Excessive force

Violent arrest of 16-year-old black girl leads to dismissal of school officer

Screen Shot/Youtube

In South Carolina this week, a violent assault on a young girl has once again raised concerns about the use of force by police officers when interacting with black people. Ben Fields, a white sheriff’s deputy who served as a resource officer at Spring Valley High School, was fired from his position on Wednesday after he was shown picking up and throwing a 16-year-old black girl across the classroom after she refused to relinquish her cellphone at her teacher’s request. In at least three different videos recorded by other students, Fields is shown forcing the girl from her desk by flipping it over. “He picked a student up, and he threw the student across the room; that is not a proper technique,” Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County said at a news conference. “Deputy Ben Fields did wrong this past Monday, so we’re taking responsibility for that.” The professional behavior of Fields, 34, has raised questions and lawsuits in the past.

Niya Kenny, another student arrested during the incident for “contributing to the chaos,” told NBC News that Fields is known to students as “Officer Slam.” “We already know his reputation, and I felt something bad was going to go down,” she said.

Lott blamed the unnamed girl for “having started this whole incident with her actions” and told the press that Fields has been dating a black woman (“As if through such intimate connection, Mr. Fields might be absolved of any racism or wrongdoing,” argued Roxane Gay in an op-ed for the New York Times). The brutal assault caused injuries to the face, neck and arm of the young black sophomore, who, according to her lawyer, is in foster care.

Separate investigations into the incident have been opened by the FBI, the Justice Department and state law enforcement.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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