by Steve Miller
Unless you’ve been vacationing on one of the outer planets of our solar system, you’ve seen the video of the South Carolina school resource officer brutally handling a 16-year-old girl. In case you haven’t, here’s a link.
You will find no disagreement from parents or teachers that teenagers can be insolent, rude, bratty, rebellious, and defiant. Some of them know just what buttons to push to bring out the worst in anyone in authority. I get that. However, in this situation someone needs to be the adult – and it certainly wasn’t Deputy Ben Fields of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Not by a mile.
There were a series of mistakes made in this situation starting with the placement of school resource officers at schools in the first place. This program started in inner-city high schools where gang violence was a chronic problem. Perhaps their presence was warranted in that situation but now we see cops in suburban elementary schools. Perhaps the PR is good for police departments, but those officers could be much better utilized out on the streets.
Why did the teacher and administrators call the police into this situation anyway? There was no criminal activity taking place. Nobody was in danger. That teacher could have just as well told the student that if she continued to sit in her chair with her cell phone out, she would fail the class and not be welcome to come back. Then she should continue teaching, ignoring the student from then on out. Once class was over, the student would have left and the parents could be contacted to deal with the situation. Discipline is the responsibility of the parents, not the school, and certainly not the police in the absence of criminal conduct.
It’s likely that the issues which caused this student to be so defiant go way beyond anything that happened in class. I would guess that there are issues at home, and that those issues will now be pushed aside as the parents rush to cash in on litigation. The fact that the officer was dead wrong will overshadow the fact that the student was too.
Sure, the student challenged the authority of the teacher and then the officer. A mature police officer would have handled it with discretion, compassion, paying attention to the child, speaking to her in a calm voice. Instead, his initial approach to the situation was to confront the girl and issue an ultimatum. Being a cop requires that an individual know how to deal with people and how to avoid physical confrontation. Avoiding a fight, while it may require setting aside one’s ego, is the best way to protect your personal safety and that of anyone in the immediate vicinity.
Ben Fields has no business being a cop. I would hope that along with his firing comes a revocation of his peace officer certification. If this guy can’t deal with a teenage girl in a classroom setting without escalating it to violence, how’s he going to deal with a belligerent drunk outside a bar?
Cops are getting a bad rap lately. Situations like this one make the news and the millions of properly handled police calls for service go unnoticed. They’re boring. There’s no drama in the de-escalation of a domestic violence call or quietly bringing in a law-breaker to face justice. There are officers out there who successfully deal with hardened gang members every day and manage to remedy the situation without violence or a story on the six o’clock news. Those guys deserve a pat on the back. This guy deserves exactly what he got – a kick in the ass.