Police Misconduct

Police Misconduct

Texas sheriff’s deputy accused of sexually abusing child and threatening to deport her mother


A sheriff’s deputy in San Antonio is accused of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl and threatening the child’s mother, who is undocumented, that she would be deported if she told authorities about the abuse. Jose Nunez, 47, who was employed by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, faces a charge of super aggravated sexual assault of a child. Nunez faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted, according to Leslie Garza of the Bexar County district attorney’s office.

The victim is related to the suspect, according to Sheriff Javier Salazar, but details of their relationship has not been made public. Salazar noted that investigators believe there may be more victims, and that the abuse against the known victim may have taken place over a period of months or years.

“The details of this are quite frankly heartbreaking, disturbing, disgusting and infuriating all at the same time,” Salazar said.

A case of ‘super aggravated sexual assault of a child’ occurs if the victim is less than six years old, or if a victim is less than fourteen years old in combination with other factors, like the use of a deadly weapon, during the assault.

William Chumbley, who is representing Nunez, did not respond to requests for comments by Monday morning.

Authorities became aware of the case after the victim’s mother fled to a fire station at night, according to Salazar. Nunez was arrested before sunrise on Sunday, while he was off duty. He was arrested by his former colleagues of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities are planning to give the victim’s mother protected status, Salazar said. “I would urge anybody that may be undocumented that is a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime to please come forward and report it”.

San Antonio Police Accidentally Shoot Six-Year-Old Boy


In a police chase outside of San Antonio, Texas just a few days before Christmas, a six-year-old boy was accidentally but fatally shot by a police officer. The boy, who was later identified as Kameron Prescott, was actually inside his family’s mobile home when a bullet went through the home’s wall and hit Prescott in the chest. The police was in pursuit of 30-year-old Amanda Lee Jones, who was suspected of stealing a car and an attempted break-in; the police also ended up fatally shooting Jones once the pursuit was over and done with. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar commented on the death of Prescott, calling it “a tragic accident”. Salazar also said that the investigation into the incident would continue before the district attorney could determine if there was additional legal action required. Two other members of the Prescott family were also in the mobile home when the shots were fired, but only Kameron resulted injured.


According to deputies, Jones was spotted to have a weapon when she was first encountered by the police. Jones reportedly proceeded to threaten to shoot an officer. Once the police caught up with her outside of the Prescott home, Jones also threatened to attack the family that was inside that home, which led police to kill Jones. After the fact, police have been unable to locate a gun around Jones, but they did find a pipe with Jones’ blood left behind under the deck of the home Jones attempted to break into. Sheriff Salazar has since expressed his belief that Jones was pretending to be armed, although he says that deputies on the scene are still asserting they saw a weapon on Jones, which led to their course of action.


John Aguilon, George Herrera, Jesse Arias and Johnny Longoria all shot at Jones, and they have since been placed on a five-day administrative leave as the situation is being sorted out. The department is going through available audio and limited video footage, as the only body camera on the scene was partially obstructed during the key moments in the confrontation.


The family of Prescott has mostly stayed out of the public eye so far following the loss of their six-year-old. Salazar mentioned that he has been a friend of Steve Prescott, Kameron’s grandfather, for over 20 years. Steve Prescott is a long-time member of the nearby San Antonio Police Department. Steve Prescott, on behalf of the rest of the Prescott family, did give a public statement asking for privacy during the investigation.

Euclid Officer Suspended After Violent Arrest Video


Earlier this week, the Euclid, Ohio Police Department announced that officer Michael Amiott has been suspended without pay for 15 days and ordered to enter a re-training program as a result of investigations following the release of footage showing Amiott violently tackling someone to the ground during a traffic stop on August 12th. In the video, Amiott was seen punching 25-year-old Cleveland man Richard Hubbard III more than a dozen times. Amiott accused Hubbard of driving under suspension and resisting arrest before the video came out. The police department said they made the video public “so that the public can have a full and open understanding of the series of events that eventually led to this violent encounter.” This move to punish Amiott in some capacity has led local authorities to hope it’s enough to assuage the anger of the local community, which has rallied together to demonstrate against the town’s mayor and police chief in the past week.

