The release of a shocking video showing a Baltimore school police officer slapping and kicking a young man at a city school is a distressing reminder of persistent police violence against unarmed Black youth. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. (LDF) condemns the actions of the officer in the video and calls for a thorough and transparent investigation of the incident as well as any other cases of use-of-force by school police.
Yesterday’s incident underscores the urgency of LDF’s requests [here and here] to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to expand its civil rights investigation of the Baltimore Police Department (BDP) to the school police force to determine whether school police are engaging in a pattern or practice of excessive use-of-force. Last year, another school police officer pled guilty to assault charges for pepper spraying three Black middle school girls and hitting one on the head with a baton, an incident also caught on video.
The expansion of DOJ’s probe to include the school police force is necessary because of the close working relationship that BPD has with the school police. According to documents LDF received from the Baltimore City Public Schools System through a public records request, the BPD and school system have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that allows school police to engage in law enforcement city wide, essentially deputizing school police officers to patrol city streets. As a result of this agreement, the assaultive behavior displayed by the officer in the most recent video could have occurred on a city street by a school police officer who does not report to BPD command.
LDF is concerned that having police in schools results in more police interactions for incidents that have traditionally been handled by school personnel. In our letter to DOJ, we noted that in 2014, over one-third (34 percent) of youth arrests by school police were for minor infractions, such as trespassing, disorderly conduct and common assaults (presumably shoving matches). Police violence in schools, which should be safe spaces for children, and the expanded yet unsupervised authority of school police on Baltimore streets must end.
LDF urges the Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools to join our request to DOJ to expand its civil rights investigation of policing practices to the school police force. Doing so would ensure that students are not subjected to abusive and unlawful policing in and outside of school. We urge DOJ to immediately provide a written response to our request.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.