DETROIT (WWJ) – A security video filmed in the halls of Detroit’s largest high school is causing shock among the community — it shows what some are calling “police brutality” against a 15-year-old female student.
Detroit Public Schools Police say proper procedures were followed in the incident last winter, just before 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 9 at Cass Tech High School, according to markers on the video.
According to a the police report, the police were called about an unruly student who tried to ride the elevator with an expired elevator pass.
The five minute-long video starts with a Detroit Public Schools police officer marching behind the student and pushing her into a corner in a hallway outside the school’s book store, which is located on the upper floor.
After standing there for a moment, the two start to walk away with the officer’s hand firmly on the student’s backpack. When the student takes out her cell phone, the officer apparently becomes enraged and slaps the phone out of her hands. He then swings the student to the side by her backpack while he picks up the phone. When the student tries to walk away, the officer goes after her and grabs her backpack. He again pushes her into the corner but this time, he does it with such force that the student’s head appears to hit the wall. She then falls to the floor and cowers in the corner, refusing the officer’s orders to get up.
Comments on the video from people who describe themselves as current and former students decry the incident, and the man who posted the video headlined it as police brutality. The video description says: “15 yr old student gets beat and pepper sprayed by DPS POLICE at school. There are several worse videos of this 15 yr old student being assaulted by this DPS POLICE officer.”
One You Tube commentator wrote “just evil.”
“Are we serious? I’m no longer proud to say I graduated from this place,” one former student wrote in a comment on You Tube.
In the video, another male officer eventually appears along with a female officer and female administrator. The next few minutes are relatively uneventful. Conversations are taking place and a phone call is made, but the video does not include audio.
Eventually, the officer again attempts to get the student on her feet by pulling on her arms. When the student continues to resist, the officer reaches to his waist and grabs something not visible on the video but what has been described as pepper spray. The student pulls her jacket up around her face, purportedly to block her eyes from the irritant. The officer grabs the student’s arms as the female guard also steps in. What happens next isn’t exactly clear because the officers are blocking the student from the camera.
The struggle between the student and the two officers goes on for about 50 seconds as two bystanders shake their heads in disbelief. At this point, the first officer attempts to use increased force again, yanking the student around by her arms and kicking her in either the leg or crotch region.
Seconds later the student scrambles to her feet before falling backward into the officer. When the student gets on her hands and knees in an attempt to stand up, the other male officer grabs around her backpack. As the student is lifted to her feet, she rubs her eyes — apparently from the irritating pepper spray. The student continues to struggle and kick her legs as the officer pulls her up by her backpack and carries her down the hallway, with just her tip-toes touching the ground. The group then walks out of frame.
Asked about the video, Michelle Zdrodowski, Executive Director of Communications for the Detroit school district, released the following statement.
“The Detroit Public Schools Police Department conducted a thorough investigation beginning on December 12, 2015 in response to a complaint filed surrounding the actions in the video. Judge Rhodes has reviewed the video, documentation involved in this investigation and is satisfied that this matter was appropriately addressed by the Detroit Public Schools Police Department. Consistent with Judge Rhodes’ commitment to transparency, the District is releasing the report filed by the Detroit Public Schools Police Department regarding the incident in question. In adherence to the FERPA law, names of students have been redacted.
“According to the DPS Police Department’s final report, it was deemed that the officer followed proper procedures as outlined in the Force Continuum Policy contained in the DPS Police Officer Manual. In addition, the report outlines that several witnesses were interviewed, statements were consistent and the conclusions were justified by the evidence.”
According to figures from DPS, 2,328 students are enrolled at Cass Tech, which employs 119 faculty and staff members.
The DPS Police Department is the state’s only full-service school district police agency and includes 78 police officers patrolling schools 24-7. The DPS-PD also has 43 campus police officers assigned to all high schools, and at other critical sites.
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