(Reuters) - An Orlando, Florida, police officer was fired on Monday after arresting two 6-year-olds last week for separate disciplinary incidents at their school, the city’s police chief said.
“It was clear today when I came into work that basically there was no other remedy but to terminate this officer,” Police Chief Orlando Rolón told a news conference.
Dennis Turner arrested the children on Thursday while working as a resource officer at a charter school in Orlando, charging them both with misdemeanor battery, Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala told a separate news conference.
Ayala said Rolón told her he did not intend to prosecute the children and had asked for the charges to be dropped. She said she was looking into removing the arrests from the children’s records.
“These very young children are to be protected, nurtured, and disciplined in a manner that does not rely on the criminal justice system to do it,” Ayala said. “Systems are not designed to raise our children.”
Turner, who had earlier been suspended over the arrests, could not be reached for comment.
Rolón said in a statement that Turner did not obtain the approval of a commanding officer before making the arrests, as department policy requires for children under the age of 12,
The grandmother of one of the children told Orlando television station WKMG she was outraged when she heard her 6-year-old granddaughter had been arrested.
“No 6-year-old should be able to tell someone they had handcuffs on them,” said Meralyn Kirkland.
She said the girl was acting out in class, a side effect of a lack of sleep from a medical condition, and sent to the office at Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy Charter School to calm down.
The girl was arrested after she kicked a staff member who grabbed her wrists to try to calm her, Kirkland said. The school did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The other child arrested was a 6-year-old boy. No further details were available on him.
Rolón said he had authority to terminate Turner even before the investigation had concluded into the two arrests because Turner served as a reserve officer.
Ayala said Florida led the country in arrests of children aged 5 to 10 when she took office in 2017 but that those arrests had declined in the state since then.
Reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney