Urbandale police say officer who video appears to show kneeling on student's neck acted appropriately

  • In US
  • 2022-05-20 00:46:07Z
  • By The Des Moines Register

A video posted to Twitter Thursday afternoon appears to show an Urbandale School Resource Officer in an altercation with a student, kneeling on her neck for a few seconds while attempting to restrain her.

The video, which the Urbandale School District has confirmed shows Eric Wilcutt, school resource officer for Urbandale High School, was posted by the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement, which called for Wilcutt's firing and the elimination of resource officers, saying they "escalate altercations & perpetuate violence."

But a news release the Urbandale Police Department issued in response to the video said Wilcutt's supervisors, the department's internal affairs administrator and the chief of police had determined that Wilcutt "used an acceptable level of physical force to stop the assault and gain control of the aggressor."

It said the incident occurred May 2 during lunch at the school when the two students began fighting and Wilcutt attempted to separate them but was pushed into a brick pillar, it said. The student termed the "aggressor" fell to the floor but kept a hold of the other student's clothes, resisting attempts to separate them, it said.

Wilcutt grabbed that student's head but did not restrict her ability to breathe, the release said. He used his body to restrain the student, the release said, but moved to the side of the student when she was subdued. He then led her away from the lunchroom, it said.

"The department's review of the incident determined Officer Wilcutt followed Urbandale Police Department policy and procedure in using appropriate physical force to stop an active assault in attempts to protect the victim of the assault, other students, and school staff," the release said.

A student who saw the fight disagreed, saying it was a small altercation, "nothing that was out of hand."

"It could have easily been split up by a teacher," said junior Sia Smith. "The police officer proceeded to use excessive force on a girl and as you can see put a knee on her neck, which is clearly very dangerous."

The Des Moines Black Liberation Movement said in its tweet that Wilcutt kneeled on the girl's neck and "should not be allowed around children."

"No more cops in school," the account tweeted. "Remove SRO's."

More: Des Moines school officials blame rise in fights on COVID stress, not lack of officers on campus

Wilcutt, 2015 officer of the year in Urbandale, was the subject of an investigation the same year after Urbandale resident Farica L. Robertson, a Black woman, wrote an essay on the Des Moines Register's editorial page accusing him of racial profiling when he pulled her car over in front of her residence. She said he scolded her for asking questions and was evasive about the reasons for the stop.

The police department's 2015 investigation, which included a review of Wilcutt's dash cam video, concluded that Robertson's accusation was unfounded. It said the video showed Wilcutt admonishing her for not knowing restrictions on her driver's license allowed her only to drive back and forth to school - not to run errands, as she acknowledged she was doing.

The following year, a Black college student, Sebastian Baugh, posted on Facebook that Wilcutt had stopped him for failing to wear a seatbelt. Though he received a ticket, he praised Wilcutt for his patience during the encounter and wrote, "I feel safer living in West Des Moines knowing that officers like Wilcutt are out there!"

Sarah LeBlanc covers the western suburbs for the Register. Reach her at 515-284-8161 or sleblanc@registermedia.com. Follower her on Twitter at @sarahkayleblanc

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Urbandale police officer's knee seen on student's neck in video


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