I have some new information to share about the Columbia, South Carolina school resource officer caught on tape manhandling a high school girl.
CNN learned last night that he is Richland County, South Carolina Sheriff’s Department deputy named Ben Fields.
He has been placed on administrative duties and will not return to the high school or any other district schools until the investigation is complete.
CNN has also learned that Fields has been the subject of two lawsuits in the last 10 years that are relevant to the discussion.
In the first, a jury ruled in favor of Fields in a 2007 case that involved excessive force and battery. In the second, which is scheduled to go to trial in January, Fields is one of several defendants listed in a suit filed by a student against the school district over his expulsion.
Not only did a jury side with him in that excessive force case, Fields was presented the ‘Culture of Excellence Award’ by a Richland County elementary school where he also worked as a school resource officer in 2014.
According to the February/March Richland County Sheriff’s Department newsletter, Ben has been working for the Richland County Sheriff’s Office Department since 2004 and joined the School Resource Officer Program in 2008. He is assigned to Spring Valley High School as well as Lonnie B. Nelson elementary school, and has proven to be an exceptional role model to the students he serves and protects.”
Dr. Hugh Harmon is President of the Richland School District Two Black Parents’ Association and helped distribute the video.
“These are revelations to me as it is to you. This is the first time I’m hearing this, the first time I’ve heard his name. Since I’ve heard his name and spoken to students it’s similar, his poor relations to the students. This information is brand new to us.”
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department released a statement saying, “[The Sheriff] has questions like everyone has – and he wants answers and once he has those answers he will address them. The Sheriff is asking for everyone to be patient as this is being fully investigated. The Sheriff and the School District will take the appropriate action necessary once this investigation is complete – All SRO’s are at the schools for the safety of all students – these SRO’s are held to a very high standard. The Sheriff fully understands the seriousness of this incident. Dep. Ben Fields will be placed on administrative duties.”
“Just listening to the statement and hearing what you said previously that he was involved in two other incidences. It doesn’t sit well with me and some of the parents. Why he was still allowed in the school. This should have been done long time ago.”
Dr. Harmon says he’d like an independent investigation.
I spoke by phone to the mother of the teen.
The mom says her daughter is depressed, her arm is in a sling and neither she nor her daughter, obviously, don’t want this to have to happen to another student.