UPDATE (2/13/2020) — Camden Police Chief Boyd Woody tells NBC 10 the officer who was caught on camera holding a high school student in a choke hold lost his job.
In a statement sent to NBC 10, Chief Woody said now former Officer Jake Perry violated department policy. The department is also reviewing training, policies, & assignments.
CAMDEN, Ark. (02/11/20) — The Camden Police Chief has a big decision on his hands this week. He’s deciding whether or not to fire one of his officers that appeared to have a student in a chokehold.
Many questions are lingering on his mind: “Was there excessive force in that incidence” and “Are the lines getting blurry between a police officer and a school resource officer while they’re at school?”
The Camden Police Department has a relationship with the Camden Fairview School District. Their officers serve as school resource officers to “deter crime” by the presence of a police officer.
“Our officers will work one month there and then they will rotate and another officer will work there,” Chief Bo Woody said.
Police officers acting as school resource officers are common around the nation with the rise of school shootings and other events. In an event one happens, a trained police officer can act in the moment versus an untrained school official.
The El Dorado School District also has a similar relationship with their police department but it’s quite different. El Dorado Police Chief Kenny Hickman said their officers are assigned to the schools based on their interests and qualifications.
Chief Hickman said they look at an officer’s personality and how well they communicate with students to determine whether or not they would be fit to work in a school setting. He believes this method has worked for the department and the school.
Two of their officers have been stationed at their respective schools for many years and he said it’s easier for them to build a relationship with students.
Officer Jake Perry has been working with the department for over two years and has been in the rotational shift since he started. It’s unclear whether or not Perry had a desire to work with students but many parents say that relationship building is key and that can’t come with a rotational shift.
In the past, Chief Woody said their department has assigned officers to the schools for an extended period of time but after a while he said they had to find a different plan.
Officers told him “they lose the fact that they are police officers” when they are designated to a school. Chief Woody said that’s why they had to rotate them “so that they [officers] don’t feel their locked into one job as a police officer. They’re well-rounded if they can spend more time everywhere.”
Whether or not that’s a good decision, Chief Woody said he’s not sure.
“I can’t give you a definite answer but maybe not,” he said. “That may need to change to a daily rotation. That may need to change to a yearly rotation.”
Camden Fairview School Superintendent, Fred Lilley, said he plans to continue their relationship with the police department but they want to find the best solution that works best for all.
Parents have mixed opinions about school resource officers and their role. Some don’t think police officers should be school resource officers. They believe the teachers and other school officials should be responsible.
Other parents believe police officers should be present on the school campuses, saying “I prefer it” and that they believe their children are safer with them there.
Those who agree with police officers being present say officers should be there all the time and that’s there’s “no relationship” when officers are only there a month out of the year.
Chief Woody hasn’t made any changes yet with how they will handle their officers being school resource officers. As for right now, he’s focused on answering one question at a time and that’s whether or not to fire his officer that was seen in the video.
When he makes that decision, that’s when he said he can make specific changes to policies and procedures.
“I’m working on it day and night right now,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for 24 hours and I’m not going to rest until I get this resolved.”
Chief Woody said the department has an investigator that has been getting statements from bystanders and compiling video from the officer’s body cam and surveillance video at the school.
It’s a difficult decision and he wants to make sure he’s fair when making that final determination.
“The only thing that I have right now solid is the same 30 second video that the world has seen,” he said. “I’m not going to say either way. I don’t know what started that incident and I don’t know how it ended. So, I want to see all of the facts.”
“I feared for my life,” student said as he recalled the incident between him and a police officer
CAMDEN, Ark. (02/10/20) — An investigation is underway after a video went viral on Facebook of a student resource officer appearing to have a student in a choke hold.
The incident happened just after 8 a.m. in the common area at the Camden Fairview High School.
The footage appears to show the Officer Jake Perry, who is assigned to Camden High School as a School Resource Officer, standing behind the student with his arm around the student’s throat. Dekyrion Ellis was the student shown in the video.
“I feared for my life,” Ellis said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I blacked out. I really didn’t see anything until he took me back to the office.”
Ellis said the incident stemmed from an argument between him and another student.
“He [the student] hit me. I pushed him. Then he pushed me and I pushed him harder to where he fell on the ground,” he said. “That’s when the kids started grabbing me and him.”
