JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has been arrested and charged with felony child abuse, Undersheriff Pat Ivey announced Tuesday.
Officer Erica Nicole McRae, 37, a 12-year veteran with the sheriff's office, is accused of disciplining her son by beating him with a plastic clothes hanger.
"The child was supposedly disciplined for misbehaving at school, and allegedly (McRae) struck the child multiple times with a clothes hanger to the point that the plastic clothes hanger broke," Ivey said. "(McRae) allegedly grabbed a second clothes hanger and continued to discipline the child."
Police said the child reported being beaten on Oct. 12 and then again the morning of Oct. 13. He went to school that day and reported the beating to a school administrator, who called the Department of Children and Families, police said.
DCF contacted JSO and the child was interviewed and medically examined on Oct. 14.
Ivey said there were several injuries on the boy's arms and legs. He said the bruises were consistent with a thin, curved object, like a hanger.
Opinions were split on social media Tuesday about whether the punishment went too far, but a child psychologist said physical punishment on a child is never justifiable.
"The problem with (physical) punishment is it does change the behavior when the parent is around, but as soon as the parent disappears, the child will carry out that same behavior when the parent isn't around," parenting psychologist Dr. Justin D'Arienzo said.
He said most psychologists and pediatricians would not recommend corporal punishment or spanking, even though 66 percent of Americans believe it is effective. D'Arienzo said corporal punishment does more damage than good.
"There's research that shows kids may have mental health problems or be more aggressive and also fear their parents, if the parents use those means," D'Arienzo said.
He said not all children have lasting impacts from corporal punishment but said it can increase the risk for problems.
For a felony arrest, officers are given the option of resigning or going on leave. McRae has elected to go on leave without pay.
DCF said it is still investigating the case and that there are no other cases involving McRae.
The child is now living with another relative.