Two Abington Township police officers were injured when their attempt to disperse a group of youths outside a Burger King turned violent Thursday night, a confrontation following a month of turmoil in the Montgomery County community over police in schools.
Police did not initially publicize the incident in an attempt to discourage anyone from drawing connections between it and a still-simmering controversy surrounding a proposed amendment to a district policy on school police, Police Chief Patrick Molloy said.
“This has nothing whatsoever to do with anything related to that,” Molloy said during a phone interview Saturday shortly after the department issued a statement about the alleged assaults and the arrests of two teenagers.
He said the incident, about 9:30 p.m. at the Burger King at Easton and Edgehill Roads, was one of several “skirmishes” among young people that police responded to Thursday night after a basketball game between ultra-rivals Abington and Cheltenham High Schools. Cheltenham won the game, played at Abington High, 70-67.
Police said officers responded to a report of “a fight involving a large group of people” at the Burger King.
According to Molloy, two officers were speaking to each other when Abington resident Hope Brouwer-Ancher, 18, pushed one of them. As officers tried to restrain her, a 17-year-old whose name was not provided because he is a juvenile threw an officer to the ground, Molloy said. That officer sustained a sprained wrist, and a lieutenant broke a finger during the struggle, Molloy said. The officers are in their 50s and 60s and are police veterans of more than 30 years, he said.
Brouwer-Ancher was arraigned by District Judge Juanita Price, who set bail at $10,000, police said. The status of the juvenile was not available.
Instagram videos of the arrests triggered accusations on social media that the assaults stemmed from controversial and divisive remarks made last month by a newly elected member of the Board of Education, Tamar Klaiman. The researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine had said, in part, that students of color were “much more likely to be shot by” school police.
At a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, Klaiman, who was elected in November and installed last month, apologized for the second time for the Jan. 21 remarks. At the time, board members were discussing an updated policy on school resource officers, with Klaiman expressing concern that the officers were armed.
“There’s a lot of evidence that anyone carrying a firearm in a district building puts kids at risk, particularly students of color,” Klaiman said. She also said that “black and brown students are more likely to be shot by police officers, especially school resource officers, than other students.”
Her comments ignited a backlash that included an online petition demanding her resignation.
She has since expressed support for Abington police and its school resource officers, and Molloy has accepted her apology.
“I just didn’t want this narrative to continue," Molloy said Saturday about his reluctance to release details about the violent encounter his officers experienced Thursday night.
Molloy suggested more than an intense basketball rivalry is to blame for why two of his officers are now unable to work.