Schools Have Rules: Caught On Video Edition

The video of a girl at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina, first spread in a twit by Shaun King, being violently taken down by Richland County sheriff’s deputy Ben Fields, went viral.  Talk about a school resource, officer.

After all, she was disruptive.  Carlos Miller at Photography is Not a Crime provides thorough coverage of what happened and why, together with Fields’ lengthy history of “issues” with violence toward students.

According to Tony Robinson Jr., the teen who recorded one of the videos, the girl who was beaten and dragged was caught by the teacher using her phone in class and was ordered out.

The girl did not want to leave, pleading with the teacher to stay, promising she would not pull out her cell phone, which was when an administrator was called, then the deputy, who entered the room and immediately began clearing desks as if preparing to drag her out, according to  WLTX 19, who interviewed Robinson.

A second student who recorded the incident, Niya Kenny, was arrested for “disturbing schools.”

Clearly good cause for Fields’ beat down.  For the full story, read Carlos’ post.  For those who prefer to cut to the chase, Fields has been suspended without pay pending an “investigation,” which might be snarkily interpreted in light of his history and getting caught on viral video.

For those who feel that the problem wasn’t Fields, but the girl who could have avoided the mess by simply doing what she was told, that’s not how police use of force does, or should, work.  Immediate resort to force because somebody didn’t do what a cop told them to do, particularly when that person is a juvenile, is wholly improper. If you don’t get why, then you have no business reading this.

There remains a point deriving from this video, before there was background information that made clear there was, in fact, no reason whatsoever for Fields to resort to violence, that needs making.  When the video went viral, some immediately tried to come up with rationalizations for why Fields might have a legitimate reason to use excessive force.  After all, she might have threatened to bomb the school or kill puppies.  What about the puppies?

There is no scenario, no excuse, not even space aliens, that would legitimize Fields’ use of force.  The girl was unarmed.  Even assuming that she threatened to get her AK and shoot up her classmates, she posed no imminent threat of violence.

She used no force against Fields, posed no risk of danger to him even under the most liberal application of the First Rule of Policing.  She was, at worst, passive.  She failed to comply with his demand that she leave the classroom.

Contempt of cop?  That’s the worst of it, that he ordered her to do something and she didn’t. While this would give rise to his anger, possibly ‘roid rage as Carlos speculates, a cop getting angry at a student’s failure to respect his authoritah is not a lawful justification for the use of force, no matter how much you adore the police.

But what was he supposed to do when she refused to comply with his lawful order?  Not grab her around the neck, throw her violently to the ground, get dragged a few feet before the cop got atop her to cuff her.  The question isn’t what makes a cop’s job easier, but what justification exists for the use of force against a person, a student, when there is no force or threat of harm to anyone.

Or as Shaun King put it:

The Sheriff’s Office just confirmed for me that this student was not physical, but that she was “verbally disruptive” and that the officer was “forced” to do this since she “resisted arrest”. Nah.


27 thoughts on “Schools Have Rules: Caught On Video Edition

  1. Boffin

    Has there ever been a time in human history when disrespecting the king’s men or the constable not result in an immediate beating?

    1. SHG Post author

      Yes. The reason this video has gone viral is because it doesn’t happen every day by every cop in every school. Nice tin foil hat. Now off to reddit with you so grown ups can make intelligent comments.

  2. Dale Savage

    I live in South Carolina and practice criminal law here. I am saddened by the large number of comments that I have seen from this video where people give such deference to the cop and wanting to know “What did she do to force him to act like this?” “If she only complied this never would have happened” I am stunned how some residents here are quick to blame the girl for this happening. I am equally appealed at the school for not even reporting this but only making a statement claiming how concerned they are once the video went viral. Up until that point, they were silent in making any complaints to police or kicking this officer out of the school for this behavior. I’m not sure if it is we don’t want to think that those that are suppose to protect us are capable of doing such harm that it would just screw up our entire sense of order in society or some other rationale. Maybe that this state is consistently in the top 3 of the country for violence against women that culture of it’s okay for a man to beat a woman b/c she must have done something right? As appalling as this video is to me, how many of our residents have responded to this makes me even more disgusted.

    1. SHG Post author

      It tells you a lot about the default assumption, that if a cop did something, there must have been a good reason for it. There is no consideration of the fact that there could be no good reason, because cops are the good guys.

      1. Keith

        The default question when I view footage like this is: is there any reason which would excuse or explain this type of behavior and your post nails that question easily. Nah.

