As seen in...
ABC News
Washington Post
The Economist
The Atlantic
National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

What Did The Police Teach Your Child Today?


Updated 10/09/09 02:35

One of the more notorious stories this week comes from Dolton Illinois where a 15-year-old student who suffers from a learning disability caused by a brain injury was apparently assaulted at a special needs school by a Dolton police department “school resource officer”.

That officer apparently took issue with the child’s untucked shirt and this issue escalated into a one-sided attack in which a controversial take-down method called “a face-down take-down” was used which resulted in a broken nose and facial lacerations for the student. That move has been banned in at least 8 states since it’s responsible for at least 20 deaths.

It was only in recent times when local governments decided that placing police officers in schools, and calling them “School Resource Officers” was a good idea, all in the name of student safety. Of course, it’s hard to argue against the idea given a few high profile school shootings such as what happened in Columbine Colorado.

However, cases like what is alleged to have happened in Dolton Illinois should cause parents some pause about whether loading their schools up with these “resource officers” is such a good idea as it’s currently implemented. After all, to argue that their presence enhances safety it also has to be true that their presence doesn’t also put children at undue risk too.

More than this, even, law enforcement agencies must be mindful that, in these days of public relations pushes focused on establishing trust in the police, that the lessons learned by people in their youth make far more impact than a PR push targeting them when they are adults… Indeed, the lessons learned by children in school last a lifetime, so one wonders what school resource officers are teaching our children in our schools…

For example, in just the last couple months:

In Tolleson Arizona, they teach kids about gun safety at a very young age after an armed elementary school resource officer accidentally shot one of his fingers off while kids were being released from school.

In Dougherty County Georgia, 11-year-old girls have learned that refusing to have your picture taken will get you choked and arrested.

In Ladysmith Wisconsin, 16-year-old girls have learned that sexting cops is cool. Why? Because down the road in Milton Wisconsin students there already learned that police officers don’t get in trouble for sexting and molesting high school students.

In Penn Hills Pennsylvania, however, students there learned that police only like it when the girls use cell phones in the halls because when you’re a boy you get electrocuted and charged with a felony for it.

In Toledo Ohio, a 16-year-old girl learned an ugly lesson about sexual assault from a cop who was assigned as a school resource officer despite a history of groping women at traffic stops. They also seem to be letting school resource officers teach sexual education in Vicksburg Mississippi and Pinellas Florida too.

And just today in West Valley Utah, a school resource officer was arrested after sending what he thought was a 15-year-old boy pornography via email and arranging a meeting with the presumed teen for sex, fortunately for the students he guarded, the boy was actually an undercover officer.

Obviously, I doubt that anyone will be able to convince people to rethink the idea about putting armed police officers who are trained to think of their own safety before anything else in our schools to “protect” our children. But, I think it would be a reasonable thing to ask that law enforcement agencies consider being more careful about choosing officers with the right temperament for working with children and carefully retraining them to be less aggressive when placing them in our schools.

After all, if what happened in Dolton Illinois teaches us anything, it’s that putting a police officer with aggression issues, who is three times the size of the kids around him, in our schools can be as dangerous a proposition as not putting any officers in our schools at all… lest they really want to get a head-start on teaching the next generation that it might be best not to trust the police at all.

UPDATE: According to the Chicago Tribune, Dolton Illinois police officer Christopher Loyd, shown in the video leading this story assaulting special needs student Marshawn Pitts, is now in an Indiana jail on charges relating to an alleged sexual assault where “he held a pillow over the woman’s face while sexually assaulting her Sept. 14 and had previously threatened her with a knife“.

Additionally, it appears as though he was involved in a controversial fatal shooting incident that he claimed was self-defense that he is now being sued for, by his ex-wife who claims that he murdered the man she married after him outside of their home and in front of her children. Her husband was shot 24 times, but the Chicago police never charged him because they accepted his version of events without question.

How any law enforcement agency would think it was a good idea to place a cop with this kind of troubling history in a school full of special needs children is beyond any iota of rationality.

Creative Commons License
This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.