Classroom Video Leads To Firing Of SC School Officer

Oct 28, 2015

The school officer seen grabbing a South Carolina high school student in a video has been fired. Deputy Ben Fields is no longer an employee of the Richland County Sherriff’s office in Columbia said Sheriff Leon Lott Wednesday. 

A video that went viral shows Fields removing a Spring Valley High student from her desk by grabbing her neck, flipping her desk over while she’s still in it, and dragging her forward. 

WFAE’s Sarah Delia covered the story in Columbia Tuesday.  She joins us now. 

RUMSEY: Why did the sheriff decide to fire Deputy Fields?

DELIA: Sheriff Lott said that kind of force violated the department’s policy.  Here he is from a press conference earlier today:

LOTT: It’s the fact that he picked the student up and threw the student across the room. That is not a proper technique and it shouldn’t be used in law enforcement and based on that it’s a violation of our policy. 

DELIA: The footage was reviewed by a training unit and they confirmed that the maneuver Fields used was not in line with the department’s policy. The department also took a look at statements from the Spring Valley High’s staff as well as students who were in that classroom. And they looked at the numerous videos students took while this whole incident was happening. He said those videos were a key part in all this. Now the videos don’t show the student being disruptive, but he said it was clear that she was.  A teacher and assistant principle asked her to put away her phone. Apparently, she used some disrespectful language. Still, Lott said, that was no excuse for how the officer reacted. 

RUMSEY: There’s an FBI investigation underway and there are still a lot of upset parents.  What happens now?

DELIA: Sheriff Lott’s investigation was solely regarding policy violations. He asked the FBI to conduct a criminal investigation into Fields’ actions. He said that he wanted an outside agency to conduct it, so that the public feels like they are truly presented the facts.  It’s not clear when that will be complete. Sheriff Lott says he hopes the department can grow from this incident. 

LOTT: We’ll take what he did and the mistake that he made, we'll make sure that all of our deputies that are in the schools and all the deputies throughout the sheriff's department learn from that. 

DELIA: As for the parents, I heard from a lot of concerned ones at a school board meeting last night. People want to hear the facts, and better understand the policies in place for student resource officers.