Critics: Video shows need to reform Baltimore school police

AP News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2016 10:37 PM

Child advocacy groups demanded reform of Baltimore public school police policies as city police conducted a criminal investigation Thursday into a cellphone video showing an officer slapping and kicking a young man inside a school.

The male officer, identified by his lawyer as 44-year-old Anthony C. Spence, as well as a female officer shown standing by in the eight-second clip and Baltimore School Police Chief Marshall Goodwin have all been placed on paid administrative leave pending internal and external investigations into the Tuesday incident at REACH Partnership School.

Baltimore is the only Maryland city whose school district has its own police force, separate from municipal police. The school system asked city police to conduct a criminal investigation, which city police Lt. Jarron Jackson said was in the early stages Thursday.

Attorney Mike Davey told The Baltimore Sun that client Spence thought the boy was trespassing on school grounds and questioned him. Davey said he could not go into specifics because of the ongoing investigation.

According to the Sun, Spence was fired by the Baltimore City Sheriff's Office in 2003 after he and another deputy Tasered a man they mistook for a bank robber. Maryland court records also show that a protective order was filed against Spence in a 2011 domestic violence case.

The video illustrates deep-seated problems requiring systemic reform, said the Maryland Coalition to Reform School Discipline, a group that includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the Maryland NAACP and the state public defender's office. There have been several incidents of school police using unwarranted force against students, spokesman Evan Serpick said in a statement.

The lack of outside oversight is unacceptable and potentially dangerous, Serpick said.

"The Baltimore city community needs to have a serious conversation about whether police belong in schools at all," he said. "If police are going to be in our schools, they must be a positive, supportive force that creates safer environments for our children."

At least two mayoral candidates also weighed in. One of them, Democratic civil-rights activist DeRay Mckesson, said in a statement that the officer who hit the youth should be fired.

State Sen. Catherine Pugh, who is also running for the Democratic nomination, called in a statement for a thorough and transparent investigation of the incident.

It's not clear what led up to the encounter, or what happened after the camera stopped recording. Jackson said the video would not be released immediately because it is part of the investigation.

When The Associated Press attempted to contact Spence by phone, the person who answered hung up.

Acting Baltimore School Police Chief Akil Hamm said officers were called to the school for a report of intruders on campus. He said the youth was not a student at REACH, but the young man's lawyer, Lauren Geisser, said he is a 10th-grader listed on the school's enrollment roster.