A Florida school resource officer is out of a job following an internal affairs investigation into reports that he arrested two students, both under the age of 10, in two separate incidents at school last week.
Dennis Turner, an Orlando Police Department officer, was initially placed on leave after officials say he violated policy when he arrested 6-year-old Kaia Rolle for an in-school tantrum, local station WKMG reported. Turner also handcuffed an unnamed 8-year-old student that same day.
The incident unfolded Thursday at Lucious and Emma Nixon Elementary, a charter school in Orlando. Rolle’s grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, said she was shocked when she got a phone call saying her grandchild had been arrested and carted off to a juvenile detention facility.
“[I asked] What do you mean she was arrested, and he said ‘there was an incident and she kicked somebody and she is being charged and she is on her way,’ ” Kirkland recalled to the outlet.
The first grader was charged with battery after allegedly kicking a school staffer who was trying to calm her down. She was handcuffed and taken to a nearby detention center, where her grandmother says officials fingerprinted the girl and even took her mug shot.
Her outraged grandmother said Kaia, 6, suffers from sleep apnea and the lack of sleep sometimes causes her to act out. When she tried explaining this to Turner, Kirkland said he dismissed it.
“She has a medical condition that we’re working on getting resolved, and he says, ‘What medical condition?’ ” Kirkland recalled. I [said], she has a sleep disorder, sleep apnea,’ and he says, ‘Well, I have sleep apnea, and I don’t behave like that.’ “
She added: “No 6-year-old child should be able to tell somebody that they had handcuffs on them and they were riding in the back of a police car and taken to a juvenile center to be fingerprinted, mug shot.”
The arrest and processing was ultimately stopped, however, after a police supervisor learned what was going on. Per department policy, an officer must seek a supervisor’s approval before arresting anyone under the age of 12. Turner failed to do that.
Police Chief Orlando Rolón said the incident was “very concerning.”
“This will not stop,” Rolón said of the investigation. “But at my level, I have the opportunity to be able to exercise that and when I came in today, I knew there was no choice here. He was going to be terminated.”
“Our Department strives to deliver professional and courteous service,” he added. “My staff and I are committed to exceeding those standards and expectations.”
The 8-year-old child, who was arrested on separate misdemeanor charges, was processed at the juvenile detention facility and later released into the custody of relatives, according to Buzzfeed News.
State Attorney Aramis Ayala told reporters Monday that her office had no intention of prosecuting the schoolchildren. She’s already dismissed Kaia’s case and said the 8-year-old’s case “too will be immediately dismissed” once it’s assigned.
“I refuse to knowingly play any role in the school-to-prison pipeline,” said Ayala. “The criminal process ends here today. These children will not be prosecuted.”
Kaia, 6, said she was glad to be back home with family but grew sad when she saw her grandmother fighting back tears over the ordeal.
“I felt sad that my grandma was sad, and I really missed her,” the young tot told WKMG.
Last week’s arrests aren’t the first time Turner has found himself in hot water over his misconduct. The Orlando cop has previous complaints of excessive force, including an incident detailed in a 2016 report from The Orlando Sentinel about the officer using a Taser on a man five times.
Additionally, 20-year department veteran was reportedly once arrested on charges of aggravated child abuse for assaulting his 7-year-old son, and was investigated after attacking his ex-wife’s new boyfriend.
Atlanta Black Star has reached out to Orlando Police to confirm these claims.
An internal investigation into the children’s arrests remains ongoing.
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