In the face of mounting criticism over the arrest of 10 elementary school children, a Tennessee police chief has offered an apology, admitting mistakes were made by his officers that day.
Murfreesboro Police Chief Karl Durr issued the apology after livid parents demanded answers at a community meeting following the arrests of students at Hobgood Elementary School and other locations on April 15, The Associated Press reports.
Durr spoke with The Tennessean and expressed remorse concerning the situation, saying that it all could have been avoided.
“Errors were made, and now we are going to correct them moving forward and fix them so they are not repeated,” the police chief said.
The elementary school students were handcuffed and arrested for failing to stop a fight. Some were even transported to a juvenile detention facility. The arrests were made in connection with a bullying and assault incident that occurred days earlier at a location off campus, according to The Tennessean.
The paper also reports that the two children actually involved in the assault were not charged because of their young age. The witnesses of the crime however, were charged with “criminal responsibility for conduct of another,” which includes neglecting to make a reasonable effort to prevent an offense from happening, according to the Tennessee criminal offense code.
As of now, there are no plans to dismiss the charges.
Durr emphasized that an internal investigation of the incident is ongoing and says he hopes to achieve three goals: determining if any policies have been violated by the department or if there is policy that is lacking; determining what training may be needed as a result of the incident; and determining if there was any department misconduct in this case, The Tennessean reports.
“We’re also going to have to be transparent and accountable for what’s occurred, and I am going to have to take responsibility for any wrong that’s happened and acknowledge it and fix it,” he said. “That means the changing of policies and practices.”
The police chief also pointed out that at least one of the students involved in the bullying case is currently involved in a larger criminal investigation, per The Associated Press.
“Remember there was a victim here, too, so if my officers didn’t do their job that day, and we ignored the victim, what would this conversation be today?” Durr said. “That we failed to do our job.”
Staci Higdon, whose second-grade daughter attends Hobgood Elementary, finds the arrests baffling and says her daughter was afraid to go to school after she understood what happened. Her child was not arrested nor did she witness the arrests.
“There’s a great concern for the children that were involved,” Higdon said. “What kind of scarring effects this might have on the children. What later implications it may have on the children putting them through the criminal justice system.”
“It stigmatizes the school and the administration, and it also stigmatizes the community,” she continued. “The police say that we do not know the whole story, and I have tried to imagine what the story would be that would justify them coming into the school and handcuffing them and arresting them — it’s just not possible.”
Durr knows it may take a long time to regain the trust of the Murfreesboro community, but plans to apologize directly to parents and students involved in the incident, The Tennessean reports.
“I’m sorry for what happened,” Durr said. “And the pain that it has caused this community throughout.”