This past week, body cam footage taken by an officer in Florida has enraged parents over police presence in schools. The footage, which was taken almost two years ago, followed an incident at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West.
It all began when an 8-year-old with special needs punched his teacher in the chest during an outburst, according to reports. The boy ended up getting into handcuffs as officers arrested him on felony battery charge but as the incident is going viral, may say it shows a crack in the justice system.
The footage, which was taken on December 14, 2018, was shared this past Sunday on Twitter by civil rights lawyer Ben Crump.
“Unbelievable!!” Crump tweeted. “@KWPOLICE used ‘scared straight’ tactics on 8yo boy with special needs. He’s 3.5 ft tall and 64 lbs, but they thought it was appropriate to handcuff and transport him to an adult prison for processing!! He was so small the cuffs fell off his wrists!”
Police were called to the scene by the teacher after the boy threw a punch.
Crump, who now represents the boy’s parents, said in a statement provided to Yahoo News, how it is important to note the factors leading up to the altercation.
The boy had an individual educational plan, or IEP, in place to help assist him with his disabilities, but it was not being executed properly.
“Instead of honoring and fulfilling that plan, the school placed him with a substitute teacher who had no awareness or concern about his needs and who escalated the situation by using her hands to forcibly move him,” wrote Crump. “When he acted out, the teacher called the police, who threatened him with jail and tried to put him in handcuffs, which fell off because he was too little.”
And when multiple officers arrived at the school, the boy looked to be terrified and in tears.
As the police approached him, the video showed one of the officers introducing himself, before asking, “Do you know where you’re going?” After a brief pause, “You’re going to jail.”
The 8-year-old, who remains silent throughout the exchange, is then asked to stand up and place his hands up and against a nearby cabinet, so officers can handcuff him. Right before he does so, he can be seen wiping away a tear.
But after attempting to handcuff the boy multiple times, the officer eventually gave up, as the boy’s wrists are too small to fit the handcuffs. The officers eventually resort to walking him out of the school with his hands in front of him.
“You understand this is very serious, OK?” the arresting officer told him. “I hate that you put me in this position that I have to do this. The thing about it is, you made a mistake. Now it’s time to learn from it and grow from it, not repeat the same mistake again.”
Local law enforcement stands by the vacation of the police officers that day despite the footage becoming public.
“Based on the report, standard operating procedures were followed,” Key West Police Chief Sean T. Brandenburg revealed to the Miami Herald this week.
Yet officials from the Monroe County School District have said nothing of the incident.
“Due to the possibility of this matter becoming a legal issue in the future, we have been advised not to make further comment about the incident at this time,” a spokesperson for the district told the Miami Herald.