Boynton Beach police officer who kicked teen's legs justified in use of force

Chief recommends 2-day suspension for improper protocol


BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – A Boynton Beach police officer who kicked the legs of a 13-year-old boy, causing him to fall to the ground, in an incident that was caught on cellphone video was justified in his use of force, Chief Jeffrey Katz said Tuesday.

An internal affairs investigation determined that while Officer Jermaine Jones was justified in his use of force, his performance of an acceptable takedown maneuver was problematic because he failed to control the teen's upper body as protocol dictates.

Katz recommended that Jones receive a two-day suspension for unsatisfactory performance and not documenting the use of force on the appropriate departmental form.

Kevens Jean-Baptiste claimed he was handcuffed and taken off a school bus in May after he and another boy opened windows against the driver's orders.

Police were called to a report of eggs being thrown at a bus driver and two buses full of students were being delayed getting to school.

Jean-Baptiste admitted students had thrown eggs from the bus a day earlier, but the teen said he wasn't being unruly. He said he rolled down his window because a girl sprayed perfume and he has asthma.

According to a June report by the Palm Beach County state attorney's office, which elected not to pursue criminal charges, the teen was "being disruptive and profane" to the officer and "chest bumped" Jones and another officer, even after the teen was placed in handcuffs.

That's when cellphone video captured by another student on the bus showed Jones putting Jean-Baptiste in a choke hold and kicking the boy's legs, causing him to fall on his back to the ground.

Katz said the investigation concluded that Officer Fabrice Jeanniton did not act to control the situation prior to Jones' intervention. As a result, Katz said he would administer a written reprimand for unsatisfactory performance.

Jones and Jeanniton will also be required to attend retraining in control of conflict.

"We are committed to ensuring that we perform our duties in a way that reflects the professionalism expected by and deserved by our public," Katz said in a statement. "Anytime we identify the opportunity to improve the competencies of our personnel, we get one step closer to this objective. As promised, all documents, evidence, and a full copy of the summary are available for anyone who wishes to educate themselves on the particulars of this case."

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