(TMU) — A police officer in Florida is facing suspension after arresting two young 6-year-old children as the Orlando Police Department investigates the incidents, which raise fresh questions about the over-policing of school children in the United States—as well as the arresting officer’s own violent past and record of excessive force.
Orlando Police Officer Dennis Turner was on duty as a school resource officer at Lucius and Emma Nixon Academy Charter School when he arrested the children in separate incidents on misdemeanor charges on Thursday, NBC News reported.
Local news outlet WFLA reported that the 6-year-old girl, Kaia Rolle, was charged with battery after kicking a classmate at her K-5 school—a problem that her grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, attributed to behavioral issues related to sleep apnea.
“What do you mean she was arrested, he said ‘there was an incident and she kicked somebody and she is being charged and she is on her way.’
She has a medical condition that we are working on getting resolved and he says, ‘what medical condition, she has a sleep disorder, sleep apnea,’ and he says, ‘well I have sleep apnea and I don’t behave like that.”
Following her arrest, the first-grader was booked at a local juvenile detention center 8 miles from the incident. According to Kirkland, her granddaughter was handcuffed, fingerprinted, and even had her mug shots taken.
“They told us we had to wait a few minutes because Kaia was being fingerprinted, and when she said fingerprinted it hit me like a ton of bricks.
No six-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.”
While Kaia was released back to her school prior to being processed, a 6-year-old boy arrested in a separate incident was processed at the juvenile detention center. While police had initially identified the boy as 8 years old, State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Aramis D. Ayala later clarified that the boy was only six.
Ayala told reporters that he intends to drop all charges, explaining:
“Case numbers are generated by our clerk’s office and it is only at that point that I, as a state attorney, is authorized to act.
A case number pertaining to the 6-year-old girl was provided to my office this morning and the charges were dropped this morning.”
Ayala added that once the boy’s case number is received, “it too will be immediately dismissed.”
6-YEAR-OLD ARRESTED: State attorney addressing arrest of 6-year-old Orlando girl and suspension of the officer https://bit.ly/2mz75fS
Posted by WFLA News Channel 8 on Monday, September 23, 2019
According to Heavy, a 1998 report shows that an Orlando Police officer by the name of Dennis L. Turner had been arrested for the alleged beating of his own 7-year-old son. While it remains uncertain if this is the same officer involved in the arrests, no other police officers in Orlando have the same name.
And in 2003, a sheriff in a nearby county demanded that the state attorney’s office investigate the officer after Turner allegedly threatened the husband of a woman he was said to have dated.
Then, in 2016, the Orlando Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Review Board upheld an internal police investigation that found Turner used excessive force during an arrest.
That same year, the Orlando Sentinel report on police excessive force named Turner as one of the officers involved in a brutality case:
“Dennis Turner, a 20-year department veteran who used a Taser on a man five times. The last two jolts came after the suspect was on the floor and had stopped resisting. Turner was given a written reprimand for excessive force.”
In a statement, OPD Chief Orlando Rolón said that Turner was acting out of line for making the arrests without first seeking clearance from department leadership. Rolón said:
“The Orlando Police Department has a policy that addresses the arrest of a minor and our initial finding shows the policy was not followed.
As a grandparent of three children less than 11 years old this is very concerning to me.
Our Department strives to deliver professional and courteous service. My staff and I are committed to exceeding those standards and expectations.”
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