Newly released police body camera footage shows a pair of officers in Montgomery County, Maryland verbally berating and handcuffing a 5-year-old kindergarten student, then repeatedly telling the child’s mother that she should “beat him” because of his behavior.
The Montgomery County Police Department on Friday released video of the incident, which took place in January 2020. The young boy allegedly wandered away from his school without permission after throwing a basketball at a teacher and knocking over a computer. The officers’ names were not released by the department but they were identified in a subsequent lawsuit filed by the child’s mother as Dionne Holliday and Kevin Christmon.
After the officers found the child, who they referred to as a “little beast,” Christmon repeatedly yelled that he was too young to make any decisions for himself. He grabbed the boy by the arm and put him in the backseat of the squad car as the boy cried so hysterically that he had several coughing fits. It was only after strapping him into the back seat that Christmon asked a female school employee whether the child was a “special needs” student.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, Holliday then repeatedly asked the child if his mother hits him.
“Does your momma spank you? Does your momma spank you?” Holliday asked. “She’s gonna spank you today. Because they’re gonna call her and tell her exactly what’s going on. She’s gonna spank you today. I’m gonna ask her if I can do it.”
The child could be heard continuing to wail in the back of the car as Christmon and the school employee began driving back to school as the officers said, “Don’t nobody want to hear that” and “ain’t nobody listening.”
Upon arriving at the school, Christmon grabbed the still hysterical child and put him in a chair while the other officer yelled, “Shut that noise up—you shut that noise up right now.”
“Boy, I’m telling you. I hope your momma lets me beat you,” Holliday said, holding her face directly in front of the child’s face. “His momma gonna beat him.”
She then backed away from the child momentarily. As he continued to cry Holliday suddenly pounced back into the camera’s view, crouching down so her face was separated from the child’s by only inches. She proceeded to let out five extended “Ahhhhhh!” screams at the top of her lungs. “Oh my God, I’d beat him so bad,” she said.
The footage also showed what transpired when the child’s mother arrived at the school, with both officers repeatedly telling her that she needs to use physical violence to control her son.
“I don’t like bad children—bad disrespectful children. I think they need to be beaten and that’s what I told your momma,” Holliday said to the child as he stood next to his mother.
Christmon then took out his handcuffs and said, “You know what these are? These are handcuffs. These are for people that don’t wanna listen and don’t know how to act.”
He then handcuffed the child’s hands behind his back and told him to always listen to adults.
“We want you to beat him,” an officer said.
The child’s mom said she could not go to prison for child abuse, to which the officer incorrectly responded, “You don’t go to prison for beating your child.”
Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando, who advocated for the video’s release for three months, said the video will be “etched in my memory for the rest of my life.
“I watched in horror as what can only be described as a nightmare unfolded for nearly an hour. 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. This is violence,” he said in a statement. “The officers involved in this incident should be immediately fired and a robust investigation into both this incident and their past behavior must immediately take place.”
“We also see why many Black residents in Montgomery County don’t feel protected by the police,” Jawando has also said. It appears both officers involved are Black.
A spokesperson for the Montgomery County Police Department confirmed that following an internal investigation, both officers remain employed by the department. The findings of the investigation are confidential.
In a joint statement, Superintendent Jack Smith and school board President Brenda Wolff said the video was “extremely difficult” to watch.
“Our heart aches for this student,” the statement said. “There is no excuse for adults to ever speak to or threaten a child in this way. As parents and grandparents, we know that when families send their children to school, they expect that the staff will care for them, keep them safe and use appropriate intervention processes when needed. In MCPS, we have a commitment to addressing the social-emotional well-being of our students, celebrating their strengths and helping them meet their full potential.”
[image via Montgomery County Police Department screengrab]
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