A viral video showing a Cobb County police officer arresting a young black boy at the Cumberland Mall has drawn outrage online from some who say it’s merely the latest example of white officers being too aggressive with children of color.
Cobb Police Chief Mike Register said the department has launched an internal investigation into the incident, which occurred Oct. 6, but added that he has seen no evidence the officer violated any department rules.
“The officer was in his legal rights to detain the juvenile,” Register said. “We take any incident like this very seriously.”
The boy has been identified as Corey Jackson, 12, according to Toya Brown, a manager at Patchwerk Recording Studios in Atlanta.
She said Corey has recorded albums at Patchwerk under the name Lil C Note and police say he was illegally selling his CDs at the mall when he was approached by the officer.
She said he has appeared and performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and recently toured with rap stars J. Cole, Young Thug and Jaden Smith.
Corey said on the Ellen show that he raised $10,000 to buy toys for students in elementary schools. When asked why, he said: “I’m a kid and I know I’d love for somebody to give me toys.”
The police department did not release the name of the officer, who is still on active duty, citing the investigation.
Jackson is being charged with felony obstruction, and misdemeanor criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. His aunt is being charged with felony obstruction and misdemeanor criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and providing a false name to law enforcement.
Register said charging the child with a felony was at the discretion of the officer.
Brown said Corey’s aunt, Coraletha Jackson, recorded a now-viral video account of part of the incident. She was in jail overnight and then bonded out for $8,470, records show.
The video starts with the officer holding the boy by the arm.
“You’re 12?” the officer is heard asking the boy. “You’re about to go to jail. You’re going to go to a youth detention center if you don’t [inaudible].”
The aunt defends his nephew.
“I have his father on the phone and you won’t even speak to him,” she says to the officer.
“Yup,” the officer replies.
The camera is jostled as an apparent altercation breaks out and the video ends with the officer calling in the incident as another officer restrains the boy. It has been viewed thousands of times and drew heated criticism from some corners online.
“Look how this officer [is] touching this young kid,” filmmaker Jason Pollock wrote when he shared the video on Twitter. “He would never be treating a little white kid like this.”
But Register said there was more to the story than what is seen in the video.
Jackson had recently been issued a criminal trespass warning for selling CDs at the mall when security spotted him again and called the Cobb officer, who was working part time for the mall, Register said.
When the officer arrived, the chief said the child was “verbally combative,” refused to answer questions and then started to leave, at which point the officer “got physical control” of him.
Register said the child “pushed or swung at” the officer and then the aunt “physically attacked” him. Eventually they were both taken into custody and the child was released to his father, who was also at the mall that day.
Brown said that’s not what she understands happened. After bonding out Coraletha Jackson, the family — which lives in Jackson, Miss. — came to Brown’s home to hash out what had happened at the mall.
From that account, she said, Corey was compliant and the officer needlessly escalated the situation.
In the video, Brown said the aunt “just gets emotional ... I guess she just tries to separate” Corey and the officer. That’s when the officer takes her to the ground.
Brown said the boy has been selling CDs at malls since he was six years old.
“Every so often he might get stopped and confronted by the police, but he’s really just making a living for him and his family,” she said, adding that “this has probably been the worst” incident.
She said she knows selling CDs there may be illegal, “but what he was doing was nothing ... immoral or unethical.”
The incident is not the first time the Cobb County Police have come under scrutiny. A 2017 study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found the department plagued by “perceptions of racism,” although the study said it found no evidence of discrimination.
Just a few months later, though, a lieutenant was forced to step down after he was caught on camera telling a motorist “we only kill black people.”
Since then, Police Chief Mike Register has won some praise from advocates for measures he has taken to emphasize community policing, but those same measures drew disdain from some in his own department.
On Tuesday, Register promised a full investigation and expressed concern that the incident would further damage community-police relations.
“We’re in this together and we’ve got to work together,” he said.