Video withheld by Springfield for 2 years shows officer 'launch' student down hallway
A just-released surveillance video of a disturbing encounter between a school resource officer and a student inside a Springfield, Massachusetts, middle school in 2019 is raising new questions about the role of police schools.
The video was released to The Republican newspaper after a criminal case against officer Lawrence Pietrucci was adjudicated this month.
As reporter Stephanie Barry wrote, the video shows an officer lifting up a Kiley Middle School student by his clothing and “launching” him down a hallway, as a school administrator looks on.
Assistant principal Otilio Alvarado was charged with failing to report child abuse and filing a false report. His case is pending.
Pietrucci admitted to sufficient facts on a misdemeanor assault charge. He was placed on probation and was ordered to attend anger management classes. He still works for the department, but was relegated to the property division.
Barry said this incident occurred around the same time as another case of alleged abuse by school resource officers was captured on video.
Stephanie Barry, The Republican: Angel Marrero, who worked at the High School of Commerce … got charged criminally for forcing a child up against a wall, a 15-year-old, and forcibly arresting him. That officer, Marrero, ended up going to trial, was convicted by a judge and was fired.
Kari Njiiri, NEPM: What did you make of this recently released video, after such a long time trying to get a hold of it?
What I would say about the video is this: I'm not quite sure why the school department or the city would have withheld that video for so long, except that there are minors in the video, and I think that's a legitimate concern. But it took our staff about 90 seconds to blur out the minors' faces.
But what the video portrayed was something disturbing. And I will say on behalf of the officer — I don't know that officer, but I know people who know that officer who have said repeatedly [that] he's a very calm person, he's well suited to be in the schools. So perhaps it was just a moment in his life, in his professional life. But withholding the video, I don't think serves anyone's purposes, for two years.
Well, there have been calls for police to be removed from the schools, but the Springfield Public Schools revised their memorandum of understanding relating to police in the schools. Do you have any idea what that means?
In terms of following these two incidents, I think it caused the school department and the police department to take another look at what is most appropriate for police to do in schools. Are they there to keep the peace and to protect students and teachers from harm? Or are they there, as Officer Pietrucci's defense attorney said, are they there just as bouncers? And I actually think that's a fair question.
So the MOU change, I think, kind of put a finer point on what responsibilities ... police officers have in public schools. And as disciplinarians, I think everyone has decided that's not particularly appropriate.