After that, he said that’s when the officer stepped in and things got out of control.
“The police officer pushed the kids off of me and he grabbed me and started choking me against the glass,” Ellis recalled.
Ellis’s family took him to the hospital where doctors took x-rays of his neck. He said he also received scratches on his arm. Physically, Ellis said he’s in some pain but that doesn’t amount to the shame he’s experienced. He said he was completely embarrassed.
“He could’ve taken me to the office,” he said. “He didn’t have to restrain me. It wasn’t like I was trying to get away from him. I wasn’t resisting arrest.”
Ellis’s grandfather, Mark Ellis, agreed the actions were inappropriate and that the officer could’ve handled the incident better.
“He should have put his hands behind his back,”Ellis’s grandfather said. ” That would’ve been the appropriate way to handle the situation.”
Ellis’s mother, Alonna Parker, said she received multiple calls from people about the video. She went to Facebook and saw it herself then immediately went to the school.
“My son couldn’t even breathe,” she said.”It was just really uncalled for.”
“It was totally unnecessary for him to use that excessive force on my grandson,” Ellis’s grandmother, Delondra Ellis said. “The look he had on his face to me looked like he was proud of what he was doing.
Chief Bo Woody said officers consider the age of the individual and the type of incident they’re involved in to determine if a person should be taken into custody and the amount of force that should be used.
“We escalate to the amount of force that we see necessary in order to take someone into custody,” he said. “I don’t know what the student was doing prior to that. All I can do is speculate.”
Officer Jake Perry was put on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Chief Bo Woody at the Camden Police Department took immediate action.
“The minute I found out that there was what appeared to be misconduct on his behalf, we took actions to stop it so that it couldn’t continue,” he said. “I will have an answer within the next couple of days of what it’s going to take to resolve this.”
Police officers spend a month at a time at the school as school resources officers. Chief Woody said they tried to place officers at the school for an extended period of time but they become “complacent”.
“They lose the fact that they are police officers so we rotate them every month so they don’t feel their locked into one job as police officer,” he said, “They’re well-rounded if they can spend more time everywhere.”
Chief Woody said Officer Perry has worked with the C.P.D for a little over two years and has worked in the schools prior to the incident. Chief Woody said he’s never had an issue with him, stating that he he’s a good guy.
“I’ve never had an incident with him,” he said. “He’s well received in the community. He’s lived here all of his life and never had an incident like this.”
According to the family, that’s not what they’ve been told about Perry’s personality.
“I have inboxes from people that don’t know me but know the officer that’s in the video and one word they described him was a bully,” Ellis’s dad, Dexter Parker said.
The family said the officer has a negative rapport with students at the middle school too. All the family wants is justice and to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“If we don’t get anything done then it’s going to keep going on,” Ellis’s mother said. “They’re not going to do anything about it.”
His grandmother agreed asking for police to do a more thorough background check on their officers.
“Especially when they’re going to be in the school system working and handling our children,” she said. “I think that would help.”
Chief Bo Woody said he plans to be transparent about the process with the family as well as the public. He said he will not tolerate misconduct from his officers.
“There’s nothing that I would do to interfere with the just and proper way to handle this situation,” he said. “There’s always an incident that sparks new policies and procedures and this is just going to be one of them.”
The Camden Police Department will investigate the matter. The chief said they will look at body cam footage and cameras at the school to take appropriate action. He hopes to have a decision before the end of the week.
WATCH: Cellphone footage shows altercation between student and Camden Police Officer
CAMDEN, Ar. — A Camden Police Officer has been relieved of duty after an apparent altercation with a high school student.
According to a press release from the Camden Police Department, Chief Boyd Woody was made aware of the incident on Monday morning when he was shown cell phone footage of Camden Officer Jake Perry in an apparent altercation with a student at Camden High School.
The footage appears to show the officer, who is assigned to Camden High School as a School Resource Officer, standing behind the student with his arm around the student’s throat.
According to Chief Woody, the officer has been relieved of duty effective immediately pending an investigation.
Chief Woody also stated that he would not tolerate misconduct from his officers and that this matter will be dealt with accordingly.
KTVE/KARD’s Gabrielle Phifer is in Camden today and will have more information tonight on NBC 10 News at Five, Six, and Ten, and FOX 14 News at 5:30 and Nine.