Officials have used terms such as "outrageous,” "reprehensible," and "shamefully shocking" to describe what they see in a video about a police officer who enforced rules on a girl. But do such reactions best characterize the cop’s behavior — or the girl’s?
By now millions of people have seen the viral video of Senior Deputy Ben Fields using physical force Monday on an unnamed Spring Valley High School student in Columbia, South Carolina. As the initial footage shows, the officer tells the 16-year-old girl to come with him, she refuses, and after a couple more requests he drags her out of her chair to enforce compliance. And the public reaction was swift. There was condemnation across the Internet for using such actions on a “child” and a “girl”; Fields’ boss, Sheriff Leon Lott, said that the initial “snapshot” of the incident made him want to “throw up”; the DOJ and FBI are conducting investigations into the event; and Fields has been accused of racial bias (he’s white, the girl is black). Moreover, it has just been reported that Fields has been terminated by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. But has common sense also been terminated?
Since the story broke yesterday, a third video has surfaced that Sheriff Lott says without “question” shows the girl swinging at the officer’s head after he put his hands on her. Yet even that appears beside the point, as an expert who viewed only the initial footage had a simple message:
The cop was right.
While talking to pundit Sean Hannity Tuesday night, former Los Angeles Police Department detective Mark Fuhrman said the use of force was justified. Reports Raw Story:
“I’ll tell you why it’s not excessive,” Fuhrman said. “He verbalized, he made contact, he verbalized, he was polite. He requested her. He verbally did that.”
“The next level is he put a hand on her,” he continued. “She escalated it from there. He used soft control. He threw her on the ground, he handcuffed her. He didn’t use mace. He didn’t use a Taser. He didn’t use a stick. He didn’t kick her. He didn’t hit her. He didn’t choke her. He used a minimal amount of force necessary to effect an arrest.”
Putting the emotion aside and viewing what actually transpired on Monday vindicates this assessment. Note that Deputy Fields was called only after the girl had disrupted class and refused to leave despite being told to do so by her teacher and a school administrator. She then also defied the officer. Here was the exchange between the two prior to the physical contact:
Fields: Just stand up for me.
Fields: Are you gonna’ come with me or not?
More inaudible dialogue.
Fields: I’ve treated you fairly.
Girl: I don’t know you.
Fields: You don’t know me? You’re gonna’ come with me or I’m going to make you.
Fields: Come on. I’m gonna’ get you up.
At this point the physical contact was initiated. During this time Fields can be heard saying, “Put your hands behind your back. Gimme’ your hands, gimme your hands,” which is standard when an officer effects an arrest. And note he was calm and polite the whole time. Also note that the girl was apparently uninjured (although having retained an attorney, it now seems she’s feigning injury), which runs counter to the notion that the force was excessive.
But what continues to be quite excessive is the anti-police bias. A good example is the comments at Raw Story, where raw emotion reigns, as in the following post: “How do these f****** live with themselves, devoid of any humanity?” It is reactions devoid of reason, however, that may trouble more discerning observers. Let’s analyze the event objectively.
No one disputes that the girl was disrupting class. Should this be allowed? Is a rule against disrupting class unjust?
She then defied a teacher who told her to leave the class. An administrator was summoned and issued the same command, and the girl also disobeyed. Did you behave this way in school?
Deputy Fields, the school resource officer, was then called to the classroom and also told the girl she’d have to leave. She again refused to comply. What recourse at this point did the deputy have? Should he have said, “Oh, you don’t like the just rule here? Okay, well, we won’t enforce the rules on people who don’t like the rules. Rules are made to be broken, right?”?
Obviously, once it’s realized that you can get away with breaking rules simply by refusing to comply, other students will follow suit. This is a recipe for social breakdown.
Thus, through her refusal to obey all verbal commands, the girl left the deputy with no option but physical force. And physical force is never pretty.
Some might even say that Fields is the actual victim here. If you’re going to have police in schools, you have to expect police action in schools; the deputy was simply doing his job. Also consider that if you, I, or anyone else defies a police officer’s lawful commands, physical force will be used. The only exceptions are societies with weak rule-of-law where special people (or special classes of people) receive a special dispensation from rules others have to follow.
And the S.C. incident tells us much about our society. First, the disproportionate emotional reaction to Deputy Field’s actions reflects a largely effete populace with little sense of the requisites for discipline. It’s no surprise. To millions of permissive parents today who are all talk and no action — who allow defiance in their own children — it’s often shocking to see rules enforced.
Also quite telling is what should shock us but doesn’t: that acting as an enforcer here is the federal government. What business of the DOJ and FBI is this matter? As with most issues, our Constitution dictates that law enforcement is a state and local role, and the Richland County Sheriff's Department has taken action against Fields (rightly or wrongly). The feds’ involvement is a violation of the principle of subsidiarity — which states that any given task should be devolved to the smallest possible unit of society — and reflects a mentality that is leading to the federalization of police. And how much confidence should we place in a government that, as Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS scandal, and the flouting of immigration law demonstrate, can’t even police itself?
It also should be noted by those who facilitate the breaking of just law and rules — be it by the Black Lives Matter movement or the S.C. girl — that a simple truth is operative here: If men will not submit to just authority, they fate themselves to suffer under the yoke of unjust authority. To consistently encourage social breakdown is to move civilization toward anarchy. But anarchy is never a permanent state of affairs. When society degenerates enough, a strongman steps in to restore order — perhaps a disordered order, but order nonetheless.
Benjamin Franklin once observed, “As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” If we refuse to master ourselves, a master is precisely what we will get.