An Orlando police officer has been suspended while his department investigates his arrests of two elementary school students — one 6 years old, one 8.
The 6-year-old, a first-grader, was arrested after throwing a tantrum at school, reported WKMG-TV in Orlando.
Dennis Turner, resource officer at Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy, arrested the kids last week on unrelated misdemeanor charges and sent them both to the local Juvenile Assessment Center, the station reported.
However, the arrests should not have happened, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon told WKMG.
He said according to the department’s policy when dealing with children under 12, approval must be obtained from a watch commander before making an arrest. That’s something Turner didn’t get, he said.
“The first transport officer was not aware an approval was not obtained, and the 8-year-old was processed through the Juvenile Assessment Center. The child was released to a family member a short time later,” Rolon said.
In regards to the second case — the 6-year-old first-grader — Rolon said the second transport officer realized approval had not been obtained and the child was returned to the school before being processed.
However, it wasn’t before the first-grader was handcuffed, arrested and fingerprinted — all, according to the girl’s grandmother, over a tantrum.
Meralyn Kirkland told WKMG she got a call from the school saying her granddaughter Kaia had been arrested and she would be taken to the detention center.
“I said, ‘What do you mean, she was arrested?’” Kirkland recalled. “They say there was an incident and she kicked somebody and she’s being charged and she’s on her way.”
Kirkland admited the child might have been acting up, but that Kaia had not been sleeping well because of a medical condition.
Kirkland said she was told a staff member at the school had been kicked while trying to calm the child. That’s when Turner intervened and was sending the first grader to the juvenile detention center for fingerprints and a mug shot.
“No 6-year-old child should be able to tell somebody that they had handcuffs on them,” Kirkland told WKMG.
Rolon is taking the case quite seriously.
“As a grandparent of three children less than 11 years old, this is very concerning to me,” Rolon told WKMG. “Our department strives to deliver professional and courteous service. My staff and I are committed to exceeding those standards and expectations.”