SILVER SPRING, Md. — Social-justice groups in Maryland’s largest jurisdiction are calling on lawmakers to reform policing in schools after the release of body-cam footage which shows Montgomery County Police officers screaming at and handcuffing a 5-year-old kindergartener.

Will Jawando, Montgomery County Council member, said the January 2020 footage is disturbing and should have been released months ago.

The boy had left the grounds of his school, East Silver Spring Elementary, and was taken into custody with a Montgomery County School administrator standing by, as police officers also mocked the child as he began to cry.

Jawando contended the police department’s delay in taking responsibility for the incident is unacceptable and the officers should be fired.

“Calling him a nasty little thing, saying they’re going to beat him. Putting him in handcuffs. It’s just unfathomable,” Jawando asserted. “And then the MCPS employees who stood there and watched it happen and didn’t intervene. This is a failure of multiple systems and there needs to be full accountability on all sides.”

In a statement, Montgomery County police said the investigation of the two police officers involved has concluded and the findings are confidential. Both officers remain on the force. The child’s family has filed a lawsuit against the department.

Lauren Payne, president of the social-justice group Young People for Progress and a Montgomery County high school senior, said she’s not surprised by the police response.

She thinks incidents like these are too common in Maryland and across the nation because of what she sees as corrupt police systems.

“In Montgomery County, we have this false sense of progressiveness, and we think that the county is ahead on all these issues, but we’re really not,” Payne stated. “I have five older Black brothers who have had negative encounters with police their whole entire lives. So that’s why I really don’t hold them to be any different from any other cop in an area. I think they’re all part of a bad system.”

Her group is pushing the Maryland Legislature to approve two bills in the General Assembly, the Counselors Not Cops Act, and the Police Free Schools Act, that would reduce policing in public schools, which experts say disproportionately impacts students of color.

During the 2018-2019 school year, data showed more than 3,000 students were arrested in Maryland and Black students accounted for 56% of arrests.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service

Diane Bernard is a digital and radio journalist based in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area with more than 10 years of journalism experience. Her print and online credits include work for The Washington...

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