A community activist in Flint reached out to me with alarming news about a 7-year-old boy who was handcuffed by a police officer following a minor dustup during an afterschool program at Brownell Elementary. The second grader is about 55 lbs. and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It didn’t sound good—and when I saw the video it looked worse.

But, thankfully, there was video.

Coincidentally, the activist reached out to me the same day video emerged of a teenage girl at Spring Valley High School in Northeast Columbia, South Carolina being brutalized by a school resource officer attempting to remove her from the classroom. A classmate captured smartphone video of the school resource officer yanking the teen from her desk and throwing her across the room. 

My colleague had sent me information on the first incident because she wanted me to know that the over-policing of children in education environments happens in Michigan, too. Fortunately, the boy’s sister had the presence of mind to pullout her smartphone and capture video.

The footage of the Flint handcuff incident shows the boy pacing back and forth while cuffed with his hands behind his back. His mother can be heard questioning the police officer who restrained him about why he felt the need to take such extreme action against the small child and why he would lock up boy without having a key. The child reportedly remained in handcuffs for about an hour until another officer was able to deliver a key to the scene and release him.

We launched our Mobile Justice MI smartphone app earlier this year—and are launching an updated version today—precisely because of these types of incidents involving overaggressive policing and others tied to racial profiling and harassment. The ACLU of Michigan believes it is critical that we empower more residents across the state of Michigan to help ensure law-enforcement accountability using tools like Mobile Justice. The app has been downloaded thousands of times so far.

Our ACLU of Michigan Mobile Justice app gives users the power to record and report police interactions with the public at the push of a button. The videos are sent directly to the ACLU of Michigan and are reviewed routinely. The app includes a “test” button so that users can satisfy their curiosity and also features a “news” section through which we share important updates about civil rights and liberties issues. 

This week we are joining 18 other affiliates in rolling out an updated version of the app and urge you to get download it and encourage others to download it as well. The more hands we get this app into, the better for all of our communities because the police need policing, too.