When Porky punches down

The latest Jonathan Josey-style police bodyslamming of a manifestly nonthreatening woman (that is, the most recent such incident to be caught on videotape) happened in Columbia, South Carolina. Ben Fields, a meathead sheriff’s deputy in his mid-thirties who had been assigned to a high school as its “senior school resource officer,” overturned a passively defiant coed flat on her back, desk and all, then pulled her out of the desk, handcuffed her, and marched her out of the classroom. Her “crime”: refusing her teacher’s orders to put her cellphone away and, when she refused, to leave the classroom. For this the teacher called in an armed sheriff’s deputy. When another student objected to his treatment of this girl, Deputy Fields ordered her, too, to come with him. According to this second arrestee, Niya Kenny, Fields told her, “Since you have so much to say, you are coming, too.” Both students were charged with “disturbing schools,” by the same deputy who had just overturned one of them in her desk in a crowded classroom.

In a matter of seconds, Fields committed battery under color of authority, witness intimidation under color of authority, false arrest, unconstitutional suppression of free speech for the express purpose of punishing a citizen for objecting to his official conduct, and the reckless endangerment of everyone present in the classroom. Fields’ boss, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, has, to his great credit, publicly said that many of Fields’ actions in this incident were inexcusable. The Sheriff’s Department is said to have decided to fire Fields following an expedited internal affairs investigation, and the USDOJ has opened a civil rights investigation. These are all important steps. Ben Fields is clearly an out-of-control violent criminal. This is at least the third formal complaint of police misconduct that has been lodged against him, and at least the second formal complaint of retaliation against a witness: in 2007, he was accused of seizing and keeping a citizen’s phone after she recorded him battering and macing her husband. Fields is currently awaiting civil trial on allegations that he pursued racially prejudiced gang investigations against black male students and had one of these students wrongfully expelled for gang membership. He’s also said to have become known around the high school as “Officer Slam.”

These violent police outbursts will stop only when the officers indulging in them have reason to believe that they will face serious consequences. Every bad cop who gets fired or indicted serves as an important object lesson for other bad cops, and for the good cops who might otherwise assume that they will have no institutional backup if they break the blue wall of silence and report bad colleagues.

If I got a job as a high school janitor and went around provoking brawls with female students every time one of them got fresh with me, I would expect bystanders to beat me up to the point of needing major thoracic and abdominal surgery. Violent cops rarely have any such expectation. Until recently, they have had little expectation of criminal prosecution, either. Thankfully, this is starting to change, and not a moment too soon.

Many state elements in the United States choose to be violent. Many of our cops beat the shit out of their constituents just for mouthing off a bit. The roid rager types are especially prone to this sort of violence. Policewomen and male cops who are slighter of stature are usually cognizant enough of their own physical limitations to do what they can to deescalate tense situations and calm the belligerent: that is, to keep the peace, just as every cop on earth has a civic duty to do to the best of his or her ability, and just as every decent cop tries to do every day. Of course, there are plenty of big teddy bear types who abhor first-strike violence working as cops, too, and many of the Fields/Josey-spectrum meatheads in law enforcement are too chickenshit to attempt a first strike on, say, a manifestly violent Kill Whitey. Many cops would much rather brutalize someone who literally dindu nuffin.

It’s the soft targets again. Fields may be one of the exceptions who’s balls-to-the-wall enough to pick on men his own size, too, but I haven’t seen or heard enough of the guys he accused of gang membership to have any idea whether a reasonable person who is halfway comfortable around black people would perceive them as credible threats. This is a guy who can deadlift his own body weight, and the police apologists are now circulating stories about how he was physically threatened by a sixteen-year-old girl who ineffectually smacked at his face a few times after he invaded her personal space and barked orders at her. Other cops, like Dion Joseph, are able to keep their cool around the floridly psychotic with violent delusions on streets covered in shit and piss. Some have the knack or the training to talk the suicidally agitated into handing over their knives. For a violent bruiser in uniform like Ben Fields to suggest that he was equally threatened by some mouthy brat who’s having a pissing match with her teacher over her cell phone or some girl tearfully begging him not to be so violent on a classmate is nothing short of stolen valor.

The slave patrols endure, but hopefully not for long.

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