A Spring Valley High School incident in South Carolina now has the attention of the FBI. Video at the high school of a local male deputy, on-call at the school, manhandling a female student who refused to report to the discipline office, is going viral this week. The video shows the white officer – identified as 11-year veteran Ben Fields – restraining a black teenager with a high degree of force.
Reports MSN News on Oct. 27: “Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has asked the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department to investigate an incident between a school resource officer and a female student at Spring Valley High School, which was caught on video Monday and posted online.”
The shocking video shows officer Fields approaching the student – whose name was not released – and grabbing her by the left arm. He then puts his right arm around her neck and flips the desk backwards – with her in it – before spinning her around and dragging her to the front of the class, where she is handcuffed on the floor.
Another student, not seen in the video, attempts to assist the female student who is being arrested. The pair were arrested under charges of “disturbing the peace.”
According to reports, the teacher in the room told the student she must leave the class. She refused, so an administrator was called, who told the student that either she goes willingly, or the resource officer will “make her go.”
Sheriff Lott said he has turned over the investigation to Dave Thomas, special agent in charge for the FBI for South Carolina. Lott did say that the officer acted as any cop would when a suspect resists arrest by not complying with the orders of the police.
“The student was told she was under arrest for disturbing school and given instructions which she again refused,” Lott said. “The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested by the School Resource Officer (SRO).”
Joel Lourie (D-Richland), a South Carolina senator and an alumnus at Spring Valley High School, released a statement by email, expressing outrage and support for the student and her family.
“I have watched with horror the disturbing video from Spring Valley High School today,” Lourie said Monday. “As the father of two children, including a daughter, my thoughts and prayers are with the young lady, her family and the entire Richland 2 community who are all severely hurting right now. I cannot imagine what could have led to such a violent response from the law enforcement officer. I am confident that both the school district and the sheriff’s department will do a quick but thorough investigation to bring us all the facts and take the appropriate action necessary.”
According to CNN, the officer – who has been placed on administrative leave and has been barred from the school while the investigation is conducted – has received equal parts praise and criticism. Fields has been serving as the school SRO since 2008.
In 2007, Officer Fields was a party to a lawsuit alleging false arrest and police brutality. Carlos Edward Martin said Fields approached him over an alleged “excessive noise complaint” and “slammed him to the ground, cuffed him, began kicking him, and chemically maced him until his clothing was drenched and the contents of the can of mace was depleted,” according to court documents.
A jury however cleared Fields of any wrongdoing.
Another lawsuit, set to go on trial in January, involves another Spring Valley High School student who claims he was unlawfully expelled. Fields is named as one of the ten defendants in the suit.
At the same time, Fields has received the 2014 Culture of Excellence Award by a different Richland County school, where he also worked as a SRO. “Ben has been working for the Richland County Sheriff’s Office Department since 2004 and joined the School Resource Officer Program in 2008,” a sheriff’s department newsletter said. “He is assigned to Spring Valley High School as well as Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School, and has proven to be an exceptional role model to the students he serves and protects.”
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