UPDATED 6:02 p.m. Sept. 23: Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said in a press conference Monday that Officer Dennis Turner is no longer employed with his department. Earlier Monday, State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced the charges against the students wouldn't be prosecuted. Police also clarified Monday that both arrested children were 6, rather than earlier reports that one was 6 and the other was 8.
Original story: An Orlando cop who arrested, cuffed, and fingerprinted a 6-year-old girl for basically throwing a temper tantrum was swiftly suspended amid public outrage. But criminal justice advocates and the girl’s grandmother are still demanding answers — especially since the girl was the second young kid the officer arrested that day.
“No 6-year-old child should be able to tell somebody that they have had handcuffs on them, and they were riding in the back of a police car, and they were taken to a juvenile detention center to be fingerprinted,” Meralyn Kirkland, grandmother to Kaia Rolle, told Orlando’s WKMG, a CBS affiliate.
Dennis Turner, a school resource officer, arrested Rolle Thursday and charged her with battery after she allegedly kicked someone at her Orlando charter school. Rolle was the second child Turner had arrested that day — he also cuffed an unnamed 8-year-old over an unrelated misdemeanor charge.
Turner has since been suspended from his duties pending the outcome of an internal investigation into his actions at the Orlando Police Department, according to the Washington Post. Apparently, both arrests may have violated the police department’s policy of getting a supervisor’s approval before arresting anyone under the age of 12. (Florida is one of 13 states that have no minimum age for the adult prosecution of children, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. Orange County, where Orlando is based, even arrested a 4-year-old in 2010.)
After it was discovered that the officer lacked the proper approval for Rolle’s arrest, she was transferred back to her school, according to the Post. The other 8-year-old who was arrested was also returned back to family. After the arrests were made public through media reports, people started demanding Turner’s firing on Twitter, noting the longtime police officer had also been accused of excessive force after using a Taser on a man five times in 2016.
Even after the 6-year-old’s arrest Thursday, Rolle’s grandmother tried to offer a reasonable excuse to Turner: She was just fussy. Kirkland told WKMG that she mentioned to Turner that her granddaughter has a sleep disorder, potentially leading to emotional issues due to lack of rest, but he was unsympathetic.
“I said, ‘She has a sleep disorder, sleep apnea.’ He says, ‘Well, I have sleep apnea and I don’t behave like that,’” Kirkland told the television station.
Cover image from YouTube video