Child profiled, grabbed from behind and detained for 30 minutes by SFPD while leaving school
by Lee Houskeeper for John Burris Law
On March 15, 2022, a 13-year-old child was racially profiled, grabbed from behind and detained for 30 minutes by SFPD while leaving the Sterne School to enter his tutor’s car, despite teachers’ and security guard’s objections. On April 5, Civil Rights Attorney John Burris announced he was filing a claim against the City and County of San Francisco.
“My son has been traumatized by the police officer’s attack. As his mother, I am horrified that this happened to my son, who is loving, carefree, polite and well-mannered. He doesn’t understand why this happened to him when he had done nothing wrong. Since the incident, my child is fearful about returning to school; he is embarrassed and wonders what his friends will think about him,” said Delores Coleman, the mother of the 13-year-old Black student.
The 13-year-old African American boy was a student at Sterne School when on March 15, 2022, he waited outside his school for his ride home. The boy’s tutor, Jeanne Wilton, arrived at the school to pick him up, and as he put his backpack into Wilton’s car suddenly, Sergeant Parra ran up and yelled: “Get out of the car, put your hands behind your back!”
Parra then violently grabbed M.C. Parra held the 13-year old’s arms behind his back. Ms. Wilton told Parra that her student was 13 years old, and that he had just come from school.
Sterne School counselor Rebecca Chao and Head of School Melissa Meyers quickly arrived at the scene. Chao and Meyers told the officer that the boy was in school all day. However, despite their appeals, Parra would not allow him to leave and illegally detained the terrified young Black student for 20 minutes.
Parra claimed the minor child fit the description of a suspect. However, Civil Rights Attorney John Burris said, “any reasonable police officer could have determined that this young boy did not fit the description of the suspect described as a ‘male Black, wearing black clothing and red shoes’ who was allegedly seen breaking into cars.”
The 13-year-old boy did not fit the officer’s description. He had predominantly black shoes and bright red shoestrings and he looked like a very young boy who was very slightly built, weighing less than 100 pounds.
Attorney Burris continued: “As a result of the incident, the 13-year-old student missed many days of school and also has developed anxiety around interacting with police. This is a classic form of racial profiling in that the officer detained a Black boy that he saw wearing dark clothing giving limited consideration as to whether the 100-pound black student actually met the suspect’s physical description, age, complexion etc.”
Said Burris: “Any reasonable police officer would have noted the surroundings and that this was a school and was in front crossing the sidewalk, thus easily determining where the boy was coming from and who he was with instead of adopting a ‘Rambo-style’ of running at, yelling and attacking first. This conduct was shameful, and this type of policing contributes to the negative attitudes that young African Americans have toward the police.
“Sergeant Parra did not have specific identifying information that could have possibly connected my client’s child as the criminal offender he was searching for before forcibly grabbing the boy’s arm and twisting it behind his back. The officer released his grip on the 13-year-old only after witnesses convinced him that he had the wrong person; however, Parra continued to detain him for almost 30 minutes.
“The most galling aspect of the officer’s conduct was his continued efforts to interrogate the student and falsely writing on his report that the boy was released after 1 minute, which according to many witnesses was not true,” noted the attorney.
Sterne School’s head, Melissa Myers, gave a statement: “On Tuesday, March 15, a disturbing incident occurred in front of our building. This involved a student in our community and an officer from the San Francisco Police Department. Several staff members and our security guard witnessed the event and stepped in to support the student.
“This student was simply exiting the school for the day and did nothing wrong. The result of this incident deeply affected them, their family and our school community. A formal complaint on behalf of Sterne School has been filed with the San Francisco Police Department.”
Contact Lee Houskeeper of San Francisco Stories at NewsService@aol.com.