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Toss A Kid - Sorry, My Bad!
11/4/2015 4:32:01 PM

By Barney Blakeney

“Sorry, my bad” - three words some think rights all wrongs, even absolves of responsibility for harm. Richland County Sheriff Deputy Ben Fields probably wishes those words could change the consequences of his actions last week.

Fields is the Spring Valley High School resource officer who has sparked a debate that covers so much ground, it’s hard to capture the scope of his actions. October 26 a student video recorded Fields as he forcefully subdued a 16-year-old female student accused of disrupting class when she used a cell phone then refused to leave the classroom.

The cellphone video went viral, much the same as the April video of North Charleston police officer Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott in the back as Scott ran away. In both videos the officers’ excessive use of force prompted outrage. Fortunately, the Fields video didn’t involve anyone being killed.

Fields was shown forcefully removing the child from her desk then tossing her across the floor to the other side of the room. The recording I saw was a violent piece of video that showed Fields placing the girl in what appeared to be a choke hold as he attempted to pull her up from the desk/chair common in many modern classrooms. Getting in and out of those things is tricky. You have to slide to the side to enter or exit. You can’t just stand straight up to get out of them.
Although the cop was big and the girl small, forcing her out of the seat required some doing. Fields did it the wrong way. His first mistake was putting the girl in that forearm-hold. Although some say she hit Fields, in the video I saw the girl was just sitting there not physically resisting. She just wouldn’t move.

Homeboy, you can’t manhandle a young girl! Okay, some of these kids make you want to manhandle them, but you shouldn’t. There was so much wrong with that incident at so many levels, it’s sparked a debate so outrageous, the debate rivals the incident.

When I first saw the video on a television newscast, I thought it had to be one of the most disturbing things that could happen in a classroom - and I’ve seen some stuff happen in classrooms. Without anything more than the short initial video to go on, I concluded the cop used excessive force. Thankfully the girl was not seriously injured, but I also concluded much of what happened could have been avoided had she just gotten out of the chair at the officer’s demand. The late Charleston Police Chief Rueben M. Greenberg once told me when challenging a police officer’s orders, its best to fight it out in court. Most times, a challenger will lose the street fight. That 16-year-old kid didn’t have a chance.

Listening to a radio talk show Sunday, the guy’s on the panel said the kid has been going through some kind of emotional problem. That might explain why the kid was so belligerent. People react differently to stress. The kind of emotional stress those guys described is enough to make a grown man cry, so I could understand how a kid might act out so to speak.

I tried to confirm the information discussed on the radio, but couldn’t. I talked with Columbia attorney Todd Rutherford who only would say he’s been hired to represent the girl and another student charged in the incident. Rutherford said he’s talked with the girl’s mother, but would not confirm any of the stuff I heard that might contribute to the girl’s emotional stress.

What Rutherford did say was that the incident was an abomination and added that had he gone into a classroom and committed that act against a dog, he’d be jailed.

I chased Rutherford down through Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard. Wendell hit on some of the things I thought about as I watched the video. It showed other students and an adult Black male in the classroom who seemed almost oblivious to what was happening. It took another Black female student to challenge the officer, who then arrested her!
Where the hell are we when we, as adult Black males, and the sons we raise can sit motionless and watch a white male manhandle a young Black girl and say nothing? There’s a lot wrong with that picture.

The guys on the radio said the girl was going through some serious changes with her family. If that’s true, why didn’t the folks at her school know that? Something’s wrong when the people who teach our children don’t know anything about them personally.

I’ve heard debate about the child’s behavior and the cop’s response. I’m not hearing any debate about having cops in schools in the first place or why that’s become necessary?

Like so much stuff that goes on in our communities, we’re discussing symptoms when we should be discussing cures. At the end of the day, no child deserves to be thrown around as that 16-year-old girl was thrown around. Sorry, my bad. Is that where this ends?

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