According to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, Amiott’s previous conduct will be further investigated, due to an increase in reports regarding people’s previous encounters with Amiott. For example, there was reports of an April incident where Amiott used unnecessary force while handcuffing a 16-year-old girl at a public library. Shawn George, a 25-year-old soccer coach, alleges he was tackled and pepper sprayed by Amiott just last month. George says he was recording an arrest Amiott was making of a white juvenile who was carrying a BB gun when Amiott confronted the African-American adult. According to the Associated Press, Amiott has received four letters of reprimand and one formal citizen complaint during his tenure with the Euclid Police Department despite never being disciplined beyond written warnings. Some of those letters stemmed from incidents such as pistol-whipping a driver with his handgun, crashing with other police vehicles and other moments of lost temper.

Furthermore, according to the Ohio News-Herald newspaper, Amiott resigned from the Mentor, Ohio Police Department in 2014 after making a false statement in a police report, as it was determined he fabricated an accusation of weaving in traffic after realizing that a traffic stop he had made was invalid. It was after his resignation from the Mentor department that he was hired by Euclid’s department.

Amiott was the latest in a series of tense police-civilian encounters in the state of Ohio. On Tuesday, fellow Euclid officer Matthew Rhodes was cleared of charges by a grand jury during a case in which Rhodes fatally shot an unarmed 23-year-old driver on March 13th. County Prosecutor O’Malley took over the role for Timothy J. McGinty, who was in office when a grand jury cleared Cleveland police of wrongdoing in the nationally notorious case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot by the police in November 2014. O’Malley, in conjunction with Lieutenant Mitch Houser, has ordered the police departments in the area to review its procedures and to accept specialized training in de-escalation in response to the rise in police misconduct over the past couple of years.

Virginia Officer Back on Trial

David Cobb (PHOTO: Chesterfield Police)

Chesterfield County, Virginia officer David Cobb is being tried again for the murder of Patterson Brown Jr. at a car wash in the county.

The officer’s first trial ended in mistrial due to the jury unable to return a unanimous verdict on the second-degree murder charge. The 47-year-old Richmond Police officer was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 18-year-old Paterson Brown Jr. He pleaded not guilty. After nearly eight hours of deliberation, the 12-man jury remained “significantly divided,” according to the judge.

Cobb’s defense attorney, David Baugh, said the jurors in the case carried a tremendous weight in trying to reach a decision. Baugh explains how thankful he is that the jurors have taken this case so seriously enough to deliberate for eight hours.

Although off duty at the time of the murder at the Sunoco gas station on Midlothian Turnpike, Cobb did admit to shooting and killing Brown on October 17, 2015. However, David Cobb explains that the act was in self-defense.

In his initial trial, Cobb admitted to shooting and killing the teenager, but only because he believed Brown had a weapon and was a threat to himself and others.

According to the investigation, Patterson Brown entered a car owned by Cobb’s girlfriend while it was parked at the gas station. Brown drove it through the car wash.

As Cobb took the stand, he explains how his “intent was not to kill Brown, the intent was to stop a threat.” After repeatedly asking Brown to stop moving, Patterson Brown continued to reach across his waist. That is when Cobb pulled the trigger.

Cobb told the jury that he asked a car wash attendant to call 911 in order to have Chesterfield County officers on scene and take over.

After identifying himself as an off-duty Richmond Police officer, Cobb said Brown yelled out ‘I don’t f*** with the ops.” Serving years as a gang specialist, Cobb testified that the phrase was commonly used among Blood gang members.

On the stand, Cobb cries out “I didn’t want to be a causality,” “I didn’t want to be a victim.”

Prosecutors said Brown was unarmed and believe the officer’s intentions were to prevent the teen from stealing the car. Also, toxicology reports say that the victim had only marijuana in his system that day.

Cobb’s new trial is set to last five days.

