No Wrongdoing Found in Officer Kneeling on Student During Arrest Amid Bans of Practice

A Massachusetts school police officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing after videos emerged of him handling a student arrest last month.

The officer, whose name has not been released to the public, was filmed kneeling on the neck of a Brockton High School student on November 17.

In an announcement on Tuesday, officials with the Brockton Public School district confirmed that an investigation of the incident by the Brockton Police's Internal Affairs Division found no wrongdoing, The Enterprise reported, and concluded that the officer "acted in accordance with existing laws and department protocols."

"While the terms of the officer's return to duty are still being determined, the district's foundational goal is to maintain a positive learning environment for every student and that remains our primary focus," district spokesperson Jess Silva-Hodges said in a statement. "Given that this is now a personnel matter, we are unable to comment further."

A Brockton Police spokesperson told The Enterprise that the officer works for the school district.

It is still unknown when and if the officer will return his role at the school, or if he will face any sort of discipline for the incident. The officer has been on administrative leave since videos taken of the arrest gained public attention.

Brockton school police officer cleared
A school police officer in Brockton, Massachusetts has been cleared of any wrongdoing after in investigation of an arrest last month where the officer knelt on a student's neck. Pictured, a file photo of a police officer in New York City. iStock / Getty Images Plus-AlessandroPhoto

In multiple videos of the arrest, the officer can be seen kneeling on the neck and upper back of a student who is being held down on the pavement outside Brockton High School.

"Why are you on his neck?" one person can be heard asking during the incident. Superintendent of Schools Michael Thomas said at the time that the student was being arrested after allegedly assaulting another student. Following the incident, the student was charged with assault and battery. The officer's behavior was referred to the Brockton Police Department for investigation.

"The video depicts the moment the student is being handcuffed and the way the student is being restrained during the arrest has been a cause for great concern," Thomas said, adding that the videos were "painful to watch."

In the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, numerous police departments across the U.S. have moved to ban various sorts of neck holds. Floyd died after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for roughly nine minutes during a May 2020 arrest. This prompted activists to call for the end of officers using chokeholds, which block airflow, and carotid holds, which block blood flow.

In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill in December 2020 banning all forms of neck restraints.

"A law enforcement officer shall not be trained to use a lateral vascular neck restraint, carotid restraint or other action that involves the placement of any part of law enforcement officer's body on or around a person's neck in a manner that limits the person's breathing or blood flow," Baker said.

According to a Washington Postsurvey from September, at least 32 of the 65 largest police departments in the U.S. had explicitly banned or restricted the use of neck restraints since Floyd's death. The departments represent, in total, a population of around 64 million, or roughly 20-percent of the U.S. population.

"We have to show people we are listening," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in June, when the department banned neck restraints outright. "We can't afford another man dying at the hands of a police officer with no justification. We can't have any more violations of the public trust."