Deputy cuffs, shackles 10-year-old, drawing protest from father

Sheriff defends policy in case of boy charged with breaking window

April 21, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The father of a 10-year-old Elkton boy charged with breaking a window said yesterday that a Carroll County sheriff's deputy was wrong to put his son in handcuffs and leg shackles while transporting him to Westminster for a hearing.

The father, who is not being identified to protect the privacy of his son, said the principal at his son's elementary school called him at work Monday to let him know that a Cecil County deputy had arrested the boy at school for missing an appearance in Carroll juvenile court and was taking him to the sheriff's office.

After the father gave the Cecil deputy permission to drive his son to the sheriff's office, the boy walked out of school, got in the police car and fastened his own seat belt, said Karen Emery, a Cecil County schools spokeswoman.

"We waited 4 1/2 hours before the Carroll County deputy arrived," the father said yesterday. "He had no right to take my son out in handcuffs and shackles, all over a broken window. The deputies in Cecil County did it the right way -- without handcuffs."

The father said if police had called him first, he would have made sure to have the boy in Carroll for his court appearance.

Carroll County Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning defended his deputy yesterday, saying handcuffs and leg shackles are standard policy regardless of the prisoner's age.

The boy was picked up on a bench warrant for failing to appear in juvenile court, Tregoning said.

The father said yesterday in juvenile court in Westminster that he was not aware of his son's scheduled hearing in juvenile court or the bench warrant.

He said his son was released to his custody and would attend school today.

"We'll definitely be back in Carroll County for the new hearing," the father said. "I've told [my son] that if he did something wrong, he has to own up to it.

`Said it was policy'

"He's in pretty good spirits now, but I can tell you he was not very happy when he left in handcuffs and shackles. He hugged me and begged me to help him, but I couldn't do anything to help at that point. The deputy just said it was their policy and wouldn't take him without the handcuffs and the shackles."

The boy spent Monday night in a juvenile facility and was returned to juvenile court in Westminster early yesterday, where his father joined him.

In court, the father blamed the boy's mother for not telling him their son was supposed to appear to answer charges of malicious destruction.

The father said he was also upset that his son was threatened by a Carroll County deputy.

"I believe my son, that a deputy told him he might never get to go home if I didn't stop calling the media," the father said.

The father appeared on local television Monday night and yesterday, denouncing the Carroll County sheriff's office for handcuffing his son.

Tregoning said his office's policy is inflexible.

"Anytime a deputy transports someone in a custodial environment, it is standard policy to use handcuffs and shackles to prevent the prisoner from running," Tregoning said. "It's a matter of safety, for the prisoner as well as the deputy."

Exceptions could be made, Tregoning said, if the prisoner's medical condition were such that handcuffs or shackles could not be used without causing injury.

`Officer discretion'

Several police agencies contacted in the metropolitan Baltimore area, including the Maryland State Police, require or strongly encourage handcuffing a prisoner's wrists behind the back when transporting, but some agencies permit "officer discretion."

While officers routinely carry handcuffs, not all have shackles.

"Troopers do not carry leg shackles but do have some discretion on using handcuffs," said Capt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman. "It depends on the number of troopers present, the prisoner's stature and physique, his history of violence and his conduct at the time of arrest."

Shipley said state police policy does not mention age as a discretionary factor, although that would be covered under the stature and physique factor.

For transporting violent prisoners, state police have a nylon rope restraint that wraps around the lower legs and is attached inside a police cruiser to prevent a prisoner from kicking and doing damage to himself or the car, Shipley said.

In Baltimore County, officers are strongly encouraged to handcuff prisoners behind their backs during transport, but are permitted "a certain amount of discretion, depending upon age, gender and physical condition of the prisoner as well as the nature of the crime, past criminal history of the prisoner and other circumstances," said Bill Toohey, the department's spokesman.

Case of 6-year-old

Toohey recalled a case three years ago involving a 6-year-old, who was handcuffed at school and taken to a hospital.

A public outcry lasted for several days because of the boy's age, but a review board found the officer acted appropriately to protect the child, who was flailing about after having head-butted an assistant principal.

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