Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What Was He Supposed to Do?

I've watched the video of a police officer tossing a disruptive high school student to the floor that has a lot of people outraged, and I have to say I don't think the police officer had many alternatives. I also suggest that unless critics can state specifically what plausible tactic the officer should have employed they don't have much ground for condemning him for what he did do.

The facts, according to David French at NRO, are apparently these:
According to cell-phone video – apparently shot by students at Columbia, S.C.’s Spring Valley High School – a “student resource officer,” Senior Deputy Ben Fields, approaches an unidentified female student. After she refuses to move from her desk, he grabs her, yanks the desk over, and appears to drag, then throw her to the front of the classroom, where he apparently places her in handcuffs.

The relevant portion of the video is below: According to local reporting, Fields was called to the classroom after the student had refused to leave the room, first at the request of the teacher and then at the request of an administrator. A longer video shows Fields asking the student if she’ll leave, she refuses, he reaches down and says, “I’m going to get you up,” she appears to resist, [it has subsequently come to light that the girl punched the officer] then the officer escalates his use of force.

No one was injured in the fracas, but the media immediately identified it as an example of a white police officer brutalizing a black youth. Vox breathlessly said the video “shows what happens when you put cops in schools” and called it an example of the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Within a day, local officials had requested an FBI and Department of Justice investigation, and the media feeding frenzy was fully underway.
So, a student is disrupting the classroom and refuses the demand of the teacher, a principal, and a policeman to leave. Should they all turn around and just walk out? Unless students should be allowed to dictate what happens in the classroom and to ignore those in authority this student has to be made to leave, and if she refuses to go peacefully then the proper personnel are obligated to forcibly remove her.

The use of force, however, is rarely pretty. It can be very disturbing to those who have lived their lives insulated from those upon whom its exercise is sometimes necessary. When the resort to force is required the force applied should be adequate to accomplish what it's intended to accomplish.

The officer in the video was forceful, his actions may appear excessive, but the student was not hurt, so it's odd to call this a "brutal assault," as some have. Perhaps the officer could have dragged the girl, chair and all, out of the room, but at some point he would have had to remove her from the chair, and at that point he would've had to do pretty much what he did. Maybe he should have sat down beside her and tried to talk her into leaving peacefully, but presumably the school officials had already tried that. The police are usually only called in when all else has already failed.
Maybe the worst part of this episode is the attempt by some to turn it into another racial issue because the student was black and the officer was white. The FBI is getting involved to investigate potential "civil rights violations," but that seems ludicrous. It amounts to saying that only black cops can use force against blacks and only white cops can use force against whites.

When a teacher, a principal, or a police officer tells a student to leave the room, the student should leave the room. She doesn't get to refuse because of her race or gender. If, nevertheless, she does refuse then she, not they, have made the use of force necessary.

You might disagree, and I might be incorrect in my assessment of this situation. I'm certainly not confident that I'm right about it, but please don't tell me I'm wrong unless you can point to a realistic, less ugly option that the officer could have employed to make the girl comply. UPDATE: Evidently, the officer's superiors do disagree with me. The officer's been fired on what seems to be a bit of a technicality. The sheriff said that the officer did not follow proper procedures and shouldn't have thrown the student, but he never said what the officer should have done. I wonder if the firing wasn't just an attempt by the police department to forestall a lot of bad publicity and legal action.