Is Beating Kids at Boot Camp All in a
February 17, 2006
Try this with your kid at home. See what happens.
Pummel him. Kick him off his feet. Hold him down. Stick a
knee in his back. Jerk his head backward. Stick a forearm in
his throat. Punch him. Bloody his face. Cram a vial of
ammonia up his nose.
Continue the abuse even after the child appears to have
lapsed into unconsciousness. Ignore his obvious physical
Do it knowing that a video camera is recording the incident,
blow by blow. Do it as if brutalizing a child is just part
of your daily routine.
Then, when the kid dies, see what happens.
You know what happens. You're arrested. You go to jail to
await trial, which may be the safest place in the community
given the public outrage over the death of a physically
But kill a kid in a Florida boot camp, standards change.
Thirty-nine days after Martin Lee Anderson's death, other
juveniles are still incarcerated at the boot camp run by the
Bay County sheriff.
None of the half-dozen officers who introduced the
14-year-old boy to the camp's regime of physical abuse have
been suspended. They're still at work, tending to other
When a cop uses deadly force, no matter how necessary, if he
takes down a mass murderer on a mad shooting spree, the
officer is taken off the streets while the department
Guards at juvenile boot camp operate in another universe,
unshackled by the rules governing other juvenile lockups, or
even prisons for adults offenders.
The staff at the Panama City camp has thus far avoided even
a public reprimand from their boss. Rather, Sheriff Frank
McKeithen's harsh words have been aimed at two state
representatives from South Florida.
Reps. Gus Barreiro and Dan Gelber, both members of the
Juvenile Justice Appropriations Committee, watched the Jan.
6 boot camp video of a half-dozen guards roughing up young
Anderson and told reporters they were stunned by what they
Sheriff McKeithen struck back immediately. He released a
statement calling Barreiro and Gelber ''loose- cannon
politicians,'' whose words were ''irresponsible, premature
and incorrect,'' as if these two meddling outsiders had
embellished the entire episode. Except a kid died at the
sheriff's boot camp. No exaggeration there. Barreiro
suggested Monday that maybe that bothersome fact ought to
top the list of the sheriff's concerns.
The Republican Barreiro stuck by his graphic description of
the tape, so disturbing, so surreal, he said that he felt
like screaming at the TV, ``Enough is enough. Leave the kid
JUST A JOB
For a so-called loose cannon, Rep. Gelber spoke Monday with
considerable restraint and measured words. The Democrat made
it clear that he was not some let-'em-go liberal, out to
crucify law officers, but a former prosecutor, the son of a
prosecutor who is married to a prosecutor, is a brother to a
prosecutor and a brother-in-law to a prosecutor. What he saw
on that tape was an institutional failure, a lack of
training, a twisted protocol. ''But what I saw wasn't blood
lust,'' he said.
In a way, Gelber said it was even more disturbing than an
out-of-control melee. He saw guards who seemed to think they
were carrying out their duties. And among their duties was
administering an unmerciful ``attitude adjustment.''
Gelber noted that the guards knew a camera was capturing the
incident on tape and they didn't bother to hide their
gut-wrenching excesses, knocking a 14-year-old around in a
way that would get a parent tossed in jail or a cop thrown
off the force.
They went about pummeling Martin Lee Anderson as if they
were just doing their job.
And those guards are still on the job.