PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Four police officers have been placed on administrative leave following an incident involving several children.
Police confirmed the incident happened on Des Moines Avenue on Tuesday.
Witnesses tell News 3 several children of varying ages were caught shoplifting and police put the kids in handcuffs.
Several of the witnesses, who didn't want to identified, say the officers were just doing their jobs and at least one of the parents encouraged the police to handcuff the children in order to teach them a lesson.
"The police remained respectful, courteous and professional the entire time they were out here. I saw that," one witness told News 3.
A total of five children were handcuffed, News 3 has learned. The children belonged to Patrice, the mother of 8-year-old twin boys, and Tomika, the mother of a 10-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 7-year-old.
We interviewed Patrice, who says she asked the police to handcuff her sons. She said they were not harmed.
Earlier Thursday, other witnesses told us they felt like the police were too rough and didn't think the children should've been handcuffed.
Following the incident, someone made an anonymous complaint to the police department. Upon initial review, police put the four officers on paid administrative leave as the department continues to investigate.
"I will take all necessary action to ensure that Portsmouth Police Department interactions with the community are respectful and appropriate under the circumstances," Chief Angela Greene said in a statement.
Several witnesses don't believe that's fair. "I think it's wrong because they were actually doing their job this time," a witness said. "I could see if they were in the wrong. They weren't in the wrong. They were actually helping the parents to teach their children a lesson."
The incident has the community talking. Community activist Barry Randall said based on everything he's heard, the officers should be reinstated.
"Let's be fair. If this was a case of mistaken identity or a case where these police were roughing up our boys, I would be standing right here demanding justice for those little boys," Randall said. "I'm here as the People's Pastor demanding justice for these police officers."
The owner of the store didn't comment. Witnesses say the children were allowed to go home with their parents following the encounter.