Justice

South Carolina Officer Who Threw Student Will Not Be Charged

September 3rd 2016

By:
Thor Benson

A South Carolina officer, who made headlines last year when a video surfaced showing him dragging a student from their desk, will not be charged.

Former Senior Deputy Ben Fields was fired in October 2015, when a video went viral showing him pulling a high school student out of her chair and throwing her across the classroom. Fields claimed the student was being disruptive and had refused to put her phone away. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said in a statement in 2015 that Fields did not follow "proper training and proper procedure."

After an 11-month investigation, the prosecutors investigating the case claim Fields' actions were not criminal, and he will not be charged. Records show Fields alleged the student punched him in the face, and he said the student's foot was caught in her desk chair when he tried to apprehend her.

Reports also show that the student's guardian did not believe Fields did "anything that was inappropriate.” The student received bruises and a minor wrist fracture from the altercation.

The officer had received several complaints about his behavior in the past. He became an employee of the sheriff's department in 2004.

The initial incident sparked outrage along with a conversation about the proliferation of school resource officers (SROs) on campuses.

As ATTN:'s Alex Mierjeski previously reported, while SROs have been found to decrease crime at schools, their presence (which has increased 40 percent since the 1990s) also means the increased criminalization of students — including arrest and ticketing for minor infractions. (Some states have witnessed a school-to-prison pipeline).

From Mierjeski:

"Experts like Phillip Stinson, an associate professor in Bowling Green State University's Criminal Justice Program and a researcher who has studied SROs, warn that police officers with little training or education specialization may revert to street crime tactics in schools for minor offenses.

"'You criminalize routine school problems because you're involving a police officer,' Stinson, who is also a former police officer, told ATTN: in a phone call. 'Routine and petty infractions are being criminalized. It was never intended that SROs would engage in that type of work.'"