US police officers handcuff, yell at 5yo boy in disturbing bodycam footage

A disturbing video showing police officers in the United States berating and handcuffing a five-year-old boy who walked away from school has been described as "sick" by a local politician.

Bodycam footage released on Saturday shows two police officers from Montgomery County, Maryland interacting with the child who left East Silver Spring Elementary School on January 14, 2020. 

A staff member from the school contacted police to ask for their assistance after it was alleged the child had thrown a basketball at a teacher and knocked over a computer before walking out of school. Less than two minutes into the hour-long video, the male officer is heard yelling at the boy.

"I don't care if you don't want to go to school. You do not have that choice, do you understand?" he says before he shifts to a more aggressive tone. "Get back over there, now."

When the child doesn't immediately respond, the officer grabs his arm and starts walking him to the police car. The boy then begins crying and coughing hysterically and the officers scold him.

"There is no crying," the female officer yells at the boy.

The male officer, who has the boy by the arm, tells him to "cut it out".

The crying child is then buckled into the backseat of the police car.

"Does your mama spank you?" the female officer asks the boy. "She's going to spank you today. I'm going to ask her if I can do it."

Once back at school, the boy is placed in a chair in an office and the female officer stands over him and screams in his face as he continues to cry, appearing to mock his sobs.

When the boy's mother arrives, she tells officers she doesn't hit her child because it's against the law. She then removes the boy's shirt to prove he isn't being physically abused at home.

The male officer tells her "we believe it's the exact opposite". The female officer says: "We want you to beat him."

The female officer tells the mother that while she can't use a weapon to hit him, "you can smack that butt, repeatedly".

Later in the video, the officers, the boy, and his mother go into another room where the male officer puts a handcuff on one of the boy's arms.

"When you get older and you want to make your own decisions, you know what's going to be your best friend? These right here," he says, holding up handcuffs. "You know what these are? These are handcuffs. These are for people who don't want to listen and don't know how to act."

The officer then removes the handcuffs and talks about the boy's behaviour with his mother.

The boy's mother, Shanta Grant, and his family have filed a lawsuit against the two Montgomery County Police officers, the county itself, and the Montgomery County Board of Education, claiming the boy was assaulted and suffered mental anguish during the incident.

The Montgomery County Department of Police confirmed it had received a complaint about the conduct of the officers.

"Consistent with MCPD policy, an investigation into the officers' conduct was initiated with the MCPD Internal Affairs Division. A thorough investigation was conducted of the entire event. The internal investigation has concluded," a statement says.

"The findings of this internal investigation, as in all internal matters, are confidential under Maryland law. Both officers remain employed by the Montgomery County Department of Police.

"Due to pending litigation, the Department has no further comment."

The two officers were later identified as Dionne Holliday and Kevin Christmon, The Washington Post reports.

Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando, who pushed for the video's release, says it made him feel "sick" to see it.

"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 says.

"We all saw his tiny hand in a handcuff. We all watched as administrators at best did nothing and tacitly approved the behaviour of the armed officers. I watched grown adults flex and abuse their power with the crest of Montgomery County strapped to their arms. He is a five-year-old child."

The Montgomery County school system described the video as "extremely difficult" to watch.

"There is no excuse for adults to ever speak to or threaten a child in this way," they said.

"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."