WASHINGTON – The Justice Department says there isn’t enough evidence to bring criminal civil rights charges against a former Spring Valley High School Resource Officer (SRO).
Benjamin Fields was recorded using physical force against a student on Oct. 2015.
They met with the student’s family to tell them on Friday.
The student was arrested for violating South Carolina’s law against disturbing school.
The D.O.J. says they interviewed witnesses, watched the video, reviewed training records and consulted use of force experts.
ideo footage of the incident, reviewed training records, examined the policies of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) and consulted with use of force experts.
The news release from the D.O.J says “A team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents considered whether Fields violated federal law by willfully using unreasonable force against the student at Spring Valley High School. Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right. To establish willfulness, federal authorities must show that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law. Mistake, misperception, negligence or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.”
They say there wasn’t enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Fields willfully deprived the student of a constitutional right.
The D.O.J says they reached a comprehensive agreement with RCSD to promptly enact critical changes to its SRO program in order to ensure full compliance with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination against students based on race, color, national origin and disability.
They say part of the settlement, require the RCSD to provide intensive, annual training for all SROs on de-escalation, bias-free policing and youth development and to develop policies to minimize school-based arrests.