Sheriff Denies Deputies Knelt on Boy’s Neck During 2019 Arrest

Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts denies that any of his deputies knelt on the neck of a Black 12-year-old during an arrest outside of Clackamas Town Center last year, citing an internal investigation.

According to The Oregonian, which first reported the story, the boy’s mother has filed suit against the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, claiming — among other things — that three deputies forced him to the ground before placing him in handcuffs, and that one knelt on his neck and made it difficult for him to breathe.

The boy did nothing wrong, according to his lawyers, but was merely a witness to a fight between two girls whom he didn’t know at Clackamas Town Center.

In a statement Thursday, Sheriff Roberts said deputies had responded to the scene based on a 911 call from mall security, and that the boy had refused to comply with a request that he remain at the scene while they investigated.

The boy’s mother filed a complaint last August alleging excessive force, and the CCSO’s internal Professional Standards Unit launched an investigation. It did not find that any deputy placed a knee on the juvenile’s neck, according to Sheriff Roberts.

“We do not train deputies to restrict a person’s airway or impede their ability to breathe,” he said. “It was determined the involved deputies followed training and policy.”

Roberts said his office also participated in community discussions as a result of this incident, including one on Oct. 8, in which they engaged in a community listening session organized by state Rep. Janelle Bynum, who is African American.

He said he will ask the county’s legal counsel to release police reports concerning this incident to the public.

The incident last August came nine months before the police tactic of pinning people to the ground with a knee to the neck sparked nationwide outrage following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes — even after he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.

It is a “lethal force tactic,” according to Canby Mayor Brian Hodson — one that is not taught or condoned by the Canby Police Department.

“I can only imagine the fear a parent has for their child of color engaging with police,” Sheriff Roberts said. “I know that there is nothing I can say to make their worry go away. What I can say is: I will do my part to make sure that we use appropriate force and that every use of force continues to be reviewed by my agency.”

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