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Pulled from Facebook, the boy's face pictured in the photo has been pixelated to protect his identity.

At a panel discussion on race relations and law enforcement Wednesday night, Penn Police was forced to answer to a breach in protocol whereby a young black boy was handcuffed around a tree after attempting to steal a bike.

During the Q&A section of the event at Houston Hall, a student held up a photo of the handcuffed boy next to a Penn Police officer. The photograph has been circulating on the Internet at least since mid-September, paired with a picture of a black slave in a similar position.

The student asked Vice President of Public Safety Maureen Rush what she knew about the situation depicted in the photo.

Rush was quick to answer, telling the group, “When I saw the picture, I thought it was terrible.”

She went on to explain that there had been a rash of bike thefts in and around the University and that the pictured officer had seen a group of boys attempting to cut the U-lock off an unattended bike. The officer approached them, but was only able to apprehend one of the boys, and in a fit of misplaced zeal, detained one of the boys by attaching his arms around a tree so the officer could go after the other suspects.

Rush added that “from a good sense position his [the officer’s] decision was stupid.” She said that the boy was not charged, but rather returned to his home where the situation was explained to his parents. Rush said the police department recognized the mistake that it had made in handcuffing the boy to the tree. The offending officer has been chastised, but Rush did not mention whether he had violated protocol or had been let go.

Another student called Rush out on her evasiveness, asking what happened to the offending cop, and rule-breaking cops in general. “I want to know what happens when they do something wrong. As human beings. When they fail and make a mistake. What are the repercussions for them?” she asked.

Rush did not answer that question directly either, but instead reaffirmed that she shared the community’s concerns.

Students also failed to receive what they qualified as substantial answers to questions about Mike Brown’s shooting by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Mo., and the possible racial implications involving the black man’s death.

“I do have opinions but I’m not going to voice the opinion that it was racist because I wasn’t there,” Rush said. “To give an opinion that it was totally racist on the police’s part, would be ingenuous of me. Was that cop in a battle where he felt like he was going to get hurt? I don’t know. Don’t take my not answering in the way you want me to answer as saying that he [Darren Wilson] is a racist or that he isn’t. I wasn’t there, I don’t know what was in his heart when he pulled the trigger.”

When asked whether they had been satisfied with the answers that Rush and the other panelists gave to their questions, multiple students answered with a flat “no” and asked not to be identified.

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