Fall River police, school: Officers justified in using force on student

SE Mass
Fall River police, school: Officers justified in using force on student

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Investigations into an incident involving a 17-year-old student that went viral on social media last week have concluded that the police officers were justified in their use of force.

Cell phone video posted online last Thursday showed Fall River officers trying to subdue the student during a physical altercation. After seeing the video, Fall River School Superintendent Matthew Malone and the city’s police department both opened investigations.

“To be clear, I believe that we are all upset with what occurred on this day and what was captured on cell phone video,” Malone said in a statement. “However, I deal with facts, not emotion, and I am obligated to provide an objective review to determine if we followed proper protocol and procedure.”

Malone said on May 2, the student refused to comply with verbal requests from faculty and staff asking him to follow school rules. He said the student became belligerent and verbally threatened faculty and staff members several times.

According to Malone, the administration contacted the student’s father, asking him to come to the school to help calm him down. Before he could arrive, however, the student left class without permission and walked to the main office where he continued “to be unruly and disruptive in a threatening manner, including kicking the Vice-Principal’s office chair across the room and making repeated threats towards staff,” Malone said.

Malone said faculty and staff called for the school’s student resource officers, who attempted to deescalate the situation without physical confrontation.

After the student knocked school property off of the front desk, the officers attempted to escort the student out of the building so he could await the arrival of his father. As they tried to do so, the student became more aggressive, forcing the officers to restrain him.

According to the police report, the student shoved one of the officers into a door and knocked several items off of a desk in the main office into an area where other students were waiting.

The police report also says the student “chose to continue with the tumultuous behavior and disobey requests from the school administration to wait outside for his father to pick him up.”

Both Malone and the Fall River Police Department worked concurrently to investigate the incident, reviewing cell phone and surveillance video, talking to witnesses and those involved and reviewing school and police department policies. Their investigations concluded that the use of force was necessary for the given situation.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, the officers were completely justified in their actions,” the police report said. “They could not have predicted what the student was capable of doing next but only knew that his behavior was escalating.”

Malone said he is appreciative of the officers who assisted faculty and staff during the situation.

“Our schools must be safe learning spaces, where both adults and students are allowed to work, learn, and thrive in an environment free from threats of violence and/or actual violence itself,” he said. “As such, we have clear rules and codes of conduct that govern our behaviors and our actions. We will learn from this incident and further refine our practices around the de-escalation of students in crisis.”

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