The head of Baltimore's school police has been placed on administrative leave after one of his officers was filmed beating and berating a student at the city's Reach Partnership High School.
The brief video, released late Tuesday night, shows an unnamed school resource officer (SRO) repeatedly slapping an unnamed student in the face, while another officer watches. The officer can be heard towards the end of the five-second video saying, "Get the fuck out of here."
The video was filmed by another high school student and made public by Baltimore's CBS affiliate WJZ — the station reported that the school had not known about the beating until its reporters presented the video to school officials.
After the footage went viral, Baltimore City Public Schools Chief of Police Marshall T. Goodwin was placed on administrative leave and the officer in the video was reportedly reassigned.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake condemned the video in a statement issued Wednesday morning. "The behavior that was demonstrated on the video, you never want to see anyone treated like that," Rawlings-Blake said. "It certainly is not helpful as we work to build bridges of trust to see that level of mistreatment."
But so far, the district has been tight-lipped about the whole incident. School officials declined to comment when VICE News asked what may have led up to the altercation, and what the school is doing to investigate. District spokesperson Edie House Foster told the Baltimore Sun that the incident was being investigated "vigorously," and called the video ""unacceptable and appalling."
Karl Perry, the chief officer of school supports in Baltimore, told CBS on Tuesday that he was troubled by the footage. "I was totally appalled at what I saw today," he said. "No matter what the circumstances are, I am totally appalled."
Sergeant Clyde Boatwright, president of the school police union, said that the incident was under review. "We are waiting for the department to conduct a full and complete investigation," he said.
Reach Partnerships is one of seven school facilities in Baltimore with dedicated SROs on the premises. That's not at all unusual for a public school district. A 2015 survey conducted by the Department of Education found that 43 percent of public schools employ some sort of security staff, and that 28 percent have "sworn law enforcement officers routinely carrying a firearm." The officer in the Baltimore video does appear to be carrying a sidearm.
But a number of reports, including a 2011 study published by the Justice Policy Institute and a 2009 study in the Journal of Criminal Justice DC, demonstrate that the presence of campus officers leads contributes to increased rates of prosecution and incarceration for young people.
The video is just the latest in a series of scandals that implicate the Baltimore Police Department in abusive practices. Last April, after 25-year-old Freddie Gray was killed in a police van, protests rocked the city and ultimately forced police chief Anthony Batts to resign. The Department of Justice has been investigating the police department ever since.
In January, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund asked the Department of Justice to expand and ongoing investigation into the Baltimore Police Department to include the school police department as well. "There is evidence that the [school police department] has used force against students," the NAACP said in a statement in early February.
Over the past year, the practice of placing armed police officers inside of schools has come under increased scrutiny. Several police altercations with students have gone viral, and advocacy groups have implicated SROs in racially motivated policing.
The Baltimore video is reminiscent of a similar incident filmed at a South Carolina high school in 2015, where a white uniformed police officer flipped an African-American student out of her chair. In that case, the Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation and the officer was suspended.
This past summer, a video showing a white police officer pushing an African-American teenager to the ground at a pool party in Texas drew national condemnation. Afterward, the NAACP and the local advocacy group Appleseed Texas presented evidence that the McKinney, Texas school police disproportionately targeting black students for petty infractions.
On Wednesday, a coalition of Baltimore community groups, includes the Advancement Project, Baltimore Algebra Project, and the Alliance for Educational Justice, denounced what it called the officers' "profanity-laced rampage," and announced that there would be a press conference held later in the day to address the incident.
Follow Avi Asher-Schapiro on Twitter: @AASchapiro