        At the risk of going off-topic, exceeding bounds and feeling out the edges of acceptable conduct is normal behavior for kids and the reaction to it can teach them how to be productive members of society. That this kind of reaction happens is clearly wrong, but I feel for a society that thinks submission is a good default behavior.

      2. Vin

        More likely that people who are horrified by what they saw, feeling a sense of hopelessness that it could happen to them, conclude that it wouldn’t ever happen to them because the girl did something wrong. It’s a mental way of taking control of a situation where there is no control.

        Could have been someone other than a cop and the response would likely be the same.

        That it was a cop is only a reinforcement of the psychological phenomenon because we are conditioned to believe that cops have our best interest in mind. When confronted with a clear example of that not being the case, our knee jerk reaction to find a reason why what we believe isn’t true. Blaming the girl is the easiest excuse to come to.

  3. Ted Folkman

    The culture that allows this kind of thing to happen was on display in the video in another way. Did you see the other kids in the class sitting there as if nothing was happening? Very odd, and very concerning. Yes, they’re just kids, but God forbid we’re raising a generation that watches apathetically when someone is getting beaten up in front of them. Even if the officer was entirely justified in what he did, I would have expected some kind of reaction from the onlookers.

    1. SHG Post author

      My take was that they were scared to death of Fields, and had they protested or gotten physically involved, they would have gotten a beat down of their own. What I saw were kids hiding their heads as if they were saying, “please don’t beat me too.”

      As for the teacher standing there, doing nothing, that may be a different story.

      1. Mort

        What I saw were kids hiding their heads as if they were saying, “please don’t beat me too.”

        “Because I didn’t see anything, honest…”

        Note that one of the kids who recorded the cop’s actions was arrested, which reeks of retaliation by the school/police.

    2. Amy

      At least one other kid did try to get involved, getting out of her seat to see whether the girl was okay and telling the officer to stop hurting her. That girl’s name is Niya Kenny, and she ended up also arrested by the officer and is charge with “disruption of schools.” I suspect that most of the other kids were simply not as brave as Ms. Kenny, and I can’t blame them for that.

  4. DaveL

    Clearly, this would not have happened if certain people had not made the police timid and passive by saying mean things about them. You have to admit, that was a very timid throw, a most passive a**kicking.

  5. delurking

    Nevertheless, the CNN article on this quotes the CNN law enforcement analyst:

    ‘If an officer decides to make an arrest, Houck said, he or she “can use whatever force is necessary.”‘
    ‘”So if you don’t comply with my wishes … then I can do whatever it takes to get you out of that seat and put handcuffs on you,” said Houck, a former New York police detective.’

    So, what will the independent investigation conducted by by law enforcement officers conclude?
    It is quite difficult not to become jaded and cynical.

    1. David Stretton

      I must have missed the part where Fields is actually arresting the student. I only saw the part where he was beating her up.

    2. Michael

      ‘”So if you don’t comply with my wishes … then I can do whatever it takes to get you out of that seat and put handcuffs on you,” said Houck, a former New York police detective.’

      Unless “what[ever] it takes” is a modicum of patience and tact, evidently.

  6. B.A.Diss

    What I appreciate is that your gasbaggery knows no limits or bounds. You could use a beat down. Man you are a boring know it all. Don’t you practice law or is that is just practice.

    1. SHG Post author

      You keep promising to never again lower yourself to reading SJ, and yet you keep coming back. But “gasbaggery” was definitely one of your better ones.

  7. Amy

    In South Carolina, apparently, schools don’t just have rules, they have misdemeanor offenses. SC Code § 16-17-420 (2012) makes it a misdemeanor punishable with 90 days jail time and a $1000 fine to, among other things, “act in an obnoxious manner” in a school. Which basically gives police an open license to arrest any school child who does anything that anyone else doesn’t like, because what child isn’t “obnoxious” at least some portion of the time?

    1. SHG Post author

      At least you didn’t go totally off-topic. Will you be scavenging the world in search of unconstitutionally vague laws against children?

      1. Amy

        My understanding is that this is one of the two charges brought against the girl who was assaulted by the officer, as well as the law under which the student who tried to intervene has been charged. But I will respect your judgment that a citation to the law that is being used to try to justify the actions in this case is “off-topic” in a discussion of the incident.

  8. David M.

    After Ben implements an arrest, he chills
    with a pill. When he whales on his chest, his pills
    make a man of this bitch
    through it’s tough to say which
    is now smaller: his brain or his testicles.

  9. John Barleycorn

    Pretty prompt and proper separation of the badge from the officer here.

    Hear, hear…Must be something about bullets that slow things down or something?

    She was looking pretty furtively ready to stab that “first responder” to me.

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