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RCPD Respond To South Middle School Incident

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The Rapid City Police Department say the use of force to break up a fight between two South Middle School students is justified.
 
The response comes after a flurry of social media activity that shows one of the girls in the fight whose head was twisted around to her back.
 
In a written statement the RCPD say the girls ignored the officers verbal commands and continued swinging fists at each other. The statement says - quote “The officer got in between them in an attempt to separate them, and both girls continued to be assaultive towards one another. While he was holding one of the girls on the ground, the other girl continued assaultive behavior toward the other female.”
 End quote.

The officer responded by using what’s called a palm-heel strike. The department calls it an appropriate elevated use of force under the circumstance and was necessary to prevent the assaultive behavior from continuing.
 
The official response did not mention what concerned one of the girl’s aunt. Yolanda Clairmont says the officer had her neice down by her hair and twisted her neck.
 
“She lifted her head and at that point that’s when he put more pressure on her hair and her head to where her head literally twisted behind her back,” Clairmont says. “At that point that’s when he’s holding her down. My main concern is had he put any more pressure on her her neck would have snapped. As a trained professional as he is he is to conduct himself in a calm manner. Especially dealing with children.”
 
Clairmont says the family is still trying to understand the situation. They call it excessive force on a minor.  She says the officer could have conducted the incident differently.
 
Police say they’ve been in contact with parents of both girls in an attempt to work towards resolution in the matter and the States Attorney’s Office and school officials to determine what further action is most appropriate.

Chief Karl Jegeris' statement addressing concerns about recent social media video:

Our staff has been in contact with parents of both girls in an attempt to work towards resolution in this matter.  We will continue to work with the States Attorney’s Office and school officials to determine what further action is most appropriate. In the meantime, here are what details can be shared about our response to the incident:

The incident occurred at the end of the school day at South Middle School. The officer was in the area providing extra patrol at the school, which is a common practice for our officers when they are available at school release time.

When the officer observed the girls beginning to fight, he exited his patrol car and told them to stop multiple times as he approached. They ignored his verbal commands and continued swinging fists at each other. The officer got in between them in an attempt to separate them, and both girls continued to be assaultive towards one another. While he was holding one of the girls on the ground, the other girl continued assaultive behavior toward the other female. In response, the officer used what is referred to as a palm-heel strike. This is an appropriate elevated use of force under the circumstance and was necessary to prevent the assaultive behavior from continuing.

I recognize that there has been a flurry of social media activity regarding the video being posted, and mixed opinions regarding the law-enforcement use of force. I can offer assurance, from a law-enforcement professional standards viewpoint, this use of force is appropriate and justified, and clearly did result in the intended outcome, which was to restore public safety. 

Juvenile matters are held highly confidential in the best interest of the juveniles involved. Our supervision team has conducted a standard use of force review, and has confirmed the use of force to be appropriate and within policy. This review included the videos that were previously posted on Facebook, along with body cam footage.

The primary goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate young offenders. I am hopeful that the criminal justice system and families will be able to work to come up with a path forward that meets that goal. 

Regarding the Facebook posting, our staff did not direct anyone to remove the post. We do not have any authority to direct Facebook to remove the post, and if they did so without the original authors consent, they did so by their own protocol.