Lawyer Says Reno Boy Shot by School Cop Had Been Bullied, Beaten


RENO, Nev. — An emotionally distressed 14-year-old armed with a knife had been bullied and beaten and was trying to escape from a crowd of classmates this week who had gathered to capture video of an anticipated fight when a campus police officer shot the boy, his lawyer told The Associated Press on Friday.

The Reno teen had been showing signs of improvement from a critical gunshot wound to his chest, but suffered a “major stroke” Friday and underwent emergency surgery and his condition was unknown Friday night, Reno attorney David Houston said. Before the stroke, he said the boy was critical but stable.

Houston, a prominent Reno attorney, said in an interview earlier Friday he was hired by the boy’s father to defend the teen against any potential criminal charges stemming from Wednesday’s shooting.

He said he was still reviewing videos of the incident posted on social media but said several suggest none of the students felt threatened by the knife-wielding boy and many appeared shocked when the officer opened fire in a high school courtyard.

“Those kids were alerted there was going to be a beat-down at a specific time and a specific location. They had amassed with their cellphones for the purpose of filming it,” Houston told the AP.

He added: “Half the student body is out there cheering them on. He’d been punched in the face and was running around screaming, ‘Get away from me!’ He was trying to extricate himself from a situation that had become like spectators in the Roman Colosseum.”

One online video appears to show the teen wielding a large knife in a circle of dozens of onlookers. Another appears to capture the sound of a single gunshot and several students screaming before the camera shows the boy writhing in pain on the ground. A student’s voice says, “They shot the kid.”

“The video tells the story,” Houston said. “No one anticipated the officer is going to shoot the kid.”

“There was no attempt to calm the situation. There was not this genuine sense of panic or alarm by the students watching until the officer attempted to execute the 14-year-old who was screaming, ‘Get away from me,'” he said.

No charges have been filed. The campus officer has been placed on paid administrative leave while Reno police lead an investigation into the officer-involved shooting.

“Any charging considerations are a part of that process,” Washoe County District Attorney spokeswoman Michelle Bays said Friday, declining further comment until the investigation is complete.

Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said earlier the boy threatened other students and failed to comply with the officer’s orders to drop the knife before the officer shot him’

School Superintendent Traci Davis said Friday she continues to believe “the officer’s judgment saved other students from deadly force.”

The school district’s chief lawyer criticized Houston for speaking out on behalf of his client.

“It is disappointing to think that such a tragic event can be sensationalized by one side and by the media in order to spread false truths, innuendos, and disparage the efforts of a law enforcement officer protecting children,” said the lawyer, Neil A. Rombardo.

Houston’s past clients have included ex-pro wrestler Hulk Hogan and Joe Francis, founder of the “Girls Gone Wild” video empire.

He said the boy “brought some kitchen knives to school” because he feared “he’d get jumped by the same group of seniors who had beaten him the day before.”

Houston said the officer could have tried more to calm the boy down and convince him to put the knife down.

“They could have said, ‘It’s OK, nobody is going to hurt you,'” Houston said. “One of the primary rules of our society is we don’t shoot our children. We simply don’t shoot first and ask questions later.”

Source: NBC News

Authorities Investigate Why Police Shot, Killed 13-Year-Old Boy


Police in Columbus, Ohio, were investigating how a 13-year-old boy wanted for questioning Wednesday night in an armed robbery ended up fatally shot by an officer.

The child — later identified by Columbus police as Tyre King — had “pulled a gun from his waistband” when officers attempted to take him and another male into custody, the Columbus Division of Police said in a statement. As the encounter unfolded, an officer shot King “multiple times.”

The weapon recovered from the scene was determined to be a BB gun with an attached laser sight, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said at a news conference Thursday morning. She showed a replica image of that BB gun.

“Our officers carry a gun that looks practically identical to this weapon,” said Jacobs, adding, “It turns out not to be a firearm, but as you can see, it looks like a firearm that can kill you.”

Police were first called to a report of a group of people — including one armed with a gun — demanding money at 7:42 p.m. ET.

