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US police officer arrested two six-year-olds in school

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A police officer who arrested two six-year-old children in a Florida school has been suspended and the incident will be investigated, police said Monday.

The grandmother of one of the children, Kaia Rolle, said she was arrested after she threw a temper tantrum and kicked somebody.

The incident has revived the debate over the role of police officers in public schools, 46 percent of which have an officer present for at least one day a week.

Reservist police officer Dennis Turner arrested the two children in separate incidents last Thursday, the Orlando police department told AFP in a statement.

Meralyn Kirkland, Kaia Rolle’s grandmother, told local media her granddaughter suffered from sleep apnea and was acting up from a lack of sleep. She said a member of staff grabbed the girl by the wrists after she had acted up in class, and that the girl then kicked the person.

Some media reports had suggested she kicked another student.

She said she was contacted by the school and that she tried in vain to dissuade the police officer from arresting the little African-American girl.

“I said, ‘What do you mean, she was arrested?'” she told a local television news channel WKMG-TV. “They say there was an incident and she kicked somebody and she’s being charged and she’s on her way,”

When she told the police officer the girl suffered from sleep apnea, she said the policeman replied, “Well, I have sleep apnea, and I don’t behave like that.”

“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,” the grandmother said.

Orlando police said the police van had turned back before reaching the juvenile center and the girl returned to school because Turner had not obtained the necessary permission from a supervisor to arrest a child aged less than 12 years.

The other six-year-old, however, was taken to a juvenile center before being released to the child’s parents because the driver was not aware that he did not have the green light.

Turner was immediately suspended following the incident, the Orlando police department said.

“As a grandparent of three children less than 11 years old, this is very concerning to me,” police chief Orlando Rolon told the new channel.

Turner, who is also African-American, had served on the Orlando police force for 23 years before retiring last year, the New York Times said. He then joined a program of reservists protecting schools.

According to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, he was arrested in 1998 for allegedly assaulting his 7-year-old son after the child came home from school with a ‘bad report card.’

The Sentinel also reported that the department issued Turner a written reprimand in 2015 for Tasing a suspect five times, including twice while the man lay prone on the ground.

Deadly school shootings, including one in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in 2012, and one in Parkland, Florida, last year, have led to an increase in the number of police officers being assigned to schools, where they are deployed to protect students and prevent violence and drug use.

Their presence, however, has proven controversial, as they can arrest children who would have otherwise been handled by school disciplinary procedures.

The reluctance of the school protection officer to confront the gunman during the Parkland shooting, in which 17 people were killed as the officer remained outside the campus, added to the debate about the merits of having officers in schools.


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