When a mother in Columbus, Georgia, learned her 10-year-old son Sean was misbehaving in class, she said she looked to the local police to help.
Chiquita Hill said her son Sean’s fifth-grade teacher told her that Sean was “rude and disrespectful, not listening, talking back, not doing his school work.”
On Tuesday, the teacher even came to Hill’s house to speak with Sean. But her words went “in one ear and out the other,” Hill said.
“I knew I had to do something to shock him,” Hill, 33, told ABC News today.
After the teacher left, Hill called the Columbus Police Department and explained Sean’s behavior, and the police agreed to send officers to Hill’s home.
“[Sean] didn’t believe me. … When they showed up to the door, that’s when it hit him,” Hill said.
Officers arrived and explained to Hill what they would do: they put Sean in handcuffs and put him in the back of a police car for about five minutes.
An officer even got into the car, flashed the lights and drove up a few inches, Hill said, “just to give him a scare.”
“Everything happened so fast,” Hill said. “He didn’t have time to react to anything. … He was scared.”
After the officers let Sean out of the car, he went running to his mother. “[Sean] gave me the biggest hug and said, ‘I’ll never do it again,'” she said. “I don’t know what they said to him.”
Hill said after the police left, “We all sat down and we talked about what happened. … And I told him his behavior and his actions affect those around him.”
“I’m glad I did this,” Hill said. “He will be 11 this month. He’s hitting that pre-teen age. … I understand that he will be going through changes. … But with all the things going on in Missouri and in Baltimore, I want to stop anything from happening while he’s young and impressionable.”
“I don’t want to be the Baltimore mom,” she added, referring to the mother who was seen on video slapping her son during the violent protests there this week. “I completely understand why she did what she did, but I don’t want to get to that point with my only son.”
Assistant Chief Lem Miller of the Columbus Police Department told ABC News today that “our officers did that without any supervisory approval or knowledge.”
“We totally understand that they were trying to do a good thing,” Miller said, “But in hindsight, we’re not in the business of pretending to arrest somebody.”
“It could very well scare the kid straight, but on the other hand, it could possibly hurt them and make them think even worse of us [the police] down the road,” he said. “They’re very impressionable children at the age of ten.”
“We’re not chastising the officers for it,” Miller clarified. “They thought they were doing a good thing and I appreciate that. … But in this litigious society that we live in, we can’t just go out and pretend to arrest anybody.”
“We just feel like … there would be a more appropriate way to handle that,” he said. “We’re not endorsing it and we discourage it from this point forward.”
But according to Hill, Tuesday’s mock-arrest has already had positive results — Sean’s teacher called her on Thursday with “wonderful reports.”
“He’s doing great in class,” Hill said. “He’s very respectful to his peers and to adults.”
“It got to him,” she said. “It hit home for him.”