The video of Richland County (South Carolina) deputy sheriff Ben Fields as he flipped a female student backward in her desk and then tossed her across a classroom is a jarring reminder of the seemingly endless barrage of cases of police appearing to use unnecessary force on victims who dare not resist for fear of even more grievous actions.
The student was texting in class and refused to surrender her phone to the teacher. While also indicative of the perceived breakdown of respect for authority in the classroom (there are likely as many cases of students assaulting teachers as officers assaulting students), Fields’s reaction seems a tad over the top. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/lawyer-teen-suffered-several-injuries-in-classroom-arrest/ar-BBmwylc?li=AAa0dzB&ocid=iehp
On Wednesday, Fields was fired by Sheriff Leon Lott. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/sheriff-school-officer-fired-after-tossing-student-in-class/ar-BBmwylc?li=AAa0dzB&ocid=iehp
Had I blatantly disobeyed any of my high school teachers (male or female) the consequences would have been quite severe—at school and again when I got home. I knew hulking football players at Ruston High who were terrified of Miss Ruth Johnson and would never have given even so much as a fleeting thought of challenging her.
Clearly, some common ground must be reached between respect for authority and discipline to be meted out in cases of open defiance.
Many law enforcement offices across the U.S. have begun appointing school resource officers for the dual purpose of protecting schools from the epidemic of mass shootings like those at Columbine and Sandy Hook and to help school administrators maintain order and discipline in the classroom.
Often those officers must make judgment calls on the fly and their actions come under withering criticism, sometimes justified and sometimes not.
At least three Louisiana state troopers were either terminated or allowed to resign following investigations into complaints about their performance.
In one of those, a trooper was fired after he slammed the butt stock of his shotgun into the right temple of a suspect who had suffered a broken leg following a chase and then kicked him as he was lying face down while being handcuffed by deputies.
In Lake Charles, a Troop D state trooper has resigned in the wake of a state police Internal Affairs investigation into complaints against him which were unrelated to his duties as a school resource officer in Calcasieu Parish.
Jimmy Rogers posted a somewhat upbeat message on Facebook that he was accepting “an amazing opportunity” in the private sector.
That message did little to diminish the impact of harassment and domestic abuse complaints against Rogers which were ignored at State Police Troop D and at LSP headquarters in Baton Rouge until a series of LouisianaVoice stories about irregularities in Troop D. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/08/17/state-police-headquarters-sat-on-complaint-against-troop-d-trooper-for-harassment-captain-for-turning-a-blind-eye-to-it/
By letter dated Nov. 14, 2014, State Trooper First Class Travis Gallow was terminated from his job by Assistant State Police Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy.
His termination followed an Internal Affairs investigation into a four-parish pursuit of a suspect who was attempting to flee officials at speeds of up to 105 mph and who was said to have been throwing drugs and a handgun from his vehicle during the chase.
Certainly he was no Boy Scout.
Gallow was in Opelousas when the chase began in East Baton Rouge Parish and proceeded immediately to attempt to intercept the suspect whose name was redacted from the 37-page report provided by LSP to LouisianaVoice.
Gallow, after disengaging the motor vehicle recorder (MVR) on his own unit, set up a partial roadblock with his vehicle and as the suspect slowed and attempted to drive past Gallow, the trooper fired his weapon at the suspect’s car. He told investigators he discharged his weapon because he feared for his safety but investigators said the suspect had already driven past Gallow’s position with the trooper fired and that he was in no danger from the fleeing suspect. “It was determined that TFC Travis Gallow was not justified in the discharge of his firearm and in violation of Louisiana State Police Procedural Orders…,” the 37-page LSP report said.
When the suspect finally did stop and attempted to exit his vehicle, he was struck by a patrol car driven by an Iberville Parish Sheriff’s deputy. The impact knocked him to the ground, fracturing his right leg.
As he lay face down on the ground, deputies attempted to pull his arms from beneath his body in order to handcuff him. Deputies told LSP Internal Affairs investigators that the suspect was not resisting but as deputies were attempting to handcuff him, Gallow approached the scene and slammed the butt stock of his shotgun “deliberately in the right temple area” of the prone suspect’s head.
One deputy said that when Gallow struck the suspect with his shotgun, “it caused the forward slide to cycle, causing a round to be chambered in the weapon.” The report said the deputy told investigators that after the round cycled, he “disengaged because he did not want to get shot by a possible accidental discharge of TFC Gallow’s weapon,”
A second deputy told investigators that once the suspect was handcuffed, the officer who was standing to the deputy’s immediate left, kicked the still prone suspect in the left side of his body. “It should be noted that after reviewing the video footage from (redacted) unit,” the report said, “the officer standing to the left of (redacted) is TFC Gallow. In addition, the video footage also shows TFC Gallow making a kicking motion toward (redacted).”
Investigators ultimately upheld five of seven charges brought against Gallow and in his Nov. 14, 2014, letter of termination, Dupuy told Gallow that his response to his intended termination “did not present any evidence or information to dispute the findings.
LouisianaVoice obtained video of the chase and the incidents involving Gallow from LSP but the video file was so large (more than 30 minutes) that it was simply impossible to include it here.
“…You are hereby notified that effective at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, you are terminated from your employment as a Louisiana State Trooper…,” Dupuy wrote.
Gallow’s termination will certainly hamper him in any attempts to gain further employment in law enforcement but when troopers are allowed to resign in lieu of termination, it allows them to join other law enforcement agencies.
Jimmy Rogers, who chose to resign from Troop D, now has that option open to him.
LouisianaVoice is currently investigating the case of at least one other state trooper who was allowed to resign and who now is again working in law enforcement. When we receive public records requested from LSP, we will be posting that story.