BALTIMORE (WBFF) - Two Baltimore City School police officers have been charged in connection with a video released last week that shows one officer striking a 16-year-old student inside REACH! Partnership School.
Both officers were arrested overnight and released on bond, online court records confirm. Police say they turned themselves in.
The arrests come after the American Civil Liberties Union called on Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby to seek criminal charges, stating that the video "speaks for itself" and that any backstory provided on the circumstances that led the officer to slap the student "can't justify what is seen on the tape."
Officials have identified 44-year-old Anthony Spence as the officer seen hitting the student in the video. Spence is facing charges of second-degree child abuse, second-degree assault and misconduct in office. The other officer, 53-year-old Saverna Bias, is also charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
After being charged with a felony Spence's status changed from administrative leave with pay to administrative leave without pay, pursuant to the Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights. Bias, charged with a misdemeanor, will remain on administrative leave with pay, officials said Wednesday.
According to charging documents, a witness reported hearing Officer Bias tell Officer Spence, "You need to smack him because he's got too much mouth."
Officer Spence then hit and kicked the juvenile, a witness told police.
"Investigation revealed both Spence and Bias to be on-duty working as police officers for Baltimore City School Police in full uniform," charging documents state. "Investigation further revealed that Spence was not attempting to affect an arrest and was not acting in reasonable self-defense."
The now-viral video was posted to social media on March 1. An attorney for the victim identified him as a 16-year-old sophomore and said the minor went to the hospital with injuries to his ribs and face after the encounter.
An investigation into the video was led by Baltimore City Police's Special Investigation Response Team at the request of acting School Police Chief Akil Hamm.
"Commissioner Davis assigned the Special Investigation Response Team (S.I.R.T.) to lead the investigation," Baltimore City Police spokesperson T.J. Smith wrote in a release Wednesday morning. "The team conducted interviews and gathered evidence related to this case. They consulted with the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office after they concluded their investigation. Charges were prepared and filed with the commissioner yesterday evening."
According to Baltimore City Police, the Baltimore City School Police Department will continue to handle the internal investigation, now that the case is in the hands of the Public Integrity Unit of the State's Attorney's Office.
Baltimore City Schools CEO Gregory Thornton met with parents of students at the school Monday evening, once the school system confirmed the incident involved a student. Following the private meeting Dr. Thornton told reporters, "We were not going to allow the incident that took place define the great things that are happening here, and that mistakes are made and as a result, how do you move forward from those mistakes."
State Sen. Bill Ferguson has called for Thornton's resignation.
"It's just proof of the lack of control the CEO has over the system," said Ferguson. "Just something basic like who is a student in our school building. This is fundamental, and if that can't be done right, we know there are plenty of other things not being done well. It's time to make a change."
Dr. Thornton is about a year and a half into a four-year contract with Baltimore City Schools. When asked whether he'd like to finish his full term as CEO he told reporters, "Certainly it's my desire. I came to Baltimore to, I think, do some really great things, I think a lot of good things have taken place and I'm excited about the future."
On Wednesday Dr. Thornton extended gratitude to the BPD for their swift and thorough investigation and said the event had "pierced the trust" that existed within the school.
"After talking with parents they are very committed to moving forward," Dr. Thornton said. "I'm very committed to hearing their voices as we begin our internal look at ways of which we can support our children and families in a more effective way."
According to the Associated Press, Spence was fired by the city sheriff's department in 2003.