Syracuse Police officers are facing a slew of backlash for manhandling a child for allegedly stealing a bag of chips.
Video footage of three white police officers forcing a sobbing 8-year-old Black boy into a patrol vehicle has created a stir on social media, with several commenters slamming the detention as a use of excessive force. Syracuse Police officials said they are “reviewing” the incident and the officers’ actions.
Kenneth Jackson said he saw the officers snatch the boy off of a bicycle outside a convenience store before he started recording. Jackson believes the incident could traumatize the child.
“There’s other ways to rectify this besides scare tactics,” he said. “Now that’s just another youth that’s scarred by the system.”
The video starts with a police officer holding both of the child’s arms behind his back, pushing him to a vehicle as the boy wails. There was a large bag of Doritos Cool Ranch chips in the officer’s hands, and another bag was propped next to a pole.
Chips fell out of the bag and scattered to the ground when the officers grabbed the boy from the bicycle, Jackson told Syracuse.com.
“What is y’all doing?” a concerned Jackson asked.
“Take a guess what I’m doing,” the officer restraining the boy said.
“He looks like a baby to me,” Jackson said. “I just seen you snatch him.”
“You don’t know,” the officer said.
Jackson asks the officers again to explain what happened. Another officer goes in front of Jackson’s camera and tells Jackson the boy was stealing “stuff.”
“If he breaks in your house and steals something…” the officer close to the camera said before Jackson cuts him off.
“Nah, man. What, he stole a bag of chips? So y’all treating him like a whole cold-blooded killer?”
“Just keep walking, dude. You don’t even know what you’re talking about,” the officer said before turning his back on Jackson.
A shouting match ensued between Jackson and the officers. Jackson repeatedly called out the men with badges for their aggressive approach. He also offered to pay for the chips.
“Just leave him alone,” Jackson said. “He’s a kid.”
A second bystander tells police that it is against the law to arrest a boy at that age. Another boy outside of the store shouted: “It wasn’t him!”
“We got it on camera. That’s all we can do,” the second bystander said.
Jackson shared the video on his Facebook page on Monday night. Local rapper Hunndo Hefner shared it on Twitter on Monday. The footage has been viewed more than 1,000 times on Facebook and more than 5 million times on Twitter.
Many say the officers overreacted to the minor offense and should’ve found out the root cause of boy’s stealing.
“Arrest a child over a bag of chips? Did the police even stop to think the kid was hungry? How about buying him a sandwich and have a talk with him?” professional boxer O’Shaquie Foster said.
Other users pointed to the child poverty and hunger rates in Syracuse. Census data shows the city has the highest child poverty rate in the nation among cities with at least 100,000 people.
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh has advocated for police reforms in the city. He recently proposed appointing a civilian to oversee reforming the city’s police department, including how police stops are handled.
“What occurred demonstrates the continuing need for the city to provide support to our children and families and to invest in alternative response options to assist our officers,” he said in a statement.
Some on social media accused the officers of mistreating the boy because of his race.
“I got caught stealing cigarettes (side hustle, not smoking them) in New Orleans when I was 9. The store called the cops. Cops called my parents,” Twitter user @satcheluk wrote. “Parents came & picked me up at Walgreens. Folks said they weren’t going to punish me because they hoped the shame was enough. I’m white.”
Other white Twitter users recounted similar childhood transgressions.
Next time you watch this video, imagine that little boy replaced with this little girl (who, BTW, was me once about the age of the lollipop theft) – if it changes how you feel about the video, you might want to re-evaluate. pic.twitter.com/HJczBci9YM
— Ais @ Home, putting things off til later… (@HomeAis) April 19, 2022
Others also compared the boy’s arrest to the apprehension of the Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Authorities reportedly bought Roof food from Burger King after he was arrested for the massacre that killed nine people.
At the same time some of the people who reacted to the video agreed with how police reacted to the boy’s alleged offense.
“Bag of chips today, a bike tomorrow, a car next year. Where does it stop if not right now?” Twitter user Robert Simmons wrote.
A Syracuse Police spokesperson said the officers were “familiar” with the boy and took him straight home.
“Officers met with the child’s father, and no charges were filed,” a spokesperson said in a statement. The department is also reviewing the officers’ body-worn cameras.
The boy’s father, Anthony Weah, told reporters that officers were friendly when they came to his house. They bought his three sons home and said they were accused of stealing chips.
The Syracuse Police Department’s has a cover photo on its Facebook page that promotes community policing. It shows a group of officers engaged in a basketball game with children. The police chief is also Black.
After seeing the video, Weah wants to file a complaint against the officers. He acknowledges that his son was wrong but disagrees with how the officers reacted.
“Why would the police treat that child like that?” Weah asked. “Over a $3 bag of chips.”
An employee who worked that day told Spectrum News he saw a group of kids in the store, but he didn’t know if they had stolen anything and didn’t call the police.
“The policeman, they are not children,” Weah said, who is from Ethiopia. “They are not boys. They’re men.”