Two Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers are under investigation after a YouTube video emerged of officers yelling at and taunting teens at a boot camp for troubled youth.
In one shot, a female instructor belittled a female teen for not finishing exercises, the Contra Costa Times reports. "It's because she's a cheerleader," sneered the instructor. The story was first reported by the Daily News.
And while most of the kids in the video (above) appear to be pre-teens or teens, at least one child looks to be only about five or six years old.
The LAPD said that it did not know about the 12-week program, which was held at a Hollywood school, and that it is investigating both the class and conduct of the officers, KTLA reports.
The two officers who ran the boot camp, Ismael Gonzalez and Alex Nava, reportedly charged $200 for the 12 weeks, which is twice as much as the LAPD's teen boot camp charges for the same length.
Jorja Leap, a social welfare professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, told the Contra Costa Times she believes there is "borderline psychological abuse" in the video. "The question to ask: What if this was happening on a LAUSD [Los Angeles Unified School District] campus?" she said. "What if this was a coach? What would your reaction be?"
But Gonzales defended the program, which includes counseling for parents, saying, "The program is positive not only for our kids, but for the parents. It gives them a bond."
He said his program was modeled after the LAPD's boot camp, called Juvenile Impact Program, which also uses harsh military tactics. In a video of the Juvenille Impact Program, an officer yells at a young boy complaining of stomach pains, the Daily News reports. "You want to throw up? Stop lagging!," the officer shouted.
"I couldn't look," Sonja Serna, whose 12-year son was in the LAPD program, told the paper about the video. "My husband told me not to."
However, while others have criticized the military-style tactics for being ineffective and making teens numb to yelling, Serna praised the program for improving kids' grades and behavior.
This is not the first Southern California boot camp to be plagued with controversy. Last year a teen boot camp in Pasadena came under fire when a disturbing video emerged of instructors screaming at a young boy as he was forced to hold a heavy car tire. The boy was brought to his knees as he cried and was terrorized by four adults. Separately, the operator of the camp, Kelvin "Sgt. Mac" McFarland, was charged in March with sexual penetration by a foreign object, forcible rape and oral copulation of two 14-year-old girls.