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Incident involving Winston-Salem student and school resource officer sparks outrage

Tamkea McLean, mother of child involved in altercation with officer, speaks during the press conference at Emmanuel Baptist Church. Photo by Timothy Ramsey

Incident involving Winston-Salem student and school resource officer sparks outrage
October 10
15:51 2018

By Tevin Stinson

and Timothy Ramsey

The Chronicle

During the monthly public safety news conference held this morning, Oct. 10, Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson released a statement on a viral video that shows an incident involving a female student at Hanes Magnet School and a school resource officer (SRO).

Meanwhile, this afternoon, the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity (MCWSV) was joined by Tameka McLean, mother of the student involved, at a news conference at Emmanuel Baptist Church to call for the officer’s firing.

And on Tuesday, Oct. 9, James Perry, president and CEO of the Winston-Salem Urban League, issued a statement calling for the officer to be removed from Hanes and the school system and fired from the police department.

The issue appears to be the alleged force the officer used on the 14-year-old.

Here’s what we know from the police perspective about the incident that occurred on Friday, Oct. 5: Shortly before 10 a.m., Officer T.B. McCormick, who was on duty, was contacted by staff members reporting disorderly conduct. According to Chief Thompson, upon arrival on the scene, Officer McCormick conducted a “disorderly conduct by fighting investigation,” which resulted in the student being taken to the ground and put in handcuffs.

The Chronicle is not naming the student because she is a minor.

Part of the incident was caught on video by a local resident who lives near the school. The Ministers’ Conference and McLean states the SRO used excessive force in detaining the student and are calling for him to be terminated.

In the viral video, which has been viewed on Facebook more than 21,000 times, McCormick can be seen using force to put the student in handcuffs while school staff members watch close by. While the video does have sound, it’s hard to make out what the officer and the student are saying. However, you can here the cries from the student as she lay facedown on the pavement.

There have been conflicting accounts of the incident from the school system and the police department. Reportedly, there is also a video of what led up to what took place in the parking lot that conflicts what the student is saying, but it has not been viewed at the time of this article. The police department is confident the officer was within his rights to use the method of force.

While discussing the incident Chief Thompson, noted that Officer McCormick was wearing body camera footage at the time of the incident but because the case is currently under investigation and involves a minor, no more information on the incident can be made public at this time.

She said, “The release of additional information in this matter beyond the information included in this public record release is prohibited by North Carolina general statue 7B-3000 which prohibits the release of juvenile records.”

Prominent black clergy, including Rev. Dr. John Mendez, Dr. Carlton A.G. Eversley, Bishop Todd Fulton and Rev. Paul Robeson Ford comprehensively condemn the action of the Hanes Middle school resource officer in arresting a 14-year-old student on Oct. 5, in a statement presented to the press.

“We have all seen the video of this 14-year-old student being pressed into the ground, her face shoved in the pavement, the officer’s knee to her back and his weight on her body. Meanwhile, the principal and assistant principal stand by and watch. It reminds us of the South Carolina video of a few years ago, when a black girl was snatched out of her chair and thrown to the ground in class. We believe nothing this student could have said or done deserves such a response from the school resource officer. She has been traumatized by her mistreatment, probably for the rest of her life. We will offer pastoral care to her and her family,” the statement also read.

McLean and members of the conference in attendance were asking for the SRO to be fired from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Police Department. They stated they are willing to listen to any explanation from the police department or the local school system, but do not feel the child could have done anything that would lead to what transpired in the parking lot.

“De-escalation is the professional responsibility of law enforcement and officers,” said Bishop Todd Fulton from a prepared statement. “They are sworn to serve and protect, not abuse and traumatize.”

“We do not believe an officer who behaves this way, should continue to be employed by the Winston-Salem Police Department,” he continued.

McLean, says she just wants justice for her daughter because she feels as though the officer’s force was excessive in her eyes.

“Every day I have to look at my daughter, traumatized by the things she has gone through,” she said. “I would like for the school system to handle things better with the kids and everything that is going on. This is unbelievable, and I am at a loss for words.”

“This is just so much to see my child hurt the way she hurt,” she continued. “It makes me hurt to know that when we send our kids out here in the world, what is going to happen if they are not protected by us and law enforcement, who will protect them.”

Dr. John Mendez, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist, echoed many of the statements made by McLean.

“We often don’t talk about the after effects, when children go through these kind of traumatic experiences,” said Mendez. “This young lady was doing nothing wrong, she had gotten permission to be in the hallway, to go and call her mother.

“Then this very impulsive officer stops her and she runs from him, not because she has done anything wrong, but she was afraid of him, just like so many of our children are afraid of the police,” he continued. After experiencing an act of terror, because that’s what it was, she was traumatized.”

Mendez stated he spoke with the child because he is a “trained psychoanalyst” and the child feels that the institutions that were supposed to protect her, in fact violated her. Mendez stated the young lady is now having flashbacks, signs of withdrawal, problems sleeping, fear and emotional instability.

Eversley wanted to emphasize the racial component to the incident. He stated this would not have happened had the child been white.

“Race is at the core of this, this officer did not see this young lady as he would his own child,” said Eversley. “He would not have shoved her, put a knee to her back or put her face in the ground had she been someone reminiscent of his own child.”

“In every step along the way, black children in America, in North Carolina and in Forsyth County, are treated more harshly than white children who do the exact same thing.”

Chief Thompson discussed Officer McCormick’s history with the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD).

She mentioned he has been with the department since 2012 and he joined the Educational Services Unit School Resource Officer Program in 2016, and is currently assigned to the Investigative Services Bureau.

Since joining the WSPD six years ago, McCormick has not had any disciplinary actions, or allegations of excessive force. Thompson said the WSPD has a robust selection process to select SRO’s, and McCormick passed with flying colors.

She also noted that Officer McCormick is a Certified Crisis Intervention Team Officer and has had training in deescalating skills, bias based policing and implicit bias.

Thompson said she feels confident with McCormick’s selection as a SRO.

“…It’s an extremely difficult job and we select personnel based on a variety of factors including a review of their career and use of force action,” continued Thompson. “Officer McCormick joined the SRO unit in February 2016 after demonstrating that he had held the correct temperament for selection as a School Resource Officer. I am comfortable that his selection as a School Resource Officer was appropriate at the time of his selection and that his assignment to Hanes Magnet School was also appropriate.”

The WSPD is currently conducting an administrative investigation into the incident involving Officer McCormick. Pending the investigation, Officer McCormick is not assigned to any school as an SRO.

Thompson encouraged the family and friends of the student to let the investigation take its course. She also asked for the students’ input on what happened that day.

She said, “We encourage the family of the student to allow the interview of their child so we can have her direct perception of how things unfolded.”

 

 

 

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