School Police Officer Lakisha Pulley was charged by the Baltimore city State’s Attorney’s Office today with assaulting three middle school students and with theft.
The assault charges stem from an Oct. 28 incident at Vanguard Collegiate Middle School – caught on video – in which the officer struck one girl with a baton and sprayed two others with pepper spray.
The incident, documented on school surveillance cameras and first disclosed by WBALTV11, shows Pulley having a scuffle with students, apparently as a result of the verbal exchange after one of them initially failed to follow the officer’s directions.
Pulley faces one count of first-degree assault, three counts of second degree assault, and three counts of reckless endangerment.
Additionally, Pulley was also charged Monday with felony theft. The charge was related to a separate incident that took place at Vanguard on November 19 according to Rochelle Ritchie, director of communications for the State’s Attorney’s Office.
Ritchie said a Maryland Food Bank delivery driver dropped off food items at Vanguard (that particular delivery was in error; it was intended for another location) and instead of leaving them alone Pulley placed some of the items in her personal vehicle.
Few Details from North Avenue
The charges come as the school police force has been in the news over controversial legislation – introduced in Annapolis at the request of city school officials – that would allow school police officers to carry their guns in school buildings.
Under current state law, officers are not to carry guns into school buildings during the regular school day. Pulley appears to be carrying a gun in the video.
Yet, when asked if Pulley could be charged with carrying the gun in the school building, Ritchie said: “we cannot prosecute her for allegedly having a gun on her person because of the statute that is currently in place.” She cited this portion of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
Asked what exceptions in the statute apply to Officer Pulley, and how this trumps other legal provisions school officers say prohibit them from carrying weapons, Ritchie said, “I can only say that because of the statute, we are unable to prosecute.”
Members of the force and their supporters have testified on behalf of the legislation, saying that the officers need weapons to protect students.
Critics – including parents, students and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland – have questioned the need for the bill and expressed fears the allowing firearms in schools could lead to students being shot by overreacting officers or by students who take the officers’ guns.
The Brew sent school officials a series of questions about how long Pulley has been on the force, who is paying for her defense (school system of the police union) and more details on the alleged theft. Spokeswoman Edie House-Foster said the school system does not comment on personnel matters.
House-Foster was prompt with her response about Pulley, but still has not responded to The Brew’s basic questions about the school police force.
What are the current education and training practices for school police officers?
Are there continuing education requirements? If so, what are they?
How do you ensure officers with findings of excessive force are not hired?
What data is collected with regard to school policing?
Is the data made public?
Lack of information about the legislation has also rankled parents, who angrily questioned School Board members last week about why, although they voted to push the measure, they failed to explain it in detail on their summary of legislative priorities in Annapolis.
“Raid Team” with Battering Ram
In the absence of official answers, some intriguing answers are available from the school system’s own website, or rather an earlier version of it.
Last refreshed in 2010, this School Police Home Page is no longer a link on baltimorecityschools.org but it is still accessible on the Internet.
It includes a history of the school police, a “meet the sergeants” page, a breakdown of the school police divisions, photos of the command staff, an organizational chart, and a FAQ.
One page on the site, entitled “Mission Statements,” tells the purpose of the force, but includes a photo of something called “The City Schools Police Raid Team.” It shows city school officers posing with what looks like a riot shield and a battering ram.
City Schools has not yet answered our question as to why school officers would need such equipment. City Schools Police Chief Marshall T. Goodwin also has not responded to The Brew’s request for information.