A high school student in Brooklyn is suing the New York Police Department over a beating he took by a baton-wielding police officer. The incident was caught on cellphone video.
Yordy Aragonez, the 18-year-old student, filed the lawsuit against the police on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. Aragonez got into a fight at school on December 21, 2015. He says in the lawsuit that the officer who was breaking up the fight used unreasonable force.
In an interview with Dean Meminger on Warner Cable News NY1, Aragonez admitted he had gotten into a fight with other students who he claimed jumped him and his cousin. They were defending themselves, he said.
When the police came, the student says, he thought they were coming to help. Instead, a police officer attached to school security pushed him into a room in the middle of a class and started beating him with a baton.
Another student got out a cellphone and shot video of the incident. The video, which was aired on NY1, showed police officer Kareem Phillips pushing Aragonez to the ground. The policeman yelled obscenities at the student while hitting him with a baton.
The Police Department made a statement Saturday, as reported by Rick Rojas of the New York Times. “As officers attempted to break up the altercation, an officer used a baton,” the Police Department said. They added that “as a matter of practice, the incident is under review by the Internal Affairs Bureau.”
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, also gave a statement Saturday. “A snippet of video of a chaotic situation never tells the entire story,” he, said. “There is an investigation underway, and until all the facts are gathered, we must all withhold judgment.”
Incidents between students and police are not uncommon, and the numbers seem to be rising. One recent suit even involved two separate cases.
The New York Civil Liberties Union reports a lawsuit brought by a Syracuse, New York, student named Andre Epps. As a 15-year-old ninth grader in 2009, Epps was shot by a police Taser. According to the lawsuit, Epps, like Aragonez, had gotten into a fight. That lawsuit was expanded to include another student, Trevon Hanks. Though Hanks was not involved in a fight, he was Tasered 3 times. The diabetic Hanks was allegedly just lying on the hallway floor and crying, frustrated that he couldn’t finish some lab work, and refusing to leave.
Despite the damning videos, police presence in U.S. schools is not likely to either diminish or disappear. According to a 2015 Washington Post article by Emma Brown, nearly 85,000 school resource officers and security guards patrol 84,000 public schools. The Columbine and Sandy Hook massacres, as well as other violent acts involving students, underlines the need for police in schools today. But though both activists and many police agree the cops should not be involved in disciplinary issues, nearly 70 percent of school police report such involvement.
Students are beaten and Tasered, sometimes for reasons that are unclear or unfair. Police cite rebelliousness and lack of respect on the part of students. The tension sometimes leads to violence, though the vast majority of police and students have no issues with each other.
With clear rules, proper training and education, both the police and the students hope to avoid future beatings and viral videos.
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