National Action Network Commends Sheriff Lott for Terminating Spring Valley School Resource Officer—
For Immediate Release
October 28, 2015
Contact: Dominic Hawkins/Liz Kenigsberg
National Action Network Commends Sheriff Lott for Terminating
Spring Valley School Resource Officer
COLUMBIA, S.C. – National Action Network (NAN) commends Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott for taking decisive action in terminating School Resource Officer Ben Fields for the excessive force used on a Spring Valley High School student on Monday. We believe Sheriff Lott’s actions were appropriate and warranted.
“Once again, a South Carolina law enforcement leader has responded to an act of outrage and injustice by an officer in their charge with prompt and just action,” said NAN founder and President Reverend Al Sharpton. “As with the termination and charging of Officer Michael Slager in the murder of Mr. Walter Scott in North Charleston, Sheriff Lott has set a national example on how to act thoughtfully but quickly to hold an officer of the law accountable for violating the rights of a citizen.”
Reverend Nelson B. Rivers, III, NAN Vice President of Religious Affairs and External Relations and Elder James Johnson, NAN South Carolina State Director met with Sheriff Lott yesterday along with other NAN leaders at Lott’s office to express concerns about the actions of SRO Fields. The group encouraged Sheriff Lott to take quick action.
Reverend Rivers, who is also a pastor in North Charleston, S.C., said, “I have known Sheriff Lott for more than 20 years and was not surprised by his swift and evenhanded action today.”
Reverend Rivers noted that the Richland County Sheriff’s Department is the only law enforcement agency in the state with a citizen’s advisory committee.
“NAN will push other jurisdictions to create this tool to increase transparency and foster positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Rivers said.
Elder Johnson added, “The termination of Officer Fields will help bring healing to the students who witnessed the beating of their fellow student and sends a message that law enforcement officers will be held accountable for their actions even in schools.” Johnson noted that the officer’s actions almost certainly caused trauma to the students in the class at the time of the assault.
“Our children are in school to learn and discipline should be carried out by trained education leaders, not police officers,” Johnson said.
“NAN believes that parents must also be involved in disciplinary actions against their children and should be seen as allies in the process,” said Janaye Ingram, NAN Executive Director.
NAN calls for a review of the procedures that all too often have made School Resource Officers judge and jury of our children in public schools.
“The assault of the Spring Valley student raises serious concerns about why we have police officers performing duties best done by guidance counselors, school psychologists and sociologists,” said Rivers. NAN urges every county in South Carolina to immediately review their procedures for when and why law enforcement is called to discipline students and how school leaders and SROs should change their protocols based on what has been learned from this incident at Spring Valley High School.