Officers arriving at the scene saw three people matching the suspects’ descriptions around a block away. However, when they attempted to speak with them, two of the males ran away, police said in a statement.

“Officers followed the males to the alley … and attempted to take them into custody when one suspect pulled a gun from his waistband,” police added. “One officer shot and struck the suspect multiple times.”

King was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:22 p.m.

No one else was injured. The other male suspect was interviewed and later released pending further inquiries.

Area resident Chris Naderer told The Columbus Dispatch he heard a gate in his backyard get knocked down and then saw police chasing two young men in an alley outside of his home.

“Heard gun shots, five, 10 seconds afterwards,” Naderer also told NBC affiliate WCMH.

Police respond to the officer-involved shooting of 13-year-old Tyree King in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday. WCMH-TV

As with all police-involved shootings, the officers will receive “mandated psychological support counseling” and be given the opportunity to “take leave time to assist in recovery from a traumatic experience,” according to Columbus police.

The officer who fired the shots was later identified as Bryan Mason, a nine-year veteran of the force who just recently transferred to the zone where the incident happened. He was being placed on paid administrative leave for about a week, said Columbus police Sgt. Rich Weiner.

Mason was previously involved in the fatal shooting of an armed man in 2012, reported the Dispatch. Police determined he acted within policy.

The family of the boy said in a statement that they want an independent investigation into the shooting.

“The Columbus Police Department has a history of investigating itself following these officer involved shootings and we believe that these investigations are inherently biased,” attorney Chanda L. Brown said. “The best thing that the City of Columbus could do to ease the minds and fears of its citizens is to step aside and let an independent party investigate the matter.”

13-year-old Tyre King, who police said was wanted for questioning in an armed robbery, ended up fatally shot by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio. Courtesy of Walton and Brown, LLP

Jacobs said investigators are expected to pass their review of the latest case onto a prosecutor and grand jury, which would determine whether any criminal charges are warranted against the officers involved.

It’s unclear whether any surveillance or cellphone footage has been recovered showing the shooting.

Police also did not immediately say whether the officers involved were wearing body cameras. Last month, 30 Columbus cops began testing

body-worn cameras and the department is expected to fully implement the devices by the end of the year, WCMH reported.

“You have to feel for the family in this and you also have to think about what the officer’s going through,” Weiner told reporters late Wednesday. “There’s no winners here.”

King was last enrolled at Linden STEM Academy as an eighth grader, WCMH said. King’s family said in a statement released by their attorneys that “Tyre was a typical 13-year-old child. He was active in football, soccer, hockey, and gymnastics.”

The city of Columbus has seen 13 police-involved shootings this year. Five ended with a civilian being fatally shot, and one resulted in the death of the officer.

The incident in Columbus comes almost two years after 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by a police officer in Cleveland.

Rice, a black sixth-grade student, was holding a pellet gun when the officer shot him within two seconds of arriving at the scene.

His death sparked protests over policing and racial bias. Last December, a grand jury chose not to indict the two officers involved. In April, the city of Cleveland agreed to pay $6 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by the Rice family.

Jacobs said it’s too early to compare the shootings of King and Rice, although they both involve young black children carrying BB guns being fatally shot by white officers.

“We don’t have enough facts to know anything how this relates to any other shooting, including Tamir Rice’s,” Jacobs said. “That’s why we do an investigation.”

An attorney representing King’s family urged the public not to rush to judgment. “We do not know what he did or did not do. There are allegations that have been made regarding his actions, and those allegations cannot be taken as factual until a thorough, unbiased investigation has taken place,” attorney Sean L. Walton said.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther called for calm while the investigation continues, but he said the shooting raises concerns about access to weapons, including BB guns made to look like actual firearms.

“We as a community need to come to grips with the fact that with such easy access to guns — whether they’re firearms or replicas — there’s something wrong with this country,” Ginther said, “and it’s bringing this epidemic to our city streets.”
Source: NBC News

South Carolina Cop Who Killed Unarmed Teen Is Fired


Zachary Hammond. Courtesy of Eric Bland

The South Carolina police officer who fatally shot unarmed 19-year-old Zachary Hammond during a drug sting last year has been fired, Seneca Police Chief John Covington said.

