In January of this year, the sheriff’s department in Osceola County, Florida, began an investigation into an incident in which a Black teenager was body-slammed and knocked unconscious by a school resource officer at Liberty High School in the city of Kissimmee. It was the kind of incident that serves as a reminder of why many Black people are uncomfortable with the very idea of police officers being called to schools to deal with altercations involving Black youth—because as study after study after study has shown, cops are simply more aggressive when dealing with Black people and Black bodies.
Unfortunately, that aggression doesn’t always constitute a violation of policy. So on Tuesday, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell told reporters that Deputy Ethan Fournier will not be charged criminally for his treatment of 16-year-old Taylor Bracey, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Worrell described the violent power slam that left a young Black girl lying motionless on the ground as a “controlled takedown” and she said Fournier was following his training and he “did not violate any laws in the State of Florida.” Obviously, that says more about police training and Florida law than it does about right and wrong, and Worrell almost appeared to acknowledge as much when she said, “This decision is based solely on the law.”
“Although Fournier’s actions were legal in accordance with Florida law, as a parent and a member of this community, when I watched this video, like many of you, I was angry and concerned for the safety and wellbeing of my children and all children,” she said.
Worrell also mentioned that “there isn’t better video” available than the viral video taken from the cell phone of a fellow student, and that lack of footage highlights why officers should always be wearing body cameras.
“Body camera in this situation would have been ideal because then everyone could’ve had an opportunity to see exactly what took place,” Worrell said.
Of course, many reasonable people who trust their own eyes and ears would argue the video that was posted in January showed us all we needed to know—a grown man who is a trained police officer slammed an unarmed Black girl to the ground so hard she lost consciousness.
According to police, the altercation began when Taylor was about to get into a fight with another student. Loulu Nevy, the sister of another Liberty High School student who witnessed the altercation, told Fox 35 back in January that the student “was already separated and under control by one of the faculty members when the officer came out of nowhere, picked her up and body-slammed her headfirst onto the concrete.”
Here’s the thing: There’s nothing abnormal about a school fight. We can agree that students can’t just be allowed to throw hands against each other because someone could be seriously injured, but then we’re back to the fact that, in this instance, the only one who appears to have seriously injured anyone is the officer of the law who was called to mitigate the situation.
According to ABC News, Taylor’s mother, Jamesha Bracey, said during a news conference after the incident that her daughter was “traumatized” and that she suffered a concussion and experienced headaches, blurred vision, memory loss and sleep deprivation due to her head injury.
According to the Sentinel, Taylor didn’t return to Liberty after the incident, and in a joint statement, civil rights attorney Ben Crump and other attorneys representing the teen and her family said, “Taylor is still feeling the repercussions from Fournier’s actions and likely will for the rest of her life.”
“This disgusting incident certainly sends a message to our young people of color—police officers should not be trusted and ‘protect and serve’ is nothing more than a meaningless slogan,” the statement continued.
For millions of Black people across America, the only proper response to that statement is, “Where’s the lie?”