Opinion: Latest police brutality video begs the question: why?

Matt Poe

The latest police brutality video to go viral occurred this past Monday when a resources officer at a South Carolina high school was caught on camera putting a young girl in a chokehold and violently slamming her to the ground. In the video, classmates look on in awkward, disturbing silence as the event unfolded at Spring Valley High School in the state’s capital of Columbia.

The officer, identified as Ben Fields, has been placed on leave and the FBI is conducting a civil rights investigation to see what laws may have been violated during the girl’s arrest, according to a Justice Department spokesperson.

The incident allegedly started with an African-American girl refusing to leave the classroom after being asked by the teacher, leading to the violent confrontation with Fields, who is white.

Police brutality, especially when it is influenced by possible racial motives, is unjustifiable, but for now there is no evidence that Fields reacted the way he did because of racial hatred. To assume so would be unfair and that is as much leniency as he’ll be granted within this column.   

There is so much wrong with this latest video and act of unnecessary police force on a civilian, in this case a young girl, that it’s hard to begin to assess the situation outside of immediate disgust. For starters, it is amazing Fields never questioned his actions may be caught on film by a classroom of students equipped with iPhones and Androids who, within a moment’s notice, could flood the Internet with this ugly incident.

Why did he think his response was the necessary and appropriate one?

I wrote last week about how social media has become an unnecessary outlet to project verbal attacks, but its role in events like this cannot be understated. Videos like this need to be retweeted, shared, mentioned and commented on to keep the debate moving forward. When you think about it, it is not much of a debate because what Fields did was undoubtedly wrong.

While this issue in its entirety is nothing new (just search for Civil Rights era footage), the nature of these incidents has changed now that almost everyone has a camera on their smartphone, only a few finger swipes away from uploading the latest controversy. It is one of the positives taken away from this entire situation.  

This issue is one that seems unshakeable in the last several years. Every incident that has occurred, from Trayvon Martin to the Ferguson riots and now videos like this one in South Carolina, have continually caused outrage and rightfully so. I normally believe police offers are underappreciated as a whole. They perform a ton of positive daily work in an extremely tough profession.

However, often the videos of positive action do not travel through the Internet as swiftly and purposefully as these police brutality incidents do. But in this case, there is no defending Fields for what he did to that young girl. Insubordination in school should not warrant a fractured arm from the people who are supposed to be there to serve and protect. Until these incidents start to end, we will be left asking ourselves the same question: Why?

Matt Poe is an opinion writer for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].