an alarming amount of Black girls harmed by police

Black girls aged 15 to 19 are four times more likely than White girls to be hurt by police, your Friday long read from The Marshall Project

We go to The Marshall Project for this week's long read by Abbie VanSickle and Weihua Li . Read the whole story, “Police Hurt Thousands of Teens Every Year. A Striking Number Are Black Girls.” We include key excerpts below to convince you it’s worth your time.

The call that changed everything

On a warm September Sunday in 2016, a small Black teenager in a pink T-shirt biked through narrow city streets and rolled into an intersection. So did a Chevy Cruze, driven by an 85-year-old man heading home from church. 

The next thing 15-year-old Brianna Stuart knew, she was lying dazed on the pavement, she said in an interview. The driver alerted 911 about the accident.

Her mom would be so mad at her, she thought. Her parents had warned her never to talk to police without them in this majority-White community — and told her not to bike in this part of town.

She cursed at officers trying to question her and climbed back on her Huffy.

White officers pulled the 100-pound girl off her bike by her backpack straps, a police body camera video shows. As she struggled to get away, they shoved her against a building and locked her wrists into cuffs while she sobbed and cursed and screamed.

“You let that badge go to your head,” a bystander called out.

The police carried the increasingly hysterical teen to a patrol car, but she refused to put her feet inside, the video shows. The police on the scene lost patience.

“I’ll spray her,” one said. 

He waved the pepper spray toward her face — then pushed down on the canister. It hissed, twice. Stuart shrieked and cried out, “I can’t breathe!” She continued to wail as the officers milled around outside the car.


The incident echoes similar scenes across the country: A 9-year-old girl in Rochester, New York, pepper sprayed as she sat in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car, crying for her dad. A teenage girl at a Texas pool party, wrestled to the ground by an officer. An Iowa teen, pepper sprayed by police as she waited for the bus after school. All were Black.

Black youths make up the majority of kids on the receiving end of police violence — and a striking number of them are girls, an investigation by The Marshall Project found.

There is no comprehensive national database of violent interactions between police and civilians. But when we looked at data for six large police departments that provided detailed demographic information on use-of-force incidents, we found nearly 4,000 youngsters 17 and under experienced police violence from 2015 through 2020.

Almost 800 of the children and teens — roughly a fifth of the total — were Black girls. White girls were involved in about 120 cases, representing only 3% of use-of-force incidents involving minors.

As Black communities are painfully aware, and researchers have detailed, Black boys bear the brunt of police violence against minors. That was true in our data, too. More than 2,200 Black boys were involved in use-of-force incidents in the six cities we examined.

But Black girls also accounted for a significant share of the cases. In New Orleans, every girl in use-of-force data was Black; two-thirds of the girls who live in the city are Black. 

A spokesman for the police department emphasized that all but one of the incidents “involved lower levels of force (Hands, Takedown, Firearm Pointing, etc.).”

Bottom line

The findings “highlight the ways in which Black girls are uniquely harmed by policing,” according to Kriszta Farkas, one of the study’s authors. “The protections of childhood are not afforded to all children.”

Reporters at The Marshall Project examined dozens of individual cases in which police officers used force on Black girls. Many of the incidents started small — an allegation of a teenager throwing candy at a store clerk, a teen who skipped school because she was feeling stressed out, a group of girls swimming at a condo complex’s pool.

This data, which represents only a fraction of total force cases, doesn’t give details about the incidents, including how severe the injuries were. Many of the nation’s 18,000 police agencies don’t track that information, either, and criminal court records are often sealed in cases involving juveniles.

But the effects on girls were profound, they and their families told us, describing nightmares, fear of leaving the house and distrust of police. “These encounters have lasting traumatic effects that can shape life decisions and behavior,” said Craig Futterman, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

Read the whole article here.

Resources: State policy changesNewsBureau of Prisons updatesState court changesPrison holistic self care and protection. Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook.

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