Family of Florida girl arrested as 6-year-old in 2019 renews call to raise minimum arrest age

ORLANDO, Fla. — The household of Kaia Rolle, who was 6 when she was arrested at an Orlando constitution college by reserve officers in 2019, amended their lawsuit towards town and OPD as they renew a push to cut back Florida’s minimal age of arrest.

The lawsuit, first filed final yr however amended Monday morning, accuses officers Dennis Turner and Sergio Ramos of extreme pressure and false arrest in taking Kaia, who was perp-walked carrying zip ties as a result of her wrists had been too small to suit commonplace handcuffs, to the Juvenile Evaluation Middle over a tantrum through which she allegedly hit college workers. Together with claiming the arrest and subsequent battery cost had been unconstitutional, the grievance accuses the officers’ supervisors of failing to intervene within the arrest.

It additional blames the Metropolis of Orlando for having by no means “instituted insurance policies or procedures that educated officers on de-escalation methods involving little kids,” in accordance with the 25-page grievance accessible in courtroom information.

“We deliver this lawsuit as we speak on behalf of [Kaia’s] constitutional rights and her want for security and her have to be acknowledged and her dignity to be acknowledged right here within the state of Florida and throughout the nation,” stated Bobby DiCello, representing Kaia and her household, who stood with him at a press convention in entrance of the Orange County Courthouse.

Kaia’s arrest and processing on the JAC, the place her household stated her mugshot was taken as she stood on a step stool, made nationwide headlines as many had been shocked {that a} youngster so younger might be arrested at college. Meralyn Kirkland, her grandmother, stated the varsity was conscious of a medical situation that prompted the kid’s tantrums however nonetheless allowed her to be arrested.

The misdemeanor battery cost filed towards Kaia was dropped the following day by prosecutors. In the meantime, Turner, whose physique digicam video confirmed him bragging about arresting kids as younger as 7 up to now, was fired days later after OPD officers stated he violated a coverage banning arrests of youngsters below 12 with out a supervisor’s approval.

The company has since up to date its coverage to require the approval of the chief deputy. However years later, Kaia, now 10, nonetheless panics when she sees a police officer in public, a “lifelong mission” of restoration with which Kirkland stated her granddaughter must stay.

“Kaia is now not the Kaia that we knew,” Kirkland informed reporters. “However Kaia is a fighter, so she continues to combat. She continues to inform us she needs her outdated life again.”

In 2021, the Florida Legislature handed the Kaia Rolle Act, which set a minimal age of arrest to seven years outdated after a earlier model of the invoice that set it to 10 didn’t clear the Florida Home the earlier yr. Although she was commemorated after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the invoice into legislation, it had been months after Kaia had already aged out of its most important provision.

Kirkland stated she is devoted to rising Florida’s minimal age to 14, a marketing campaign she hopes to increase nationwide, calling it her “life’s mission.”

“If there’s any manner I can stop even a handful, even one different youngster, from struggling what Kaia suffered and one different household from enduring what our household endured, I might be ok with it,” she stated. “There is no such thing as a manner a minimal age of seven could be allowed to face.”

Twenty-four U.S. states haven’t any minimal age for prosecuting kids, and there’s no federal legislation mandating one, in accordance with the Nationwide Juvenile Justice Community, which calls the U.S. an “outlier” as most international locations set the age to 14.

Of the states that do have a minimal age, Florida’s is the bottom whereas Maryland and New Hampshire have the best at 13 years outdated, although all three states presently have exceptions on the books.

Greater than 2,000 kids ages 5 to 12 had been arrested in Florida throughout fiscal yr 2021-2022, making up about 5% of youth arrests, in accordance with the newest Division of Juvenile Justice information. The DJJ recorded 6,493 arrests in colleges statewide, largely in center and excessive colleges whereas disproportionately affecting Black college students.

And as an Orlando Sentinel investigation identified months after Kaia’s arrest, whether or not a toddler is arrested at college typically will depend on the legislation enforcement company, a sample information counsel persists.

“We all know this can not stand,” stated Bacardi Jackson, interim deputy authorized director for kids’s rights on the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle who spoke alongside Kirkland on Monday. “We all know we now have to name on our political leaders to do one thing completely different. We will have a distinct Florida.”


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