A Florida police officer has been fired after arresting two 6-year-old children in separate incidents last week.
“We are all appalled,” Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said Monday, according to WESH. “We could not fathom the idea of a 6-year-old being put in the back of a police car.”
Rolón said while the investigation into the incident is continuing, he made the decision to terminate Dennis Turner after realizing there was “no choice here,” NBC News reports.
Rolón also apologized to the children and their families for what he described as their wrongful arrests.
“As a grandfather of three children less than 11 years old, I can only imagine how traumatic this was for everyone involved,” he said.
Turner, who worked as a school resource officer, is accused of violating department policy by not going through the proper procedure for arresting young children. As part of the policy, officers are required to get approval from the watch commander before arresting anyone under the age of 12.
However, in two separate incidents, Turner failed to get the proper approval. In one of the incidents, a 6-year-old boy was arrested and processed through the juvenile center before he was eventually released to his parents. In the second incident, a 6-year-old girl was returned to school after another officer realized Turner had not gotten proper approvals.
Initially the department reported that the children were ages 8 and 6; however, on Monday authorities said that both children were actually 6 years old.
Both children were charged with misdemeanor battery, but State Attorney Aramis Ayala said Monday the charges would not be pursued.
“I refuse to knowingly play any role in the school-to-prison pipeline and at any age,” Ayala said, according to WESH. “These very young children are to be protected, nurtured and disciplined in a manner that does not rely on the criminal justice system to do it.”
The young girl’s grandma Meralyn Kirkland told WKMG-TV that she received a call Thursday telling her that her granddaughter, who she identified as Kaia Rolle, had been arrested at the Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy, an elementary charter school, for throwing a tantrum and kicking an employee at the school.
"No 6-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," she said.
Kirkland said she tried to explain her granddaughter suffered from a medical condition and had been struggling with sleep apnea, and told Turner it was something the family was trying to work through.
“He says, ‘Well, I have sleep apnea, and I don’t behave like that,’” Kirkland said.
Turner has reportedly been accused of using excessive force in the past. In 1998, he was arrested by Apopka police after officials found welts and bruises on his own 7-year-old son, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The court case was later dropped by prosecutors, according to court records.
Rolón said an OPD internal affairs department disciplined Turner after allegations were made against the former officer.
Turner had been working in the department’s reserve unit, a special unit for retired officers who want to take on additional duties.
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