By Tara Law
September 22, 2019

A police officer who arrested a 6- and 8-year-old at an Orlando charter school on Thursday is facing an internal investigation.

Police said in statements that Dennis Turner, a member of the police’s volunteer Reserve Officer Program who was working as a school resource officer, failed to get permission to arrest the children from his supervisor, and has been suspended from his duties.

Meralyn Kirkland, the 6-year-old’s grandmother, has spoken out about the incident, telling local reporters from local news channel WKMG that she was shocked that the child, a black first-grader at Lucius & Emma Nixon Elementary in Orlando, was arrested and brought to a Juvenile Detention Center after she misbehaved at school.

Kirkland said that a school resource officer called her to tell her that the child had been arrested for kicking someone at school on Thursday

“What do you mean she was arrested?” Kirkland said that she responded.

Kirkland said she told the officer that her granddaughter suffers from sleep apnea, but the officer responded, “Well I have sleep apnea and I don’t behave like that,” according to WKMG.

Kirkland told WKMG that she learned the child had her mugshot taken and was fingerprinted and charged with battery. Lt. Wanda Miglio, who conducts media relations for the Orlando police, said via email to TIME that the girl’s photo was not taken and she was not fingerprinted.

The Orlando Police Department said in statements that the reserve police officer who arrested the girl, Dennis Turner, had arrested a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old while working as a school resource officer at a charter school. The children, who had been involved in separate incidents, were both arrested on misdemeanor charges.

The police did not release the children’s names, as they are juveniles.

Turner’s supervisors became aware of what had happened during the arrest process, the police said. However, Turner didn’t receive the his supervisor’s permission to arrest the children, in violation of the department’s policy for arresting people under the age of 12.

Police said that the 8-year-old was arrested and processed at a Juvenile Assessment Center. The child was then released to their parents.

The police officer who had transported the 8-year-old didn’t know that the officer had not obtained permission for the arrest, but the officer who arrested the 6-year-old stopped the child from being process once they learned that Turner had not obtained permission for the arrest, according to statements. The child was brought back to school before being brought to the Center.

Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said in a statement that he was concerned by the incident.

“The Orlando Police Department has a policy that addresses the arrest of a minor and our initial finding shows the policy was not followed. As a grandparent of three children less than 11 years old this is very concerning to me,” Rolón said.

Only the race of Kikland’s 6-year-old granddaughter is known. In recent years, reports have called attention to the way black children are disciplined at American schools. Research has shown that black children are disciplined more frequently and severely than their classmates, and black girls in particular. In 2016, the Richmond, Va., branch of the NAACP filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights which asserted that black children with disabilities were disciplined more harshly than their peers.

 

Write to Tara Law at tara.law@time.com.

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