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Orlando resident Meralyn Kirkland was shocked last Thursday to learn that her granddaughter had been arrested at her elementary school. Kaia Rolle, who is 6 years old, was throwing a tantrum in class and kicked a staff member when school resource officer Dennis Turner handcuffed her, put her in the back of his cruiser, and drove her to a juvenile detention facility.
By the time Kirkland heard about it, her granddaughter was being fingerprinted and officers had already taken her mug shots. "How do you do that to a 6-year-old child, and because she kicked somebody?" Kirkland said to WKMG. "A literal mug shot of a six-year-old girl."
On the phone with Turner, Kirkland tried to explain that her granddaughter had sleep apnea and was having behavior problems due to exhaustion and lack of sleep. According to WKMG, Kirkland said, "She has a medical condition that we’re working on getting resolved. So he says, 'What medical condition?' I said, 'She has a sleep disorder, sleep apnea.' He says, 'Well, I have sleep apnea and I don’t behave like that.' "
School resource officers (SROs) are police who have been dispatched to provide security to schools. They were relatively rare before the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, but today between 14,000 and 20,000 officers are on 45 percent of campuses across the country, according to a recent federal report. The explosion in number of officers in schools over the past 20 years has resulted in skyrocketing numbers of students being arrested for nonviolent infractions that before would have landed them in detention, like running from a principal's office or talking back to a teacher or an SRO.
Concrete numbers are hard to come by, but thanks to cell-phone footage and lawsuits, we know that students across the country have been assaulted by officers stationed inside their schools. In 2016, the Huffington Post found nearly 90 cases of SROs using Tasers on students between 12 and 19 years old. And in a parallel with the criminal justice system at large, officers are more likely to have altercations with black and Latino students than white ones. According to Education Week, while black students make up 16 percent of the student body nationwide, they represent 31 percent of all school arrests.
In Orlando, officers aren't allowed to arrest anyone under 12 without approval from a superior, which Turner neglected to get for Kaia. It turns out that she isn't even the first elementary student that Turner arrested that day. He reportedly also arrested an 8-year-old before the incident with Kaia, and he's now under investigation for failing to get approval to arrest both of the children. Orlando police chief Orlando Rolón told The Washington Post, "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."
Still, it's a bit perplexing that Turner was stationed in an elementary school at all. It wasn't the first time Turner has been under investigation. In 2016, he reportedly Tasered a man five times, twice while he was on the ground and unresponsive. In 1998, he was charged with abusing his own then 7-year-old son, and in 2003 he was investigated for assaulting the ex-husband of a woman he was dating. Domestic-violence allegations are shockingly widespread among law enforcement: Available figures show that while nationally 10 percent of families experience domestic violence, the number for the families of police officers is as high as 40 percent.
An investigation by the Orlando Sentinel found that from 2010 to 2014, the Orlando Police Department used force 3,100, more than double the rate of similarly sized agencies. In that same time period, the city of Orlando and its insurer paid $3.6 million in police-brutality claims. And data analyst Samuel Sinyangwe pointed out on Twitter that between 2013 and 2018, "Orlando police killed people at 2x higher rate than Baltimore PD, 3x higher than Chicago or LA and 4x higher than the national average."
Talking to local news, Kaia said, "I felt sad that my grandma was sad, and I really missed her." She's supposed to appear in court on October 16. If she fails to appear, the court will issue a warrant for her arrest.
When a 26-year-old American missionary set out for a lush island in the Indian Ocean last year, it was with one objective in mind: to convert the uncontacted Sentinelese tribe, who had lived for centuries in isolation, free from modern technology, disease, and religion. John Chau's mission had ambitions for a great awakening, but what awaited instead was tragedy.
Originally Appeared on GQ