Body camera footage has shown US police officers handcuffing and screaming at a five-year-old boy who had walked away from his school.
The video, released on Friday by police in Maryland, shows the two officers telling the boy’s mother that she should “beat him”.
The incident from January 2020 is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the child’s mother.
Her lawyers allege that the child suffered emotional trauma.
The officers from Montgomery County Police Department had found the child a few streets away from the school and the body camera video shows him crying in the back of a police car as he is driven back.
The officers follow a member of staff and the boy into the school. A female officer is heard to say, “that’s why people need to beat their kids.”
Inside the assistant headteacher’s office, the child begins to cry loudly and the video shows one of the officers screaming directly into the boy’s face.
“Shut that noise up now!” the officer says. “I hope your momma let me beat you.”
Later the child’s mother arrives at the school and the video shows both officers encouraging her to hit her son.
“We want you to beat him,” one officer tells her. The mother responds that she would be worried about being sent to prison, but an officer responds: “You don’t go to prison for beating your child.”
One officer then handcuffs the child in front of his mother, saying to the boy: “You know what these are for? These are for people who don’t know how to listen and don’t know how to act.”
The officer removes the handcuffs after about a minute.
Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando – who asked for the video to be released – said the footage had made him “sick”, the Washington Post reported.
“We all saw a little boy be mocked, degraded, put in the seat of a police car, screamed at from the top of an adult police officer’s lungs, inches from his face. This is violence,” he said.
A statement from the Montgomery County school authority described the video as “extremely difficult” to watch.
“There is no excuse for adults to ever speak to or threaten a child in this way,” the statement said.
The Montgomery County Police Department said in a statement that the two officers had been the subject of a “thorough” internal investigation, the findings of which had not been released. They remain employed as sworn officers, the department said.
The statement said such investigations were considered confidential under Maryland law and it would not comment on the findings.
The child’s mother is suing Montgomery County, the two police officers, and the county’s board of education.