In a statement to NBC News, Covington said Officer Mark Tiller’s last day on the payroll will be Friday.

“This is a ‘Personnel Matter’ and therefore I am unable to provide any further comment or information beyond this statement,” Covington said.

 Hammond was on a first date on July 26, 2015, when Tiller shot him twice. Hammond’s date, Tori Morton, was the subject of the sting, and an undercover officer was waiting for her at a Hardee’s when Hammond pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot.

Authorities said Hammond tried to run Tiller over when he saw police lights — an assertion the teen’s family lawyer called “ridiculous” and “offensive.”

Morton, who was not injured, was charged with simple possession of marijuana.


No criminal charges were filed against Tiller, but in April, a judge approved a $2.1 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Hammond’s family, NBC station WYFF of Greenville reported.

In a statement, a Hammond family lawyer called the decision to fire Tiller “admirable.”

“We want to let Chief Covington know that we appreciate his decision,” the statement said, according to WYFF.

“After Zachary’s death, the Hammonds placed their faith in the justice system and were hoping that Lt. Tiller was going to have to answer for his actions and the decisions he made which resulted in such a senseless death,” it said. “With each passing day the Hammonds never lost hope that Lt. Tiller would in the future never again have the highest honor of serving the public as a police officer, wear the uniform and carry a weapon. It appears that today is such a day.”

Tiller’s lawyer, John Mussetto, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Source: NBC News

Hate Crime Charge Considered Against White Supremacist Who Ran Over Black Teen

Gresham Police Department
Larnell Malik Bruce Jr. died as a result of injuries sustained in a hit-and-run collision, police said.

Authorities in Oregon are probing whether the death of an African-American teen at the hands of an alleged white supremacist is a hate crime.

“That’s currently the subject of the ongoing active investigation,” Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Don Rees told The Huffington Post on Friday.

Russell Courtier, a 38-year-old ex-con with a lengthy rap sheet, and his girlfriend, 35-year-old Colleen Hunt, have been charged with murder in an August hit-and-run that caused the death of 19-year-old Larnell Malik Bruce Jr.

Rees said Courtier has ties to the white supremacist group European Kindred, which the Southern Poverty Law Center described in 2010 as “one of the most feared white supremacist gangs in the Pacific Northwest.”

According to the probable cause affidavit obtained by HuffPost, Bruce was charging his cellphone at a 7-Eleven in Gresham on Aug. 10. Just before midnight, Courtier and Hunt pulled into the store’s parking lot in a red Jeep Wrangler, with Courtier behind the wheel.

Google Maps
The 7-Eleven in Gresham where the incident occurred.

Moments after the couple’s arrival, Courtier and Bruce got into a verbal dispute. The reason for the dispute is not yet known, but police have said the two men had no known connection. The dispute quickly led to an all-out brawl, with Courtier slamming the teen’s head into the storefront window, cracking a pane of glass.

“Get him, baby,” Hunt urged her boyfriend during the fight, according to witnesses cited in the affidavit. “Get him, baby!”

Bruce, police said, turned the tables when he produced a machete and forced Courtier to retreat to his vehicle, at which time, according to the affidavit, a witness heard Hunt tell Courtier to “run Mr. Bruce over.”

What happened next was partially captured by video surveillance cameras.

The footage, police said, shows Bruce walking away from the 7-Eleven as Courtier exits the parking lot and speeds toward the teen in his Jeep.

“The video surveillance showed Mr. Bruce take evasive maneuvers on foot in an attempt to escape Mr. Courtier’s Jeep,” the affidavit states. “The video surveillance then shows the red Jeep quickly turn around and accelerate towards Mr. Bruce.”

Larnell Bruce Jr. in a photo posted to his Facebook page last year.

Bruce, police said, ran into oncoming traffic in an attempt to flee from Courtier. Moments later, he and the Jeep were out of the camera’s view.

