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TRIGGER WARNING: Video shows adults using abrasive language towards a child. Some viewers may find video hard to watch.
Montgomery County Police Department finally released bodycam footage from a January 2020 incident, after months of requests from Councilmember Will Jawando, where police are seen screaming in the child’s face as well as placing him in the back of a police car.
Police called to retrieve runaway
Police were initially called because the child had left school grounds and would not listen to administrators asking him to return to school. When they arrived, the child was leaned up against a parked car.
Within 30 seconds of arriving, the officers were visibly upset that the 5-year-old would not respond to their questions. When the child finally did tell the officers his age you can hear the shakiness in his voice as he gasped for air.
That’s when the verbal abuse from the adults to the child began.
5 year old mocked, degraded by police
When the officer grabs him by the arm and says he is going to put the child in his car, the child breaks down in hysterics. They begin mocking and yelling in the child’s face as he is buckled in the car.
“I watched in horror as what can only be described as a nightmare unfolded for nearly an hour. It made me sick,” said Councilman Jawando. “We all saw a little boy be mocked, degraded, put in the back of a police car, screamed at from the top of an adult police officer’s lungs, inches from his face. This is violence.”
When they got back to the school things got worse. At one point in the child’s crying, a female police officer gets inches from his face screaming and mocking his cry because he would not stop.
Case highlights calls for de-funding police
“There were numerous ways to have de-escalated this situation that didn’t involve repeatedly calling a young Black child a ‘beast’, repeatedly threatening him with physical harm, and even suggesting putting him in a crate at one point,” said Jawando. “Before our eyes we watched a little boy be failed by every adult whose one purpose was to help him. We also see why many Black residents in Montgomery County don’t feel protected by the police.”
National cries for de-funding police departments have grown in the last year after incident after incident where police abuse their power and assault citizens, even children in schools. Money that can be taken away from police departments can be put towards education systems where teachers and administrators can be better equipped to do their job.
In an interview about restorative justice being used in education, Justin Daniels, Dean of Students at Langston Hughs Academy, had this to say about how it can be applied in schools;
“We had two kids get into a fight over Snapchat video. We looked at the school policy, which says five days minimum suspension for a fight. But, I knew these two students were academically at risk, and they were making progress. I knew if I suspended them, it would hurt them. I looked at the restorative justice model and required them to do three days of volunteer work at charities at a food & clothes pantry. My only stipulation was that they had to work together. After those three days, we all sat down and had a conversation about why the fight happened, and what would happen moving forward.”
Getting more schools to adopt an approach like this will only benefit students. The school-to-prison pipeline is lucrative for the justice system but it does not benefit society at all. Until we put as much focus and funding into our schools as we have our police departments, we will continue to see situations involving law enforcement officers that should not.
Since the incident with Montgomery County Police Department, the 5-year-old’s family has filed a lawsuit and called for both police officers and school administrators involved to be fired.