Baltimore police officials said yesterday an officer overreacted by handcuffing the mother of an 8-year-old boy who may have witnessed a homicide after the woman objected to her son being questioned.
The department also offered an apology to the woman, who police said bit the officer during the incident Thursday when the two struggled over the boy in the 1000 block of N. Collington Ave.
"There could have been a better response," Deputy Commissioner Barry Powell said of the officer's handling of the incident.
Powell, commander of the operations bureau, said he believed the officer was "acting in good faith" in attempting to talk to the boy, a possible witness to a homicide.
The 25-year-old mother of the boy said yesterday she was not satisfied and said she has hired a lawyer to look into taking legal action against the department.
"The apology is not accepted," the mother said yesterday. "I felt that what they did to me wasn't right."
The Sun is not identifying the boy or his relatives, to protect the privacy of the minor.
The incident began when police responded to a shooting that killed Antowand Mitchell, 25, of the 1200 block of Parrish St.
Officer Lewis McAlexander of the Eastern District thought the boy could be a witness. But when McAlexander approached the boy, the boy's mother said she didn't want him to be interviewed.
McAlexander then offered to take the boy to the homicide unit for more questioning, and that's when the the trouble started, Powell said. "The officer at that point in time ... probably should have stepped back," he said.
The woman and officer struggled over the boy, and the mother bit McAlexander, Powell said. The officer then placed the woman on the ground and handcuffed her, he said.
"Probably, her response was just as a mother's should have been in protecting her child," Powell said.
In an interview yesterday, the mother said she has bruises on her shoulder and back and scratches on her head from the scuffle.
"They threw me down to the ground, put my face in the ground and put their knees in my back," she said. "I'm bruised up, and I'm sore."
Parents or guardians must be present whenever minors are interviewed by police, and parents can refuse to have their children questioned, Powell said.
City Council President Sheila Dixon was not entirely satisfied with the department's response, saying that it should have been more sensitive.
"There should have been some remark that there should be some training," Dixon said.
She said any parent would have probably reacted similarly and that McAlexander should have been more sympathetic when dealing with the mother.
"There's got to be better communication between the police officers and the community," she said.
Powell said the incident remains under review.