When police responded to a 911 call placed by an employee of the 7-Eleven, they found a gravely injured Bruce lying on the ground not far from the convenience store. Blood was streaming out of the teen’s nose and ears. Officers later learned he suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was struck by the Jeep.

Courtier and Hunt, who were taken into custody shortly after the incident, voluntarily spoke with investigators, police said.

According to the affidavit, Courtier admitted getting into an altercation with Bruce.

“Mr. Courtier said he was angry the male produced a knife and thought about driving away from the scene, however [he] made a conscious decision to drive his vehicle towards and chase the black male,” the document states. “Mr. Courtier said he chased the black male across oncoming lanes of traffic and then intentionally struck him with the front of his vehicle.”

Hunt allegedly told police a similar story and said she saw Bruce roll across the hood of the vehicle and fall to the ground.

Multnomah County Sheriffs Office
Russell Courtier and Colleen Hunt after their arrest on Aug. 10.

The pair were initially charged with attempted murder and assault. However, when Bruce succumbed to his injuries a few days later, the couple was indicted for murder.

The teen’s father, Larnell Bruce Sr., did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost. In an interview with KATU News, he said he believes in an eye for an eye.

“I believe what he [did] was horrific,” Bruce Sr. said of Courtier. “My faith says that the Lord will forgive him. I don’t have to forgive him until the Lord’s taken him. So I don’t have to forgive him until he’s dead. That’s what I want to see ― him dead.”

In an interview with KPTV News, friends and family described Bruce as a kind young man who was caught up in addiction and life on the streets.

“He’s a good kid,” family friend Vanessa Galindo told KPTV. “He had a hard life.”

Photos of Russell Courtier that he posted to his Facebook page.

According to The Portland Mercury, Courtier spent a significant portion of his adult life behind bars, with multiple arrests for violent crimes. He was reportedly on parole at the time of the August incident for attacking a woman with a knife.

Prison records obtained by the Mercury show Courtier racked up nearly 40 prison violations between 2001 and 2013. The violations reportedly consisted of assaults, his alleged association with European Kindred members, and allegedly throwing a piece of paper smeared with feces at a guard.

Little is known about Hunt. Public records indicate she grew up in Anaheim, California. It remains unclear when she arrived in Oregon.

“Growing up with Colleen, she was very hard and mean and everyone was afraid of her,” said a former classmate of Hunt’s who attended Canyon High School with her. The classmate, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said Hunt was “scary and got in a ton of fights.”

“During high school I remember she disappeared, and I haven’t seen her since.”

Colleen Hunt as she appeared during her sophomore year at Canyon High School.

Courtier and Hunt, who are being held without bond, have both entered not guilty pleas in the case. They are expected to appear in court again on Oct. 3.

Rees said hate crime-related charges will be filed against Courtier if enough evidence can be found to prove the connection in court “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, in Oregon there are minimal consequences associated with that charge.

“In terms of a sentence, the murder charge is really the big bang,” Rees said. “In Oregon we have mandatory sentencing in place, so if convicted of murder the defendant must receive ― it’s non-discretionary with the court ― a life sentence. Having said that, the [hate crime] angle is under investigation, but I don’t want people to have the illusion this person is getting away with anything at this point.”

Source: Huff Post Crime

Officers in Laquan McDonald Case Face Firings


The Chicago Police Department is pursuing the firing of seven officers for giving false information related to the 2014 fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald, one of several young black men whose death has fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.

The decision comes three days after Chicago’s inspector general issued a damning report recommending that 10 officers be fired or disciplined in the McDonald case. That report coincided with the retirement Monday of Deputy Chief David McNaughton, who approved the police investigation that cleared the officer who shot and killed McDonald of any wrongdoing.

McNaughton had determined that the officer in question, Jason Van Dyke, acted properly when he shot McDonald 16 times on the night of Oct. 20, 2014. But a video released a year later to the public showed that McDonald, who was holding a knife, was walking away from the officers when Van Dyke began firing, not toward them as McNaughton had written.

Van Dyke, who had already been stripped of his police powers, was charged with murder on the same day the video was released.

