Outrage over video of alleged police violence in US school

The clip appears to show a white cop putting a black girl in a headlock before flipping her off her chair and dragging her across the floor.
The clip appears to show a white cop putting a black girl in a headlock before flipping her off her chair and dragging her across the floor.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

MIAMI • Footage of a white US policeman appearing to put a black female student in a headlock before flipping her off her chair and dragging her across a classroom floor has provoked outrage on social media.

It comes as perceived police brutality is under the spotlight in the United States after a string of incidents - some deadly - involving law enforcement officials and black men or boys.

The latest incident happened on Monday at a high school in Columbia, South Carolina. Videos, apparently shot by students in the classroom, were picked up by national news outlets and ricocheted across social media platforms, sparking a new round of angry and anguished debate over how police officers treat African-Americans.

Richland County sheriff Leon Lott told a South Carolina television station that the officer, a deputy with the sheriff's department, had been responding to a disruptive student who was refusing to leave class at Spring Valley High School, a campus of about 2,000 students that is about 52 per cent black and 30 per cent white.

The videos show the officer entering the classroom, having a short conversation with the girl - who is sitting at her desk - before grabbing her by the neck, flipping her over and pulling her along the floor. She does not appear to put up any resistance.

A spokesman for the Richland County Sheriff's Department, Lieutenant Curtis Wilson, told a press conference the student had been asked "several times" to leave the room - for unclear reasons - but had refused.

The officer is heard panting and telling the girl several times: "Give me your hands."

In another video, he can be heard telling another student: "I'll put you in jail next."

Lt Wilson said the girl and a male student were arrested after the confrontation, according to The State, a South Carolina newspaper, and charged with disturbing the peace.

The girl was released to the custody of her parents, according to television station WLTX.

US media identified the officer as Mr Ben Fields, one of two officers assigned to the school.

His biography on the school website said he also coaches the school football team's defensive line and is the team's strength and conditioning coach.

Mr Fields has been placed on administrative leave, NBC News said.

Ms Victoria Middleton, executive director for the South Carolina branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: "There is no justification whatsoever for treating a child like this. "

NBC said that Mr Fields was named as a defendant in a 2013 federal lawsuit that claims he "unfairly and recklessly targets African-American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2015, with the headline 'Outrage over video of alleged police violence in US school'. Print Edition | Subscribe