a city police officer reported seeing a 7-year-old riding a blue-and-white Yamaha dirt bike on the sidewalk in the 2100 block of E. Federal St., said Officer Nicole Monroe, a police spokeswoman. The boy was taken to juvenile booking, Monroe said.
Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm said the incident might highlight a need for additional training.
He noted that riding dirt bikes in the city is illegal, and that it is standard procedure for officers to arrest people using them. But in Tuesday's case, Hamm said, "The officer could have really talked to the parent and walked away."
The commissioner said the officer involved has not been suspended, but the department is conducting an internal investigation.
A union official said the mayor's remarks made him "furious" and leave the rank-and-file confused about when to enforce the law.
"I bet you if the kid had gotten killed by the car, the police would have been held accountable because they didn't take action," said Paul Blair, president of the police union.
Blair said that the officer saw illegal activity and made a proper arrest.
"My members, they don't know which way it is supposed to go," Blair said. "Make arrests but don't let them be controversial? The rank-and-file are getting tired of getting beat up."