Black Leaders Slam Cops for Handcuffing Girl

Black leaders urged the police chief to punish officers involved in last month's handcuffing of an unruly 5-year-old girl, a video of which was aired around the world.

About two dozen black leaders, many of them retired educators and administrators, met with the police chief Thursday to discuss the March 14 incident at Fairmount Elementary School (search), where three white police officers handcuffed the black kindergartner.

"St. Pete just comes out smelling when you look at that picture that's worth a thousand words," said Sevell Brown (search), a St. Petersburg minister and state president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (search).

A video camera, rolling as part of a classroom exercise, captured images of the girl tearing papers off a bulletin board, climbing on a table and punching an assistant principal before police were called.

Then it shows the child appearing to calm down before three officers approach, pin her arms behind her back and put on handcuffs as she screamed "No!" and began to cry.

She was put in the back of a police car and released later without charges.

Police Chief Charles Harmon said officers never should have been summoned to the school, but he refused to say whether they made a mistake by handcuffing the girl. The investigation is still ongoing.

"I think these officers were forced into a situation they had no preparation or training for," he said.

School officials declined to comment.