Central New York, Crime, Education, Government, Public Safety, Syracuse

Syracuse Police face $12 million lawsuit from student

Syracuse Police Department, the City of Syracuse and others are facing a $12 million lawsuit from a former Nottingham High School student following an officer-student altercation in February of 2017.

Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC NEWS)— The Syracuse Police Department, City of Syracuse and others are facing a $12 million lawsuit following a student-officer altercation last year.  A change.org petition is demanding Officer Vallon Smith’s removal from district schools after a 14-year-old special needs student– referred to in the petition as “JB”–having “suffered a split lip and fractured left elbow as a result of a dispute.”

JB’s family is suing the City, Police Chief Frank Fowler, Officer Smith and the Syracuse Police Department claiming the officer violated the freshman’s constitutional rights.

PTO President and mother of a Nottingham student, Tula Goenka, doesn’t believe police officers should be in schools.  She does recognize that there needs to be some sort of trained security to deescalate situations, but she questions just why Officer Smith was put in Nottingham in the first place.

“I believe that if a police officer has a history of anger management issues and already has a case against him about something that happened on the street why was that police officer put in a school?” Goenka questioned.

The incident Goenka is referring to is another civil case against the same officer following the July 2016 arrest of Maurice Crawley.  He was charged with a misdemeanor after taping a Facebook live of an arrest.

Syracuse’s Citizen Review Board found in February of 2018 that Officer Smith be “suspended without pay for one week removed from his position as SRO at Nottingham for one year; have a written reprimand placed in his personnel file; and be removed from his position as SRO for one year, at which time he would be reevaluated to determine his ability to resume his duties as SRO.”

The Onondaga County Disctrict Attorney’s office is currently reviewing the case pending possible criminal charges against Officer Smith.  Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh released a statement saying:

“Mayor Walsh has reviewed the incident with Chief Fowler and continues discussions with the Chief and Superintendent Alicea regarding school resource officers. Because of active litigation and an ongoing review by the Onondaga County District Attorney’s office, the City is limited in what it can say regarding the matter. The Mayor encourages and welcomes input on school safety and is listening to the concerns being expressed about this incident and about the relationship between students, school staff and school resource officers.”

We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.