KPD officer written up after placing students in handcuffs, investigators say

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A Kissimmee police officer was written up after department leaders learned he put a trio of middle school-aged girls into handcuffs during a lunch detention to show them what being arrested would feel like.

Officer Antonio Johnson is not a school resource officer. He happened to be at Mater Palms K-8 Charter School when the girls involved were serving a lunch detention.

Nine students were in detention at the time on suspicion of trying to break into a locked classroom.  A teacher at the school, who happens to be the mother of one of the girls involved, first complained to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about what she said happened.

That teacher complained of "alleged misconduct by Kissimmee Police Officers terrifying students by handcuffing them and telling them that they would be arrested for no reason," referring to the officer's actions as an "abuse of power."

The girls were not being criminally investigated in connection to the incident at school, and the school principal did not ask Johnson to speak with the girls or discipline them.

According to a just-completed internal affairs investigation, one girl involved told KPD IA investigators that Johnson "instructed her to stand up, to put her hands behind her back and he placed her in handcuffs.  The officer instructed her to sit down and the officer left the room for a few moments."

IA investigators determined Johnson used his handcuffs on three students during the incident.  When questioned, Johnson said the use of handcuffs was "his idea alone, no one assisted him with the handcuffing" and that the SRO at the school was only present when he handcuffed one student.

When the principal of the school was questioned, internal affairs officers noted she "defiantly" denied knowledge of the handcuffing.

KPD Chief Jeff O’Dell provided this statement to 9 Investigates:

“Our Police Department prides itself on its continual efforts to positively interact with the community. We have several youth programs which enrich and inform some of our youngest residents. Officer Johnson is part of those enrichment programs through the Problem Oriented Policing Unit which is focused on crime prevention education to the community. We encourage our officers to educate young people on the laws and possible consequences of their actions. However, Officer Johnson’s actions on January 25, are not a reflection of his training, previous work, or encouraged by anyone at our Police Department. Although his intentions were to educate students on the seriousness of their actions (attempting to break into a locked classroom) we found his actions were inappropriate and reflected poorly on the agency. Upon receipt of the complaint, we immediately began investigating and found his actions did not meet up to Department standards. Moving forward we would encourage any parents with concerns about our officers to come forward as we work to continually build on our positive relations with the community.”

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.