A New York police force has said it is investigating after a video showing officers apprehending a young Black boy for apparently stealing a packet of chips sparked outrage.
In the clip, viewed more than five million times on Twitter, the child cries as a white officer from the Syracuse police department marches him with his hands behind his back into a patrol car.
At least two other police officers can be seen watching.
The man filming the incident saying, “What ya’ll doing?” The policeman holding the boy responds by saying “Guess! Take a guess what I’m doing!”
Another officer says the child is “stealing stuff,” before the man filming accuses the police of treating the boy like a “cold-blooded criminal” and offers to pay for the snack.
Local media reported that the boy, who was later released without charge, was just eight years old.
New York state governor Kathy Hochul described the video as “heart-wrenching.”
“Many of us are parents. And you can’t help but imagine the fear in that child as he had to endure that experience,” she told reporters.
Many social media users accused the officers of racism.
Racism in law enforcement is a lightning rod issue in the United States, with young Black men at much greater risk from police violence than white men.
Viral footage of the 2020 police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, sparked nationwide protests and calls for reform of law enforcement.
Hochul said Black and brown communities across New York would not be as shocked as others when watching the video “because they’ve been conditioned to a different kind of treatment from policing agencies and others throughout their lives,” local media reported.
The Syracuse police department said in a statement on Twitter Tuesday that “the incident, including the officers’ actions and body-worn cameras, are being reviewed.”
It added that “the juvenile suspected of larceny was not placed in handcuffs.”
“He was placed in the rear of a patrol unit where he was directly brought home. Officers met with the child’s father and no charges were filed,” the statement said.
In February, a video of police in New Jersey violently tackling a Black teenager during a mall fight with a young white man sparked outrage, prompting the state’s governor to condemn what appeared to be “racially disparate treatment.”