Florida Officer Under Investigation for Arresting and Charging 6-Year-Old Girl for Throwing a Tantrum

Screenshot: WKMG TV

A school resource officer has been suspended after arresting and charging a 6-year-old Orlando girl for throwing a tantrum in school.

Kaia Rolle, a student at the Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy charter school in Orange County, threw a tantrum in class last Thursday because her sleep apnea prevented her from sleeping well the night before, her grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, told WKMG-TV. The girl was sent out of class to talk to school administrators, Kaia’s grandmother said. When a staff member grabbed Kaia’s wrists, the little girl kicked back.

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In other words, Kaia acted like a child.

But the routine reaction was enough for school resource officer Dennis Turner to charge and arrest Kaia and charge her with battery. She was taken to a juvenile detention center, fingerprinted and photographed.

Kirkland attempted to talk down Turner after hearing about her granddaughter’s punishment.

“She has a medical condition that we are working on getting resolved, and he says, ‘What medical condition?’” Kirkland recounted to WKMG. “‘She has a sleep disorder, sleep apnea,’ and he says, ‘Well, I have sleep apnea, and I don’t behave like that.’

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Turner is now being investigated by the Orlando Police Department for his actions that day, which included arresting another 8-year-old girl in a separate incident, reports the Washington Post:

Turner is accused of not following the department’s policy regarding juvenile arrests and has been suspended from his duties pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said in a statement to The Washington Post. According to the policy, any arrests of minors under the age of 12 needs approval from a supervisor, which police say Turner did not obtain.

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Both children were charged with misdemeanors.

As the Post reports, Turner is a retired Orlando PD officer who was previously reprimanded for excessive force. In a 2015 incident, Turner reportedly Tasered a man five times, including twice when the man on the floor and was not resisting. According to the Orlando Sentinel, it was the sole case out of at least 12 excessive force complaints on the force that year in which an officer wasn’t cleared.

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Turner is currently assigned to the Reserve Officer Program, comprising mostly retired officers, writes the Post.

Kirkland was visibly emotional as she described her granddaughter’s traumatic experience.

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“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, mug shot,” Kirkland said.

As she sat on the couch talking to WKMG reporters, the first-grader tried to comfort her grandmother.

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“I felt sad that my grandmother is sad,” she said, curled up on her grandmother’s chest.

Despite the outcry against Turner’s arrests—including calls for him to be fired—WKMG reports that Kaia still has an upcoming court date.

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Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?