Newly released body camera footage shows two Maryland police officers handcuffing and berating a 5-year-old boy who had allegedly left school without permission.
The Montgomery County Police Department released the video on Friday. It was recorded in January 2020 and contains disturbing content.
“I watched in horror as what can only be described as a nightmare unfolded for nearly an hour,” Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando said in a tweeted statement. “It made me sick.”
The video begins after police find the boy, who is not identified, on what appears to be a residential street in southern Maryland near the Washington border.
“Listen to me. How old are?” an unidentified officer asks the boy.
“Five,” the child responds.
“Five? You feel like you can make your own decisions?” the police officer asks. “You feel like you can do what you want?”
The child becomes agitated shortly after and begins to cry and scream. Police walk the boy to the back of the patrol car and the yelling continues.
“You better stop,” police say to the boy.
As the 50-minute video unfolds, the interactions between law enforcement officers and the child escalate. The boy sobs and appears inconsolable as officers repeatedly tell him that he is “bad” and should be beaten.
“Does your mama spank you? Does your mama spank you? She’s going to spank you today,” one of the officers can be heard saying.
When the boy doesn’t stop crying, a police officer screams just inches from his face. Later, after the child was reunited with his mother, a police officer takes out at a pair of handcuffs and places the little boy’s wrists inside them.
“You know what these are for? These are for people who don’t want to listen and don’t know how to act,” the officer says to the boy.
Montgomery County police said in a statement that both officers remained employed with the department following an internal investigation, whose complete findings are confidential under Maryland law.
The boy’s mother filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Montgomery County, Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County Police Department, NBC Washington reported. She is seeking compensation and justice for the child’s trauma.
In a statement, Montgomery County school officials said the video is “extremely difficult for us to watch.”
“Our heart aches for this student. There is no excuse for adults to ever speak to or threaten a child in this way,” the statement read in part. “As parents and grandparents, we know that when families send their children to school, they expect that the staff will care for them, keep them safe and use appropriate intervention processes when needed.”
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, the union representing Montgomery County police, declined to comment on the matter, citing pending litigation.
Community organizers have drafted an open letter calling for the officers to be suspended or fired.
“The incident made national news, but over a year later, it has not been fully addressed. This delay in accountability is unjustifiable and unacceptable,” they said in the letter.