The Richland County, S.C., sheriff has fired the deputy who was recorded on videotape using excessive physical force to remove a female student from her desk.
Sheriff Leon Lott says the actions seen on the tape from Spring Valley High School in Columbia persuaded him to fire Deputy Ben Fields.
"In my opinion Deputy Fields could have accomplished the arrest or handled the situation without some of the actions he did," Lott said in a statement posted on the sheriff department's Facebook page. "The one that concerns me the most was the throwing of the student across the floor. I do not feel that was proper and follows our policy and procedures. Our training unit verified that the maneuver was not based on training or acceptable."
Lott said that the department has 87 school resource deputies assigned to elementary, middle and high schools in Richland County and that they "do a fantastic job building positive relationships with students, faculty and parents."
"Monday's actions by Deputy Fields was not typical of the job I, parents, schools, students and the community expect of our SROs," Lott said. "It is my responsibility now to continue the relationship and trust we have between the community and the sheriffs department."
The U.S. Justice Department will investigate an incident in which a white police officer used physical force to remove a black female student from her desk in a classroom at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C.
The incident was recorded on video Monday and has triggered outrage over the violent treatment of the student.
The Columbia State reports that Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has asked the FBI to serve as the lead agency in the investigation of the incident at Spring Valley.
The video shows shows Senior Richland County Deputy Ben Fields approach the female student, who was seated in a desk, place his left hand on her left arm, and then his right arm around her neck. The officer flips the desk over, with the student still seated, before spinning it around and forcibly removing her and trying to restrain her
That teen and another female student were arrested for disturbing the peace, the sheriff's department says.
Lott asked for federal intervention to assure an independent probe.
"We do not want any issues with the community or those involved having questions concerning conflicts of interest in this investigation," Lott said in a statement on the sheriff department's Facebook page.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division will assist in the investigation.
Fields has been placed on administrative duties while investigators conduct their probe.
The New York Times reports that Fields was accused in a 2013 federal lawsuit of "unfairly and recklessly target[ing] African-American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity." The suit, still pending, was brought by a former Spring Valley student who was expelled after a fight near the school.
School district officials also are investigating the incident and have told the officer involved not to return to any school in the district while the investigation is ongoing.
"Student safety is and always will be the district’s top priority," says Debbie Hamm, superintendent of Richland School District Two. "The district will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students. Upon learning of the incident, school and district administrators began an investigation. We are working closely and in full cooperation with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department to conduct a thorough and complete investigation."
School board chairman James Manning labeled the officer's actions as excessive and unnecessary.
"I have watched the video several times and there is no doubt that the video is extremely disturbing," Manning says. "The amount of force used on a female student by a male officer appears to me to be excessive and unnecessary. As the parent of a daughter in Richland School District Two I can assure you that we are taking this matter very seriously....I want to assure you that the Richland Two Board and District staff are committed to the safety of all of our students and are taking immediate steps to ensure that our students are treated with the full respect and dignity that they deserve while in our care."
From YouTube: A video of the incident.