A sheriff’s deputy attached to a public school in Florida has been arrested on child abuse charges without great bodily harm.
Deputy Willard Miller of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was charged Tuesday after surveillance footage caught him slamming a 15-year-old student on the ground.
Sheriff Gregory Tony released the footage of the incident that occurred on September 25 at Cross Creek School in Pompano Beach, Fla., and it starts with the student and Deputy Miller standing in a room together. Two others are sitting on chairs. The white teenager walks up behind the sheriff’s deputy and nudges him in the back of the knee with her foot causing him to buckle while watching on his phone.
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Deputy Miller, 38, can be seen talking to the girl in the audio-less footage for a minute before grabbing her by the neck, slams her on her back, flips her over onto her stomach and locks her down while pinning her wrists together.
Addressing a news conference Tuesday to announce the arrest of Deputy Miller, Sheriff Tony said what was said in the room didn’t matter. “The way the deputy responds, for whatever occurred, whatever type of verbal dialogue was going on, it makes no sense and it wasn’t necessary,” he said.
“I would hope that every cop in America would disagree with that type of response,” he added.
Deputy Willard has been with Broward County Sheriff’s Office since August 2016 and was assigned to the school in February 2018. He has been charged with one count of child abuse without causing great bodily harm, a third-degree felony. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. He was suspended from the sheriff’s office without pay on October 28.
He appeared in court Tuesday and was released on a $5,000 bond, according to Veda Coleman-Wright, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has been under heightened scrutiny since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 which left 17 dead.
A state commission investigating the shooting found that eight deputies had ignored protocol for active shooters that calls for pursuing a gunman to try to disarm him.
Last month the Florida senate voted to remove Sheriff Tony’s predecessor over the lazy response to the massacre.
Sheriff Tony said that the arrest of Deputy Miller reflected a changing culture at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office that increasingly prioritized disciplinary action for misbehaving deputies.
“If they fail in the field to perform their jobs,” he said, “it’s my responsibility to hold them accountable.”