Bad judgment regardless of kid's motive

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Following a Sept. 14 incident involving 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed's "homemade clock" in Irving, Texas, social media initially erupted with horror at the treatment of the boy by his high school and by the Irving Police Department.

The boy was interrogated by four police officers for an hour and a half about what the police regarded as a hoax bomb. Although Ahmed asked for his parents during the questioning, the police refused to do this.

Following the interrogation, the police handcuffed the boy and took him away. He was subsequently released without charges being filed.

Media pushback centered on the fact that the clock was not the impressive creation that it was initially thought to be. It was basically a digital clock that was taken out of its casing and reassembled in a new casing.

Ahmed had not claimed that the clock was a bomb and neither the teacher nor police officers acted in a way to indicate that they thought the clock was a bomb. No bomb squad was summoned. Students were not evacuated nor was the clock isolated for safety.

It is probable that the police never intended to press criminal charges. If they had actually been planning on charging Ahmed, their refusal to allow a parent or legal counsel to be present during interrogation would elevate their incompetence beyond what it already appears to be.

The clock has a superficial resemblance to an ignition device, but without explosive material. If Ahmed wanted to really create a hoax bomb, adding something that appeared to be explosive material would have made the hoax more effective.

The assertion that Ahmed wanted to be arrested is dubious, relying on an assumption that Ahmed knew that the authorities would behave as stupidly and unprofessionally as they, in fact, did.

Whatever Ahmed's motivation was, the fact remains that the authorities behaved stupidly and unprofessionally. Interrogating a child for an hour and a half without the presence of a parent and escorting the child away from his school in handcuffs, not because of any security concern, but simply as a means to humiliate the child in front of his peers, is an invitation for well-deserved public scorn.