Police release video of officers berating handcuffed 5-year-old boy

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Police released a video Friday showing a disturbing interaction between officers who detained a 5-year-old boy who walked off an elementary school campus.

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The video shows the Jan. 14, 2020 incident when Montgomery County Police were called to East Silver Spring Elementary School because the 5-year-old student had left school grounds after throwing a basketball at a teacher and knocking over a computer, WTOP reported.

Two officers, Dionne Holliday and Kevin Christmon, find the boy leaning against a car in a neighborhood nearby, The Washington Post reported.

“I don’t care if you don’t want to go to school — you do not have that choice, do you understand?” the male officer said. Then more aggressively: “Get back over there! Now!”

The officer grabs the boy by the arm when he does not respond. The boy starts to cry as they walk back to the school.

“There is no crying,” the female officer said.

“Cut it out,” the male officer said.

The boy is put into the back of a patrol car and the female officer asks him: “Does your momma spank you?”

“Probably not,” the other officer said.

“She’s gonna spank you today. I’m gonna ask her if I can do it,” the female officer said.

They return to the school where the boy continues to cry uncontrollably. The female officer counters his cries by screaming in his face while a school employee looks on.

The boy’s mother arrives and told officers she does not beat her son because it’s against the law and she does not want to lose him.

“I spank him, but I can’t discipline him how I want to discipline him because of this,” the mother said. “I’m not losing my child to the system and I’m not going to prison. I just want to show you all he is not being physically abused.”

The mother removes her son’s shirt to show he is not abused.

One of the officers replies: “We want you to beat him. You don’t go to prison for beating your child.”

Video shows that once they are in a conference room the boy remains handcuffed as his mother watches.

“When you get older, when you want to make your own decisions, you know what’s going to be your best friend?” an officer said. “These right here. You know what these are? These are handcuffs. You know what they’re for? You know what these are for? These are for people that don’t want to listen and don’t know how to act.”

The video shocked city leaders.

“I kind of knew what I was going to see but it was worse than that,” Councilman Will Jawando told WRC. “And I’ve just been saying I’m so sorry to that child and to the mother. I didn’t find out about this until the plaintiff filed suit in January. No one told us. The police department, the school system. That’s another failure.”

Jawando asked for an investigation and that the officers be fired.

“I watched in horror as what can only be described as a nightmare unfolded for nearly an hour,” Jawando said in a statement. “It made me sick. We all saw a little boy be mocked, degraded, put in the back of a police car, screamed at from the top of an adult police officer’s lungs, inches from his face. This is violence.”

The agency said it investigated the incident and the officers are still employed. The investigation is shielded under Maryland law.

“A thorough investigation was conducted of the entire event,” the agency said. “The internal investigation has concluded. The findings of this internal investigation, as in all internal matters, are confidential under Maryland law. Both officers remain employed by the Montgomery County Department of Police. Due to pending litigation, the Department has no further comment.”

School district officials were upset by the video.

“It was extremely difficult for us to watch the video of the incident involving a 5-year-old student at East Silver Spring Elementary School. Our heart aches for this student. There is no excuse for adults to ever speak to or threaten a child in this way,” the school district said in a statement. “As parents and grandparents, we know that when families send their children to school, they expect that the staff will care for them, keep them safe and use appropriate intervention processes when needed.”

The union representing Montgomery County police said the incident could have been handled better.

“It is clear, that the event and everything that has come after the event should have been handled better by all involved,” the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 said in a statement. “It’s important to note that unless an officer is assigned to a specialized unit, Montgomery County police officers do not receive training on how to effectively communicate with a young child in distress.”