Toronto police have charged a 16-year-old male student with assaulting a uniformed officer while resisting arrest in the hallway of one of the city's largest high schools, the first such incident since officers were stationed in schools full-time last year.
Captured on in jerky detail on cellphone cameras and posted on YouTube, the altercation offers a powerful cautionary tale about the complexities of putting police officers into schools, especially in the era of instant-video sharing.
The officer in the video, Constable Syed Ali Moosvi, is one of roughly 50 police officers assigned to Toronto high schools this year, up from 30 last year.
In several video clips captured Friday and since then viewed thousands of times on YouTube, Const. Moosvi is shown handcuffing and leading a struggling, loudly protesting 16-year-old down a corridor at Northern Secondary School amid a chorus of jeers and profanities.
"Get the fuck out of here," one voice yells at the officer. "We got you on two cameras," screams another.
The opinions of the amateur videographers are of a like kind.
"Student Arrested at Northern Secondary School For No Reason," reads the headline above the longest clip, which has drawn dozens of comments, mostly critical of the police.
"Power-tripping Cop Arrests Student For No Reason," says another.
Accusations of police racism underscore the incident even though Constable Moosvi is non-white.
"We the students believe he unlawfully, and perhaps based on racial stereotypes, arrested a black student at our school," said a pupil who forwarded two of the clips to The Globe and Mail.
Constable Moosvi was slightly hurt in the melee, the first time a School Resource Officer assigned to designated schools has been allegedly attacked. And what prompted his initial interest in the tall, bearded student is not shown in the video clips.
But police say the incident's origins were straightforward: The youth was loitering in the corridor and when Constable Moosvi asked him to identify himself, he refused to do so.
"That led the officer to believe he was a trespasser who didn't belong in the school," said Constable Wendy Drummond
Then, the youth started to walk away.
"That caused greater concern, making the officer think, 'What's this person hiding?'" Constable Drummond said. "One of the reasons for the officer to be there is to create a safe atmosphere."
The student was subsequently charged with assault with intent to resist arrest and was released on an undertaking.
And for all the uproar during and after the confrontation - "Keep it up, keep it up," some students are heard chanting - the video clips actually vindicate Const. Moosvi's actions, Constable Drummond said.
While agreeing that the instant-video age poses some novel challenges, "This has worked in the officer's favour," she said.
In the video the youth is repeatedly heard to say to the officer, "You have to tell me what I've done."
Just as repeatedly, Constable Moosvi demands that the student put his hands behind his back so he can be cuffed.
Located on Mount Pleasant Road just north of Eglinton Avenue, Northern Secondary draws its students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and parental incomes and this is the first year in which it has had a designated police officer on its premises.
The expansion of the program from 30 schools to 50 followed first-year data showing a decline in student suspensions and criminal charges at the schools where it was already in place.
Some of those 50 schools are located in high-crime neighbourhoods while others are not. It is not the police but rather the Toronto District School Board and its Catholic counterpart that decide where officers should be assigned.
Northern Secondary principal Varla Abrams did not respond to a message yesterday seeking comment.
TDSB executive superintendent Donna Quan, however, said that while updated statistics will not be available until next month, the expanded program appears to be working well.
"The preliminary feedback appears to be very positive," she said. "The police are in a wide range of recreational activities with the students, and the majority of schools appear very satisfied with having an officer on site, as do parents and students."
Ms. Quan added that she has seen the principal video of the Northern Secondary incident, and "From what I saw, the police officer did try to guide the young man and was not out of [order]"