Children Witnessing Violent Arrests Experience Trauma and a Long-Lasting Fear of Police
Date:  08-30-2016

Article and report look into how children are affected when witnessing arrests and offers recommendations to police officers on reducing trauma
From The Chicago Reporter

It has been almost four years since Chicago police officers broke into Charlene and Samuel Holly’s Roseland home and held the couple and six of their grandchildren, ages 11 months to 13 years old, at gunpoint for more than half an hour.

The officers, dressed in army-style fatigues, ordered everyone to lie on the ground, repeatedly called the children “mother-f-----s,” rummaged through the Hollys’ bedroom, questioned the 13-year-old grandson without an adult present, and strangled the family’s aging dog, Samson, according to a federal lawsuit filed in 2013.

None of the children was hurt and no one in the house was arrested. (The man police were allegedly looking for, an adult grandson of the Hollys, was sitting in a police car outside the whole time, according to the lawsuit.) But given the circumstances the children experienced, it should come as no surprise that they are still skittish when they see police officers as they walk to school or taekwondo practice.

“Now, any time they see the police, (they say), ‘Momma, there are the police!’ They’re jumping,” Charlene Holly said in an interview. “How do you tell a kid that these people are your friends and they’re there to protect you? How do you tell them not to be scared of the Chicago Police Department?”

There are no data on how often police come into contact with children or on how often those interactions are violent, but anecdotes and lawsuits suggest such incidents are not at all uncommon. And research on child trauma suggests these violent police interactions could have long-lasting negative effects on children. Yet most police officers receive little training on how to interact with children to minimize the risk of trauma.

Read the full article here

Read the report “Witnessing Arrests and Elevated Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress: Findings from a National Study of Children Involved in the Child Welfare System” here.