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Video of a sheriff’s deputy chasing down an 11-year-old student and throwing him to the ground before handcuffing him in a school parking lot, triggered outrage in Fort Pierce, Florida, last week.
The confrontation between the school resource officer and the child, who is a student at Lincoln Park Academy, a magnet school for grades 6-12, happened Tuesday afternoon. "That's kind of rough to be at a school campus, he didn't have to slam him down like that," General Platt, a parent of twins at the same school, told the local WPTV station.
But police in St. Lucie County said the situation is more complicated than the short video, caught on a bystander’s cell phone, lets on, according to the local TCPalm. The student is facing charges of battery on a teacher, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, according to Sheriff Ken Mascara.
The child was taken into custody for a mental health evaluation, and has not been named. WPTV reported that police showed up after the student was suspended and continued running around the campus. The student was also arrested five days before for aggravated assault, has a violent history, and is currently in a diversion program, Mascara said during a press conference Wednesday.
The student wasn’t hurt, and the deputy in the video, who hasn’t been named, has served as a school resource deputy for eight years, according to the TCPalm.
"At the end of the day, the deputy did everything he could to diffuse the situation, and his use of force fell within the legal and our agency guidelines," Mascara said of the deputy during the news conference.
“The student also has a safety plan established by the school that requires that he be escorted anywhere on the school campus by staff, which should lead people to summarize that this kid is a pretty big danger to just about everyone at school,” Mascara added, according to TCPalm.
There haven’t been any complaints filed against the officer, according to WPTV, but some parents are still concerned about the level of force exhibited in the video. Mascara said the incident will be investigated internally, although he doesn’t believe the deputy was out of line.
School resource officers like the deputy involved in Tuesday’s viral video are common across Florida, but have caused controversy in the past. After a shooting in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people last year, then-Gov. Rick Scott pushed forward a $450 million plan that would have ensured there was at least one officer for every 1,000 students in the state. However, experts argue school resource officers are most effective when not policing students, but developing trust with law enforcement.
“Our focus was that the school resource officer should be a positive influence in schools,” Ron Davis, a visiting senior fellow at Harvard Law’s criminal justice policy program, previously told VICE News. He once ran the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Policing Services. “Their job is not to police students or engage in discipline.”
Cover image: Screen shot from cell phone video posted by WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida.