School resource officer resigns after roughly restraining 11-year-old girl in N.M.

FARMINGTON, N.M. (KOAT/CNN) - A New Mexico police department will be reviewing its policies after an internal review into an incident between a school resource officer and a middle school student.

Officer Zach Christensen, a school resource officer at Mesa View Middle School, resigned Oct. 1 after an internal investigation by the Farmington Police Department.

The investigation stemmed from an Aug. 27 confrontation between Christensen and an 11-year-old girl. Body camera footage released by police shows the officer push the girl to the ground and restrain her. She can be heard crying loudly and repeatedly saying he was hurting her.

Body camera footage shows Officer Zach Christensen push the 11-year-old girl to the ground and restrain her. She can be heard crying loudly and repeatedly saying he was hurting her.
Body camera footage shows Officer Zach Christensen push the 11-year-old girl to the ground and restrain her. She can be heard crying loudly and repeatedly saying he was hurting her. (Source: Farmington Police Department/KOAT/Hearst/CNN)

School administrators, who witnessed the incident, tried to get Christensen to stop.

“Officer Christensen, she is not a threat to yourself or others at this moment,” said one administrator in the video.

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe agrees with that administrator.

“Our officers have training to kind of calm things down and settle things down and move into the facts. Instead, we were the ones, really, that ratcheted things up,” he said. “For me personally, this was spectacularly disappointing.”

Christensen claims he reacted after he thought he witnessed the 11-year-old assault the school principal.

Prior to the restraint, video shows administrators and Christensen following the girl around for nearly 45 minutes, trying to get her to listen to their repeated requests to sit down and talk to them. They remark on her constant disruptive behavior throughout.

Chief Hebbe's statement on the incident involving a student and SRO

The Farmington Police Department today announces a school resource officer is no longer employed with the department following an investigation into a use of force incident at a middle school. Chief Steve Hebbe said in a more detailed video message to the community, "When we fall short of our expectations and standards, we hold ourselves accountable. Like many of you, I was shocked and angry when I watched this video. We value our relationship with our community and will continue to work hard to maintain the public's confidence in our department." The full lapel camera video of the incident may be viewed on Farmington Police Department's YouTube at https://youtu.be/ffLL4--xOq8

Posted by Farmington Police Department - New Mexico on Friday, October 18, 2019

Hebbe says the department will be reviewing its policies.

“We are not pledging that we are going to be a perfect department, but we are going to be a department that reacts when we make mistakes, that owns those mistakes,” he said.

The New Mexico State Police reviewed the footage and recommended the officer not face any criminal charges.

The case has been turned over to the San Juan District Attorney’s Office.

Copyright 2019 KOAT, Hearst, Farmington Police Department via CNN. All rights reserved.