Although the inspector general recommended that 10 officers be fired for violating “Rule 14,” which requires that officers provide truthful statements in police reports, the Chicago Police Department said in a statement Thursday “that there is insufficient evidence to prove” allegations with respect to one officer. Two other officers cited in the IG report have since retired, the Chicago Police Department said, and the other officers have been relieved of their police powers.

The Chicago Police Board, which determines the punishment in police disciplinary cases, will now consider firing the officers in question. Typically, it takes a few months for there to be an evidentiary hearing where the police department and accused officers have a chance to make their case. The board will rule at that hearing as to whether the officers should be fired.

Source: NBC News

Police In This School District Want To Pepper-Spray Kids On Their Own Terms

Iampixels via Getty Images


The Birmingham Police Department is in court this week to appeal a judge’s decision that it must create stricter guidelines around using pepper spray in schools.

A district court judge ruled in September that school-based police officers who spray kids with painful chemicals during minor incidents violate students’ rights. Police officers placed in Birmingham City Schools should get specialized training on how to work with students and create a more specific plan to clean up kids who have been pepper-sprayed, the judge said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center first filed a lawsuit against the Birmingham Police Department on this issue in 2010. The lawsuit, which was granted class-action status, said officers had used painful chemical sprays on about 200 students between 2006 and 2014.

But the police department says the judge’s requirements are overly intrusive. Its appeal also takes issue with a few other specifics of the decision, including an order to pay five students monetary damages.

written appeal filed by police department attorneys claims the district court seeks to control “(1) [school resource officer] duties; (2) SROs’ use of Spray; (3) SRO training; (4) and SROs’ decontamination of students that have been sprayed,” even though it is “the power of the City of Birmingham’s elected government to control the BPD” through the police chief.

“Such a heavy-handed intrusion into the internal government of the City of Birmingham is unwarranted,” lawyers wrote earlier this year in their brief to the court of appeals, according to Alabama Media Group. “The district court reached the wrong conclusions about what the Constitution requires. It compounded that error by injecting itself into internal municipal affairs.”

Representatives for the police department did not respond to requests for comment.

The original suit highlighted the experience eight student plaintiffs. One student, identified in the lawsuit as B.D., was pepper-sprayed after getting in a dispute with her school principal.

“It caused me a lot of emotional distress. It caused me a lot of depression, a lot of missed days of school. It caused me hair loss,” B.D. said during a call with reporters in October. “At least it wasn’t all in vain. I have something to show for all my heartache.”

Policies regarding pepper spray in schools haven’t changed since the lawsuit was filed in 2010, said SPLC associate director Ebony Howard. This means that current Birmingham City School students are still failing “to receive any protection.”

“Here we are again before the court of appeals, one more time,” Howard told The Huffington Post. “And while we spend all this time arguing in court and talking about the various legal standards, Police Chief Roper’s policy ― the one the district court found was unconstitutional and lets kids get pepper-sprayed for talking back and then doesn’t require them to get decontaminated ― can still exist.”

Police officers began getting placed in Birmingham City Schools in the 1990s, during a period when the number of police officers in schools was ballooning nationwide.

Police officers are ostensibly placed to schools to keep students safe and protect them from armed intruders. However, their presence also means that students are sometimes arrested, pepper-sprayed or Tasered for small transgressions. At least 84 students have been Tasered by school-based police officers since 2011, according to a recent HuffPost analysis.

Howard thinks the outcome of the Birmingham case will have national implications.

“I definitely think the behavior of the officers in this case is representative of the behavior of a lot of untrained school resource officers,” she said. “I think what this case does ― as one of the first of its type and probably the first to get a decision from a district court ― is it signals to police departments across the country: We cannot put untrained officers in our schools and allow them to treat our children like animals.”


Rebecca Klein covers the challenges faced in school discipline, school segregation and the achievement gap in K-12 education. In particular, she is drilling down into the programs and innovations that are trying to solve these problems. Tips? Email Rebecca.Klein@huffingtonpost.com.


Source: Huff Post Crime