The Winston-Salem Urban League is calling for the local school system to remove a school resource officer from Hanes Magnet Middle School after what it calls the “disturbing and violent arrest” of a 14-year-old female student.
The Winston-Salem Police Department said Friday that it was investigating the circumstances of the arrest after a video was posted on Facebook showing the incident. On Tuesday afternoon, the department identified the school resource officer as Tyler McCormick.
According to an Urban League news release, the student being arrested was Rockell Baldwin.
“While we are still collecting facts, in the disturbing and violent arrest of 14-year-old Rockell Baldwin at Hanes Magnet School, the current available information provides no reasonable explanation for an adult male to slam a child to the hot pavement, put his knee in her back, apply the full weight of his body to her, and hold her face against the hot pavement and handcuff her,” James Perry, the president and chief executive of the Winston-Salem Urban League, said in a statement.
The Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem & Vicinity also issued a statement condemning the actions of the resource officer and announcing a press conference for today.
According to the police department, McCormick was contacted by a school staff member about an incident of disorderly conduct and he started investigating. McCormick had a body camera that captured “the investigative actions taken by the officer on the date in question,” the police department said in a news release.
Body-camera footage is not a public record under North Carolina law. It can be released only through a court order signed by a judge. The police department said that it cannot release any other information, citing a state law prohibiting the release of juvenile justice records.
The Winston-Salem Journal found a video that appears to show the incident. The video doesn’t depict the entire arrest.
It starts with the student heading down to the ground, but it’s not clear what happened beforehand. Then the video shows the student lying on the ground and the officer handcuffing her while at least one woman stands a distance away.
The video, shot from a distance, lasts about 80 seconds. The video ends with the officer leading the student away in a parking lot.
The principal at Hanes, Robin Willard, sent a phone message Friday to students’ parents saying that a “brief altercation between students” happened earlier at the school and required the intervention of a school resource officer. Willard said school officials investigated the incident, that disciplinary action was required and that school officials followed the school system’s policies.
“We take these matters seriously, and we expect all of our students to comply with the directives issues to keep all of our students safe,” Willard said in her phone message.
Tamkea McLean, Baldwin’s mother, also posted the video on Facebook and said her daughter had been trying to call home. She said on Facebook that her daughter is scared of the police as a result of the incident.
McLean posted pictures of her daughter’s face and her shoulder.
Baldwin told two television news organizations that she had asked for a hall pass because she wasn’t feeling well. The school resource officer followed her and asked her where she was going. She told one news organization that the officer tried to trip her while outside the school building, and when she walked over the officer’s leg, the officer slammed her to the ground outside. When she realized the arrest was being recorded, she screamed for help. She told the news organizations that she and her twin sister have been suspended.
Brent Campbell, the spokesman for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, said last week that the school system was aware of the incident and was working with police in their investigation. He said he could not provide more details because of privacy laws.
Perry said in his statement that he wants the officer permanently removed from Hanes and from any other duties with the school system.
He also said that the officer should face a disciplinary review and dismissal from the school system and that the police department should release the officer’s disciplinary record. Perry said the department should tell the public if the officer has been the subject of any prior complaints of misconduct.
“The Winston-Salem Police Department and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System should immediately review all policies relevant to school resource officers to ensure that school resource officers reserve arrests as a last resort unless there is clear and are well-supported allegations of felony-level illegal activity or activity that endangers other students or (personnel),” Perry said.
He further said that the school system’s statement to the media “punts all responsibility to the Winston-Salem Police Department.”