A cop who punched a teenage girl while subduing her at Coral Square Mall in Coral Springs, Florida, will not be investigated, the Sun Sentinel has reported.
The footage of police putting the 14-year-old on the ground and punching her has spread to Facebook and Twitter, drawing criticism for the Coral Springs Police Department. The incident attracted national attention after a cellphone video of the incident went viral.
Broward Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes said the internal affairs investigators of the police department should conduct an investigation, which he said involved excessive force.
In an interview with Good Morning America, the girl’s mother, Jessica Dennis, said that what the police officer did was not justified all all, saying the cop totally went overboard because her daughter was not resisting.
Coral Springs Police Officer Tyler Reik, however, said on Monday that no policy was violated during the incident.
The Coral Springs Police has also earlier issued a statement defending the officer’s action, saying that the video only shows the end of the story.
According to an arrest report, mall security called police on Thursday because about 30 teenagers in several groups were cursing, fighting, and harassing the establishment’s customers.
The kids were given verbal warnings and escorted out but as cops dealt with another incident at the center, the security called them again because some of the teenagers had returned, including the girl seen in the video.
The girl allegedly refused to leave mall property, provide her name, or comply with the commands of the officers.
She also allegedly pulled away when police officer Nicole Hildebrandt attempted to grab her left arm. The officers put the girl down on the grass but she still refused getting handcuffed.
Officer Paul James then struck the girl with his fist and ordered her to put her hands behind her back. The girl eventually complied after the third punch. The police reports, however, said that the girl kicked Hildebrandt in the stomach while in the patrol car.
“The female teen seen in the video, began cursing, attempting to incite the other teens,” the Coral Springs Police said in a statement posted on Facebook.
“As seen in the video she resisted arrest, and in order to have her to comply she was struck in the side to release her clenched fists – she was then handcuffed.”
Although the sight of a grown man punching a young girl in the ribs appear jarring, Reik said that this form of violence is allowed.
“Nothing in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement use-of-force matrix says you cannot strike a subject to gain compliance if other methods are attempted,” Reik said. “Our command staff supports our officers. If she didn’t come back to the mall a second time, this wouldn’t have happened.”
The police said that the girl’s mother did not file a complaint with them.