Leaders in Montgomery County, Maryland, voice their strong views on the recently released video of two Montgomery County Police Department officers shouting and handcuffing a 5-year-old boy who had dropped out of school and refused to return.
Leaders in Montgomery County, Maryland, are voicing their strong views on the recently released video of two Montgomery County police officers yelling and handcuffing a 5-year-old boy who had left his school and refused to return.
The nearly hour-long video shows camera footage of two African American officers – a man and a woman – interacting with a 5-year-old African American boy who left the East Silver Spring Elementary School grounds and refused to return on Jan. 14, 2020.
In the video, the school staff explains to officers that he allegedly threw a basketball at an instructor and knocked over a computer before leaving school.
A staff member of the school contacted the police and asked for their help. Less than two minutes after the footage starts, the male officer hears the boy yelling.
“I don’t care if you don’t want to go to school – you don’t have that choice, do you understand?” the officer says to the boy, before shifting to a more aggressive tone. ‘Go back there! Now!”
If the boy does not respond immediately, the officer grabs his arm and starts walking back to the school with him. The boy begins to cough and cry hysterically, and the officers scold him.
“There is no crying!” the female officer shouts to the boy.
The male officer, holding the boy by the arm, says to him, “Cut it out!”
Warning: Some viewers may find the video distracting
The boy is then placed in the back of a police car. The female officer asks, “Is your mother spanking you?” and the other officer replies, “Probably not.” The female officer then says, “She’s going to hit you today – I’m going to ask her if I can.”
Back at school, the child continues to cry loudly. The female officer is seen crawling in his face and shouting loudly at him, apparently mocking his sobs.
When the boy’s mother arrives, she tells the officers that she does not beat her child because it is against the law, and that she did not want to lose him to the system.
She then takes off the boy’s shirt to prove to the officers that he was not physically abused at home. The male officers tell her “we believe it’s the exact opposite.” The women officers say, “We want you to hit him.”
The female officer then tells the mother that she can’t use a weapon to hit him, but “you can hit that ass repeatedly.”
Later, the officers, the boy and his mother enter a conference room, where the male cop puts a handcuff around one of the boys’ arms and says to him, “When you get older and you want to make your own decisions, you know what. will you be best friend? “and hold up the cuffs.” These over here – you know what these are? These are handcuffs. “
He adds, “These are for people who don’t want to listen and don’t know how to behave.”
The officers then remove the shackles and further discuss the boy’s behavior with his mother.
The boy’s mother, Shanta Grant, has filed a lawsuit against the Montgomery County Public School system and county police over the incident.
Police said that after the complaint was filed, an internal investigation into the matter had been launched. They have not released the investigation’s findings and say all internal affairs are confidential under Maryland law, but both agents are still employed by the Montgomery County Police Department.
Montgomery County Public Schools said they were unable to fully respond to the incident due to pending lawsuits, but expressed condolences to the boy in the video.
“It was extremely difficult for us to watch the video of the incident involving a 5-year-old student from East Silver Spring Elementary School. Our hearts hurt for this student. There is no excuse for adults to ever talk to or threaten a child in this way, ”the statement read.
The school system also said it expected school staff to “follow the outlined structures for student intervention and support, as well as for school safety.”
Community leaders respond
Will Jawando, a Montgomery County Council member, an outspoken advocate for police reform and a critic of police involvement within schools, told WTOP the incident showed “a complete failure of our system.”
“You just have to be shocked – shocked and, frankly, disgusted – with the failures of multiple adults, multiple systems – the school system, the police – to protect this child, who is a toddler, a five-year-old who wandered off and almost became Scolded for an hour, “said Jawando.” Handcuffed and called ‘dirty,’ and yelled at, yelled at. He’s crying. “
Jawando added, “No one should ever be treated that way, let alone a 5-year-old … who was unable to resist that kind of abuse.”
Jawando again called for a review of the province’s public safety and police system. He said officers should not be in schools or the emergency room for incidents like the one in January 2020.
He said the video is a good example of the ‘school-to-prison pipeline.
“Almost from the start – it changes within 30 seconds of the interaction and you can see (the boy) is scared of his life,” he said. “But then it turns into a negative, enforcement-based, and frankly … cruel interaction.”
Jawando said that black boys are often seen as older, more dangerous, and less innocent than children of other ethnicities. He said the treatment can be seen in full in the video.
“That’s definitely what happened here – all the way to the point of ‘you’re going to end up in jail … let me show you at age 5 what it looks like to be handcuffed and what’s in your future lies’, ”he said. “If that’s not the pipeline from school to prison, I don’t know what it is.”
He also said that the race of the officers does not matter in such incidents.
“The prejudices… based on white supremacy and criminalization and the stereotypes that accompany black and brown children in particular, have permeated everyone and no one is immune from them,” he said.
Councilor Nancy Navarro said accountability was needed and the images should have been made available earlier.
“This council should have received these images and given ample time and we asked for this, so this is also a real concern regarding the way the administration handled these particular images,” she said. “As a mother, but also as a resident of this county, this leaves a lot to be desired.”
In a joint statement released Friday, the board said County Executive Marc Elrich had repeatedly requested access to the bodycam footage, but was only granted access around the same time it was made available to the public.
“We also believe that our community deserved to hear directly from our County Executive what actions the government intends to take to ensure that such a situation never happens again.”