Cops in Schools; The Hits Just Keep On Coming
Nov. 2, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — Different states have different measures when it comes to School Resource Officers and how those cops act with the students under their watchful eyes. In Texas and Rhode Island, police like to employ choke slams and judo throws. Oklahoma City’s Master Sergeant Thomas Jaha apparently prefers good old-fashioned fisticuffs when teaching students lessons in compliance.
MSgt. Thomas Jaha was serving as a school resource officer at U.S. Grant High School when he saw a 16-year-old student in the hallway without a pass.
According to the police report, after ignoring several requests to get to the gym, the officer said he approached the teen.
At that point, Jaha says the student took a fighting stance. Jaha admitted that he defended himself by hitting the student in the face.
After the student allegedly took a fighting stance once more, the officer said he hit the teen again in the face with his left fist.
The video does show two strikes by Master Sergeant Jaha to a teen. The issue of whether the child “ignored several requests” or “took a fighting stance,” not so much. The teen and his family have a different story of the events, one that involves less swearing and more yelling for assistance.
The 16-year-old’s grandfather says the student yelled for help before administration came to see what was happening.
The teen was arrested for disorderly conduct following Jaha’s one round assault, and eventually escorted by a parent to the hospital. Fortunately, someone at the Oklahoma City police department took a look at the video and decided two punches were too many.
The incident was investigated by the Oklahoma City Police Department and was handed over to the district attorney.
On Wednesday, the district attorney filed one count of assault and battery against Jaha.
MSgt. Jaha, a 25-year veteran with the police department, has been placed on administrative leave with pay.
This provides an interesting precedent for the School Resource Officer bored with his job. Punch a teen and take a nice paid vacation. Of course, Jaha’s superior was quick to provide at least a cursory explanation of why his subordinate’s Mike Tyson impression was justified.
“If he believed that he was going to be hurt or he was going to be attacked, then obviously he has the right and the opportunity to defend himself,” said Capt. Paco Balderrama with the Oklahoma City Police Department. “At the same time, you know, we have to meet that appropriately.”
In all fairness, Captain Balderrama is simply articulating the First Rule of Policing for the press, defined for the School Resource Officer. The life and safety of the cop is more valuable than the life and safety of the children under his care, and if the cop feels threatened then he can respond how he sees fit. At least the child wasn’t shot, tased, or pepper sprayed in “self defense.” He still got a chance to go home. Some kids don’t get that lucky when the First Rule kicks in.
Responses from the community were largely sympathetic toward the student, but couched in the language of those who know better than to question those on high wearing a shield.
Some parents already feel like another action could have been taken.
“Probably, let it blow over, and let it cool off before he took, you know, drastic measures,” Anderson said.
“They need to take some more training, I think,” one grandmother said.
Master Sergeant Jaha didn’t need more training. He is a twenty-five year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department, firmly entrenched in cop culture and dropped into the halls of U.S. Grant High School, a place where the only battlefield involved teenage hormones run amok. When a child didn’t comply with his every whim, he reacted as police will, and used whatever physical force he felt necessary to ensure that compliance.
For punching a child in the face twice, Thomas Jaha will sit on a desk until the “criminal investigation” and the “administrative investigation” blow over, and his utter lack of judgment considered justified. He will continue to draw a paycheck.
The child will go before a Youth Resource Officer and more than likely face a judge in a juvenile delinquency proceeding. He will be told to plead guilty and be remorseful while a judge orders probation, potentially anger management classes, drug and alcohol assessments, and more. His family will have to pay court costs for the case, and that’s only counting if the attorney hired has been retained for an impending civil suit against Jaha.
It’s been said that the only time people will start giving a damn about police misconduct until it touches their lives. That day has come, and the neighborhood in question is your child’s school system. It’s the result of “worst-first parenting” entering our education system. It’s turned the boogeyman of the “school to prison pipeline” into more of a reality than we ever expected. Because we allowed the police into our schools, more of our children are graduating with criminal records than ever before.
When will we wake up and address this with our own “training,” and take the “drastic measure” of reducing police presence in our schools?