Florida lawmakers pass measure after viral video of officers arresting 6-year-oldcloseVideo
Police release body camera footage of 6-year-old girl's arrest in Orlando
Grandmother says she was heartbroken watching the video and says her granddaughter was treated like a 30-year-old hardened criminal.
After a gripping video of a 6-year-old being hauled out of her school in handcuffs circulated last month, Florida lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to require law enforcement to put in place procedures for arresting children under 10.
The amendment, dubbed the “Kaia Rolle Act” after the crying young girl in the video, was added into a school safety bill spawned by the Parkland high school shooting and adopted unanimously.
Last month, Kaia Rolle’s family made public footage from a police officer’s body camera, sparking outrage from the public and lawmakers. “Please help me, please just let me go,” the girl can be heard pleading with the arresting officer. “I don’t want to go in the police car, no please, please,” Rolle begged. She can be heard asking officers for a “second chance,” after the arrest for a temper tantrum she threw at school.
Kaia watched from the gallery of the Florida House with her grandmother Meralyn Kirkland as lawmakers stood with her in solidarity to approve the legislation.
“Asking for a second chance is a universal principle that is found at the core of our existence here in this country,” said Rep. Kionne McGhee, the Democratic leader in the House who sponsored the measure in his chamber.
McGhee told lawmakers there were too many young children being arrested at schools and it was “incumbent upon us at this very moment, at this very hour, to answer the call that young Kaia rendered when she was being arrested.”
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The sponsor of the original bill, Republican Ralph Massullo, called McGhee’s change to the bill a “friendly” one, sparking applause throughout the chamber.
Kirkland expressed gratitude for the overwhelming support from lawmakers.
"I needed people to know that there is this law in the books that allows our babies to be arrested. It was not a one-off with Kaia. It can happen to any child and any family out there, and that we needed to make a change,” the grandmother said.
The bill will now have to pass on the Senate floor.
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“We just can't just sit here and sympathize and empathize, or send love or send our regrets,” Kirkland said. “We've got to do something to stop this.”
In September, officers arrested the first-grader at her charter school, Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy, after school officials said she kicked and punched staff members. She was charged with misdemeanor battery and ordered to appear before a judge, but the charges were later dropped.
“She’s going to have to come with us now,” Officer Dennis Turner tells a school employee, video shows. “Stand up, stand up … come over here.”
“What are those for?” Kaia asks of the zip ties the officer used to bind her wrists. “It’s for you,” says Turner. The officer was later fired for not receiving supervisor approval to arrest a child under 10.
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After Kaia was taken away for fingerprints and a mugshot, Turner reentered the school to tell officials this was not the first child he had arrested. “How old was she, 8?” he asked. School officials informed him she was 6. “That would make her the youngest,” Turner said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.