Baltimore’s municipal police force is leading a criminal investigation into a video showing a school police officer striking and kicking a young man, officials announced late Wednesday.
The short video clip shows a uniformed officer striking a young man three times across the face while using profanities and then kicking him once as he walks away. In the video, another officer can be seen standing nearby.
#WJZ #BREAKING: What made a police officer slap and kick a young man at a city school? We’ll have more details tonight at 11 p.m on this shocking video:http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2016/03/01/baltimore-school-police-officer-seen-slapping-young-man-in-video/
Posted by WJZ-TV | CBS Baltimore on Tuesday, March 1, 2016
The police chief for Baltimore’s public school system, Marshall Goodwin, and the two unidentified officers in the video were placed on administrative leave, school officials said Wednesday.
In Baltimore, the school police force is separate from the municipal police force. Acting school police chief Akil Hamm asked the city’s police department to handle the criminal investigation, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.
“This is the right thing to do in a case like this and I have assigned [the Special Investigation Response Team] to handle all aspects of this criminal investigation,” Davis said in a statement late Wednesday.
Many of the details surronding the incident remain murky. It took place Tuesday on the steps at REACH Partnership School, but officials said they are investigating what led up to the scene in the video and what happened after the clip ends, said Baltimore city schools spokeswoman Edie House Foster.
The video was “absolutely appalling” and the behavior it depicts is “unacceptable,” Foster said. “That is not how our police interact with students, administrators or anyone in our school communities.”
Officers were responding to reports of two “intruders” at REACH whose presence was considering threatening, Hamm told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday. From the Sun:
The officers moved the two young men outside, Hamm said. He said school officials had determined that the two were not students by consulting with school administrators, who could not identify them. He said police wanted the community’s help identifying them.
Foster, the schools spokeswoman, said the young man in the video is not a student at REACH, but officials still don’t know his identity, including whether he’s a student at another school.
But Lauren Geisser, an attorney who says she represents a 10th-grader at REACH, told the Associated Press that her client is the subject of the video.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake weighed in Wednesday, also calling the incident “appalling” and adding: “The behavior that was demonstrated on the video, you never want to see anyone treated like that,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
Foster declined to identify the two officers in the video, which school officials didn’t learn about until late Tuesday, when approached by CBS Baltimore affilate WJZ.
Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the school police union, told the Sun, “We are waiting for the department to conduct a full and complete investigation.”
The video that surfaced this week comes during a time of increased scrutiny on the interaction between law enforcement and communities of color, and the presence of police in schools. A video showing a white male school resource officer in South Carolina slamming a black female student to the ground last year sparked national outrage and a federal investigation.
Last year, a Baltimore City school police officer pleaded guilty to assaulting three female students. Surveillance footage from 2014 showed officer Lakisha Pulley using a baton on the middle school students at Vanguard Collegiate Middle School.
Both the officer and the young man in the video filmed Tuesday at REACH appear to be black.
City Bloc, a grass-roots Baltimore student organization founded by 17-year-old Makayla Gilliam-Price, called for the officer to be fired.
“As students, we come to school to learn, and all people in schools, whether teachers, administrators, or, yes, school police officers, should be committed to making that happen in an effective and safe manner,” City Bloc said in a statement Wednesday. “It is clear that there are serious problems in the school police department that must be rectified immediately for the sake of student safety.”
Rawlings-Blake said the community’s trust in police could be further eroded by what is seen in the video.
“Anytime there is a law enforcement officer with that level of authority that seems to be abusing that authority, it impacts all of us across the country,” the mayor said, according to the Sun. “It certainly is not helpful as we work to build bridges of trust to see that level of mistreatment.”
This story, originally published March 2, has been updated.