Officer Fields was fired,
but isn't facing any criminal charges.
Click here to demand
Officer Fields be prosecuted
and all charges dropped against
the students he brutalized.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has fired Officer Ben Fields.1In the past 24 hours, nearly 90,000 ColorOfChange members took action demanding local officials hold Officer Fields fully accountable, and today your powerful voices were heard — in part.
Sheriff Lotts chose only to consider policy violations instead of laying the groundwork for Fields to be criminally prosecuted. As of right now, the only people facing charges are the young students Fields brutalized. It's inexcusable. Fields — who has a long history of violence targeting Black students and Richland residents — should never be a police officer again, but he must be charged with a crime in order to lose his license.2 Join us in demanding that Officer Fields is brought to justice and the Black students he victimized are protected, not criminalized.
Urge Richland County Solicitor Dan Johnson to drop the charges against all students and charge Officer Fields with assault. Once you're done, please ask your friends and family to do the same.
During today's press conference, Sheriff Lotts' acknowledged Officer Field's wrongdoing but peddled much of the same victim blaming rhetoric we see every time police assault Black people. "She is responsible for initiating this action," said Lotts about the peaceful Black teen who Officer Fields assaulted.3 Lotts even went so far as to say the girl and the students who filmed her assault "broke the law," but refused to comment on whether or not Fields should face criminal charges. A student having their cell phone in class is not a crime, and neither is filming the police. The only crime committed that day was by Officer Fields who assaulted a child.
The bottom line: Fields should have never been called in the first place. ColorOfChange members know all too well that the police violence caught on camera at Spring Valley High is part of a much larger crisis of criminalization targeting Black students. In the past few years, the number of police in schools has skyrocketed and the result has been devastating. Known as the "school to prison pipeline," kids are now much more likely to be suspended, expelled and arrested for the type of issues that years ago would have landed a student in the principal's office.4 Black girls — who face dehumanizing racial and gender stereotypes — are 6 times more likely than white girls to be suspended, most commonly for subjective issues such as "having a bad attitude."5 Police should play no role in the everyday education and disciplining of students.
Shamefully, school administrators issued statements in support of Officer Fields after videos of his violent attack went viral.6 Sheriff Lotts said some school officials didn't think Officer Fields used excessive force and "had no problems with the physical part." The educators who involved a police officer in this minor disciplinary issue and the policy makers who have failed to limit the role of police in schools must also be held accountable. As we work to undo the policies and practices that allowed Officer Fields to brutalize teens at Spring Valley High for years, we must demand that the students he terrorized aren't punished.
Prosecuting Officer Fields is the first step in undoing the policies and practices that allowed him to terrorize Black and brown students in Richland. Click here to take action.
Arisha, Rashad, Scott, Lyla and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.
1. "South Carolina Officer Fired for Throwing High School Student, Sheriff Says," Slate 10-28-2015
2. "EXCLUSIVE: Army veteran recalls rough encounter with deputy Ben Fields, now under fire for slamming student," NY Daily News 10-27-2015
3. "S.C. sheriff fires officer who threw student across a classroom," Washington Post 10-28-2015
4. "Spring Valley Officer Assault Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg," ThinkProgress 10-27-2015
5. "Study: Black girls are suspended 6 times more often than white girls,'" USA Today 02-11-2015
6. See reference 3.