Police officer accused of racism during student arrest

Excessive force used in student arrest

by: RACHEL MEANS/Staff Writer 

In the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of cases questioning the police that receive national attention.

In most of these cases, people pick the same side every time. You’re either on the side of the cops or on the side of the civilian, regardless of the circumstances of the individual case.

However, I think it’s important that we remember that every case is a separate situation and should be treated as such.  For this reason, despite the fact that I generally side with the authorities, I believe that in the case of the student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina who was pulled from her desk by an officer for playing on her phone, the cop was in the wrong.

The argument I keep seeing being made on this cop’s behalf is that you are meant to obey the authorities. If you don’t, you deserve what you get. Most of the time, I would agree. However, one must remember that this is a teenage girl we’re talking about.

The fact of the matter is that allowances have to be made for the mistakes of youth. Our legal system does that anyway, and it does it for a reason. Let’s be honest, teenagers make bad choices. They’re defiant, and if your job requires you to have to interact with them, you should know how to handle that defiance without resorting to violence.

Yes, the girl was breaking the rules, and, yes, she should be punished for doing so. That’s not what we’re arguing about here. The problem is in how the cop chose to go about getting the youth to obey him. He used an excessive amount of force on a high school student, and that is simply not acceptable.

He’s a grown man, and his actions left an underage girl injured. It’s never ok for an adult to physically harm a child. Everyone would agree on that. But for some reason inn this case some people want to just let it slide.

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What’s more, it’s not as if her infraction was a threat to anyone around her. I think we can all excuse a little rough-housing if it’s to protect the student body as a whole. But her crime was playing on her phone and telling the teacher no.

Is it disruptive? Yes. Is it dangerous? Not really. If the crime being committed isn’t violent, then why should violence be necessary to stop the behavior?

And we cannot ignore the racial aspect of the case. As an African-American woman, I can say without a doubt that racism is still very present in our culture. Of course, I don’t personally know the officer, so I can’t say for sure what he’s personally like or if he’s racist. But the potential is there, and it must be addressed.

What it boils down to is this: we all want to be able to trust the cops to make the correct decisions, regardless of the circumstances and regardless of their personal feelings. It’s their job to protect us, and we have a need to believe that makes them competent. But that’s not the case.

Some cops use race as an excuse to be violent. Some use their jobs as an excuse to let off steam by using excessive force on the people they’re meant to arrest.

Lately, we’ve had a lot of cases of cops just doing their jobs and getting in trouble for it because the criminal wants to cry “excessive force.” So many of these cases have turned out to be based on half-truths and exaggerations that we just write them all off now without a second thought. But we can’t let past acts distract from the truth.

This officer went to unnecessary lengths to stop a non-violent crime, and we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to that.

Deputy justified in handling of teen arrest

by: NICOLE TRUGILLO/Editor-in-Chief

The cop is the bad guy once again.

On Oct. 28,  Ben Fields, a deputy sheriff in Richland County in South Carolina, was questioned and suspended from duty after he forcefully removed a black high school student, Kennedy Scott, out of a classroom.

There are videos of the incident that have gone viral, and the videos don’t do Deputy Fields any justice. The videos don’t show what happened before Fields came into the classroom.

It was noted that the 16-year-old was asked by a teacher to put away her cell phone, and she objected. Later, the principal came into the classroom and demanded for the phone to be put up. Scott objected to that, and that’s when Fields came in and handled the situation.

The video shows Fields using force and grabbing the girl from her desk. The desk flips over while she’s still in it, and he puts her hands behind her back and arrests her, just like the school hired him to do.

Many people argue that Fields used excessive force, and the girl didn’t deserve to be treated like that. Fields was investigated by the FBI and ended up being fired.

So that’s the back story. Now let’s get down to what is really going on here. For starters, this a typical white-on-black police officer situation, involving a white police officer and a student who is black. In the video, one can see that Smith is resisting leaving the classroom. While Fields is grabbing her from her chair, she hits him on the chest with a closed fist.

Next, he didn’t throw her to the ground as many people are saying. He grabbed her from her desk, and she was holding onto the desk with her feet. Her lawyer reports that she had a cast on her arm, along with several neck and back injuries. But Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said she didn’t report any injuries. Some things are just not adding up there.

Also, there was a guy on the news who was being questioned about the incident, and he asked, “What if it was your child?” Number one, if I had a child, my child wouldn’t act like that in class. He or she would have respect for the teacher, as well as himself or herself, and not use a cell phone in the classroom.

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Scott’s mother, Raquell Scott, was appalled by the way Fields handled her daughter, but failed to question her about her daughter’s actions before the arrest and during. Is the mother forgetting that her daughter was disrespecting the teacher and the principal for not putting up her phone? Also, she was the one who hit Fields on the chest when he was doing his job and grabbing her from her desk. She kept resisting, and he opted to use force. That was the only way to get the message across.

The video looks bad because the desk flipped over, but that was Scott’s own fault. She should have just left when the teacher asked her to.

Many claim that Fields is racist (imagine that), because in the past he had complaints alleged from black individuals who Fields has encountered during his duty as a police officer. But has anyone stopped to think that maybe Fields isn’t the problem, that the people are the problem. Fields was respected as a school resource officer, and an elementary school gave him a “Culture of Excellence Award” last year.

Even if Fields didn’t use force, I’m sure many people would have complained about him targeting a “black female.” The video does look like Fields is using excessive force, but the girl is in the wrong too. She is the one who started the situation with her actions.

If I was Fields, I would try not to use force, because it’s bad enough being a police officer. These days, the police officer is the bad guy, and you have to be cautious with everything you do, especially if you’re dealing with a minority group.

Fields was held accountable for his actions, and I don’t know anything about what’s going to happen to Scott. I just know that all police officers are not bad, and I do agree that some are a bit sketchy. But I honestly feel that Fields isn’t like that.

I wasn’t there to witness it, and even the classmates have different opinions on what happened. Either way, this won’t be the last police officer incident. I guarantee it.

Author: Plainsman Press Staff

The student newspaper of South Plains College.

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