The Orlando police have fired a school resource officer after he arrested two 6-year-old students at their school on misdemeanour charges on Thursday.
According to WKMG-TV, Officer Dennis Turner, who was initially suspended after the incident, arrested and handcuffed 6-year-old Kaia Rolle, a first-grader at Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy after she reportedly got agitated and kicked someone.
Another 6-year-old, initially thought to be 8 years, was also arrested in a separate incident. Turner transported both children to the Juvenile Detention Center.
Charges against both children were, however, dropped. Authorities also confirmed that Turner did not follow the approved departmental policy of seeking approval from a watch commander before arresting children under 12 years old.
“The first transport officer was not aware an approval was not obtained, and the 8-year-old was processed through the Juvenile Assessment Center. The child was released to a family member a short time later,” Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said, according to WKMG-TV.
The 6-year-old was also returned to the school after it was established that Turner did not follow the correct procedure.
“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,” Rolón added.
Speaking with WKMG-TV, Kaia’s grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, expressed her dismay and shock when she received a call informing her of her grand-daughter’s arrest.
“I said, ‘What do you mean, she was arrested?’ They say there was an incident and she kicked somebody and she’s being charged and she’s on her way,” she said.
To add insult to injury, Kirkland said Turner brushed her off when she told him Kaia’s behaviour was as a result of a medical condition she was suffering from.
“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,’” she added.
Turner’s actions were heavily criticized with most questioning why he would move to arrest two 6-year-old kids.
“No 6-year-old child should be able to tell somebody that they had handcuffs on them,” Kirkland told WKMG-TV.
In the aftermath of the incident, Orlando Rolón released a statement on Monday, announcing that Turner had been relieved of his duties.
“As Chief of Police, one of my top priorities is the trust between the community and our officers and because of this incident that trust has been put in question. Officer Turner was immediately suspended and as of this morning Officer Turner is no longer employed by the Orlando Police Department,” the statement read.
“On behalf of the entire Orlando Police Department, I apologize to the children involved and their families.
As a grandfather, I can understand how traumatic this was for everyone involved.”
This isn’t the first time Turner has had disciplinary issues. According to the Orlando Sentinel, he was served a written reprimand for excessive force after tasing a man five times in 2017 – with the final two coming after the suspect was on the ground and not resisting.
He was also charged with aggravated child abuse in 1998 after welts and bruises were found on his then 7-year-old son’s arms and chest.