Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott terminated Officer Ben Fields for violently arresting a young black female student in a South Carolina high school. His violent takedown of this female student is shocking and maddening. It is one of a string of such violent arrests that has made the rounds on social media. Once again it shines a light on the often insidious interaction of police officers and African Americans.
The National Black Parents Association condemns the level of force that Officer Fields used against this female student. It is appalling to see a muscle-bound white man manhandle a defenseless young black girl while an African American man stands by silently. Both the brute behavior of the officer and the cowardice attitude of the submissive African American man is a carryover from slavery.
We believe the presence of too many resource officers and implementation of zero-tolerance policies in public schools is the root cause of this and other such incidents. To be specific, the over-reliance on resource officers by public schools is a real problem. It tends to over-criminalize basic teenage disciplinary and misbehavior issues. Additionally, zero-tolerance policies are notorious for hyping up minor incidents, especially when the alleged perpetrators are African Americans students.
Additionally, studies show that the heavy reliance on resource officers and zero-tolerance policies by public schools feed the school-to-prison pipeline. African American students are more likely than all other students to be in this pipeline although misbehavior by African American students does not exceed other students. (Corbett 2015) For these reasons, the NBPA condemns the overuse of resource officers and zero-tolerance policies in public schools.
Lastly, the female student appears to be noncompliant towards the commands of the officer. Some people suggest that her noncompliance may have been related to her youth, the recent death of her mother and other personal issues. Nevertheless, we advise citizens to comply respectfully with the commands of officers without relinquishing valuable constitutional rights such as the right to remain silent. For more information on best practices when confronted by the police, please read this article.