Friday, 30 October 2020

Philadelphia police union accused of lying over toddler post


The largest police union in the United States has been accused of lying in a social media post showing an officer carrying a black toddler during protests in Philadelphia.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) said the child had been wandering barefoot in an area of "lawlessness".

But the boy's family say police pulled him from the back seat of a car as his mother was violently arrested.

His mother was injured and later released without charge, lawyers said.

The FOP said it removed the posts after learning of "conflicting accounts" over how the toddler ended up in the hands of police.

Philadelphia has been rocked by protests and looting following the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr.

"This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness," the FOP wrote in a tweet and a Facebook post.

"The only thing this Philadelphia police officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child."

But Riley H Ross III, a lawyer for the family, said this was a fabrication.

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"Our firm will not stand for this blatant attempt to use our clients to peddle propaganda by using racism and fear to force compliance," Mr Ross tweeted.

Kevin Mincey, another lawyer representing the family in a civil rights case, told the Washington Post that Rickia Young, the mother of the boy, had unexpectedly found herself caught between police and protesters while driving home.

As she was attempting to turn around, police descended on the vehicle and smashed the windows, pulling her and her nephew from the car, Mr Mincey said, adding that the toddler was then pulled from the backseat.

Ms Young had to be taken to hospital for treatment, while the baby remained with police officers, Mr Mincey said.

"Her face was bloodied and she looked like she had been beaten by a bunch of people on the street," he told the Washington Post. "She is still in pain."

The toddler was left with a large bump to the head, he said, adding that mother and son were separated until the following morning.

Ms Young was released without charge. Police have failed to inform the family where the damaged vehicle is, or the belongings inside it, which included her son's hearing aids, the lawyer said.

An FOP spokeswoman told the BBC the union "immediately took the photo and caption down" after it became aware of "conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which the child came to be assisted by the officer".

media captionWalter Wallace Jr's father has called for an end to the violence and looting

Protesters have clashed with police over the death of Wallace Jr.

His family say he was suffering a mental health crisis when he was shot by officers. Police say he had refused to drop a knife.

Large protests broke out in Philadelphia earlier this year following the police killing of 46-year-old African-American man George Floyd in Minnesota. Footage showed white police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck, while he repeatedly said he was unable to breathe.

Floyd's death sparked protests around the world against racism and police brutality.

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