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Florida Officials Say Officer Who Punched 14-Year-Old Girl Did Not Violate Any Policies

The Coral Springs officer who was under fire last week for striking a teenage girl in the ribs while detaining her, will not be disciplined for his actions.

South Floridian officials came to the conclusion that Officer Paul James did not use excessive force or violate any policy after conducting an investigation into the incident. Therefore, he will not be punished for his actions according to the Sun-Sentinel.

“What he did was not justified at all,” the teen’s mother Jessica Dennis told Good Morning America during an interview. “He totally was wrong. He totally went overboard, because she wasn’t resisting.”

Paul James

(Twitter Video Screenshot)

On Thursday afternoon, security officials of Coral Square Mall reported to cops that around 30 teenagers who were released from school on early release were harassing, fighting and spewing profanity toward shoppers. The arrest report said security escorted the teens off the premises for trespassing, but the kids later returned including Dennis’ daughter.

Officer Nicole Hildebrandt stated in her report that as police escorted the group out of the mall again, the 14-year-old began “causing a scene, cursing at security in the presence of officers while attempting to incite the other juveniles.”

Hildebrandt claimed the girl refused to comply with officers and was then put down in the grass to be handcuffed. That’s when Officer James hit the young girl in the side three times until she complied.

“No policy was violated,” said Coral Springs Police Officer Tyler Reik stated on Monday. “The officers went through what they are trained to do and to de-escalate the situation. We try verbal compliance first, and obviously that wasn’t working. … Nothing in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement use-of-force matrix says you cannot strike a subject to gain compliance if other methods are attempted. Our command staff supports our officers. If she didn’t come back to the mall a second time, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Broward Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes said that internal affairs and investigators should re-examine the incident.

“I think the officers involved should be put on leave until the internal affairs investigation is completed,” Weekes told the news outlet. “And it needs to be transparent so that the child, the community and stakeholders can understand what happened and rest assured that law enforcement officers are not using a heavy-handed approach when interacting with people in the community.”

Attorney Meeghan Moldof who’s representing the young girl said her client has never had a criminal record.

“She’s a sweet girl,” said Moldof. “This could be anyone’s child. She’s never been in trouble before.” She added, “He’s a trained police officer to deal with situations like this. He could have done a number of other things.”

Coral Springs police officers do not wear body cameras, but Weekes said he believes this incident is the reason as to why they use them.

The 14-year-old girl was placed on house detention and has been banned from the mall for a year. She’s facing three charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, obstructing an officer without violence and trespassing after a warning.

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