By: Brittany Welch
A South Carolina 16-year old student was slammed to the ground by Officer Ben Fields after she was asked to give up her phone several times by the teacher and administrators. When she refused, Fields was called to handle the situation and remove the student from the classroom. This simple request resulted in a violent altercation. This altercation caught on video went viral and brought issues about police brutality to the forefront of the media attention. Following the viral hype, people were outraged by actions some argued were assault against the student in question.
However, these individuals are missing several key points of the events that unfolded that day at Spring Valley High. First, there are several videos that later surfaced showing the girl punching Officer Fields before he ever harmed her. It was only after her violent outburst that the officer became violent himself. Because of this, individuals came to Officer Fields’s defense claiming that had the student followed the teacher’s or Officer Fields’s orders, the arrest would not have happened.
Fields’s fellow deputies reinforced this idea in a later interview. They stated that resource officers should not be called into the classroom for disruptive behavior. They believe that it is not what the officers are actually there for, and they do not have the proper training to handle such situations. These “resource officers” are fulltime police officers, and they are trained to use force to put down an aggressor. Superintendents and principals over the years have increased the number of officers in schools to help keep order in cases like school shootings and drugs offenses, but have officers’ involvement in schools gone too far?
The first issue with this case is that the teachers and administration should have exhausted every option in order to deal with and defuse the situation. Then, if nothing worked, they should have suspended her for disorderly conduct. Since they had poor judgment, Officer Fields was called in and did what he was trained to do.
The second issue is that Officer Fields got fired because he used “excessive force” on the student. While I believe he should have handled himself in a more mature manner, the student is still at fault. She assaulted an officer by punching him. That is ultimately the reason he had to use force to begin with. Because of this, I do not believe he should have been fired.
However, I realize Officer Fields’s force was unnecessary, and I think he should have been taken out of Spring Valley and required to receive training at the police academy. I feel the reason he was fired is mostly political. His actions have damaged the department’s image in a time when police brutality but is widely scrutinized by the public. It is not only police brutality also racial issues that have captivated and enraged the public for a considerable amount of time.
I do not believe the student’s color had anything to do with the issue, but I do not think it would be fair to ignore this fact altogether. White – on black – murder and mistreatment sparked the uneasy feeling and distrust citizens have towards cops. I say this because even though Officer Fields had a good record while he was with the department, they let him go because he is now a liability in the eyes of the public.
The incident at Spring Valley High shows that situations like this can be prevented. It just takes pressure from communities to make the retraining of staff members within school districts a priority. But the police also need to think about how they are training the officers they let patrol the streets and watch over schools, if they do not remove them altogether.