A Kid at the Crossroads

Pat Dillon:

When Daishon Boyd hit another kid outside the South Madison Capital Hill Apartments, a neighbor called the police. Who started the clash or threw the first blow isn’t clear, but when a town of Madison police officer attempted to slap a disorderly conduct/battery ticket on Daishon, his father, Jamada Norris, was incensed. It had been a year since a friend of Daishon’s mother had dropped off the boy and his older brother, Malique, saying merely that she didn’t want them anymore, and raising African American sons as a single, low-income dad was tough. His plan was to get them educated while protecting them from the allure of street life, a culture in which he’d been embedded as a child in California, but he hadn’t counted on protecting them from the police. Certainly not now. Daishon was only four.

Norris recalls Daishon’s behavior that day as nothing outside the norm. It’s the type of behavior we’re all subjected to when there’s a frustrated toddler on the loose—crying, screaming, kicking and the occasional whack at the perpetrator. According to Norris, that’s all it was. So when the officer validated the report with an attempted arrest, Norris’s natural response was to protect his young son.

“The police officer said there was a law that if he’s called to the site, he has to take someone to jail,” says Norris. “The officers were about to grab Daishon when I pulled him back and said, ‘You’re not taking my son.’ I got loud with him so they were going to arrest both of us, until the neighbors came forward, outraged. They backed down.”

Unfortunately, the story of Daishon’s early brush with the law is not uncommon. We just don’t think of collecting statistics on toddlers who’ve been arrested or come dangerously close to it. All that comes later.