Body camera footage released last Friday shows Maryland police officers berating, threatening, and briefly handcuffing a five-year-old boy who had wandered away from school without permission.
Two officers from the Montgomery County Department of Police picked up the child after he left school grounds in January of last year. According to statements in the video, the boy allegedly was disruptive in class, threw objects, destroyed school property, and struck a teacher.
"This is why people need to beat their kids," one officer remarked as they returned the child to school.
"I hope your momma lets me beat you," the officer remarked again as the boy began wailing in a school office. The officer then bent down and screamed several times in the child's face.
After the mother arrived at school to retrieve her son, the other officer pulled out a pair of handcuffs and briefly put them on the boy. "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 said.
As Reason reported Friday, Maryland is one of several states across the country where bills have been introduced to raise the minimum age of arrest in response to public outrage over young children being handcuffed and arrested.
"It made me sick," Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando said in a press release about the incident. "We all saw a little boy be mocked, degraded, put in the seat of a police car, screamed at from the top of an adult police officer's lungs, inches from his face."
Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation that would divert children under 13 who commit nonviolent misdemeanors away from the criminal justice system.
Earlier this year, the city of Rochester, New York, released body camera footage of officers pepper spraying a handcuffed 9-year-old girl.
Last August, body camera footage emerged showing officers in Key West trying to handcuff an 8-year-old boy whose wrists were too small for the cuffs. An Orlando school cop made national headlines in 2019 when he arrested a 6-year-old girl for allegedly throwing a tantrum in class.
Civil liberties groups say school arrests, suspensions, and the use of physical restraints disproportionately impact minority youth and children with disabilities.
The boy's mother filed a lawsuit in January over the incident.
The Montgomery County Police Department said in a press release that the two officers in the video were the subject of an internal investigation, the results of which are confidential under Maryland law.
"Both officers remain employed by the Montgomery County Department of Police," the department wrote. "Due to pending litigation, the department has no further comment."