The police officer caught on video slamming a teenage girl out of her desk in South Carolina will be relieved of duty, according to NBC News. Richland County Senior Deputy Ben Fields, 34, was suspended without pay Monday as the sheriff’s department and federal officials carry out investigations of the incident.
The video exploded on social media this week. Students say the girl in question was quietly playing on her phone when the school resource officer was called in. Another girl who says she was just standing up for her classmate was also arrested.
In a press conference at noon, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott stressed that the incident started with a “very disruptive” student who was refusing to let the teacher continue the class. Nevertheless, he said Fields displayed “unacceptable” behavior that violated his training and department police when he “threw the student across the room.”
“That is not a proper technique and should not be used by law enforcement,” he told reporters.
Lott previously pledged to complete the investigation within 24 hours and will announce his findings at noon. He told reporters that after watching the video, “I wanted to throw up. This makes you sick to your stomach when you see that initial video. But that’s just a snapshot.”
Lott claims that a third video shows the girl flailing her arms at the officer as he flips her desk over. The other student who was arrested, on the other hand, says her classmate only started fighting back because the officer put his arm around her neck.
Students say Fields had a reputation for violence and was colloquially known as “Officer Slam” at Spring Valley High. Fields was previously sued for using excessive force during a noise complaint investigation in 2005. The plaintiff alleged Fields “slammed him to the ground, cuffed him, began kicking him, and chemically maced him until his clothing was drenched and the contents of the can of mace was [sic] depleted.” His wife claims she took pictures of the encounter but Fields had her cell phone confiscated. A jury ruled in favor of Fields on parts of the lawsuit.
Lott said he welcomed videos taken by students and emphasized the speed with which his department responded to the controversy. He also took a dig at other jurisdictions where he felt they take “unnecessary time” to release the findings of investigations.
This post was updated with information from the Richland County Sheriff’s press conference.