Barry Saunders

Barry Saunders: Deputy seen pounding unarmed girl now pounding unemployment line

Apropos of nothing, Richland County, S.C., Sheriff Leon Lott told the world that Ben Fields, the badge-wearing bully who attacked a 16-year-old school girl for not putting away her cellphone in class fast enough, likes black women.

Fields, Lott further noted, has been dating one for several years.

That’s cool. I have, too, but I’ve got something to say to Fields’ boo: RUN sister! RUN!

If former deputy Fields – Sheriff Lott fired him Wednesday – were to treat his lovey dovey the way he treated that recalcitrant 16-year-old, he’d be vilified and possibly arrested.

Because he brutalized that colored child under the color of authority and at the behest of school authorities, though, there was debate over whether he should keep his job.

No, seriously: Some people actually thought he deserved to remain in law enforcement. Thank God, Lott thought not.

Of course, we have to recognize, as the old maxim notes, that there are two sides to every story, and some people rationalize the deputy’s actions by contending we didn’t see what happened before the cellphone camera went on.

As any open-minded, rational journalist would, I’ve listened to those arguments, pondered the pros and cons, and reached one conclusion: Y’all crazy.

Making generalizations is always tricky, but here’s one: If you think Fields was justified in treating that child the way he did for her alleged offense – not putting away her cellphone – you need to reassess your heart and your eyesight. Were he trying to disarm her of a weapon with which she could have harmed others, herself or him, we’d be rightly praising his restraint.

But a cellphone?

Come to think of it, though, the cellphone camera can be considered a weapon, one that protects the underdogs. Had there been no video evidence of Fields’ assault, it would’ve been his word against the victim’s, a classroom of cowed students and a complicit teacher, and we all know how that would’ve played out – primarily because no one could’ve imagined a grown man treating a little girl like that.

It’s long past time to rethink this whole cops-in-the-school business. If a kid is committing a crime, by all means dial 911, but we don’t need officers acting as an occupying force. Calling them school resource officers may sound kinder and gentler than gendarmes or coppers, but they’re still cops, and not all cops are skilled at de-escalating fraught situations. Not all of them desire to, either.

You know who Fields should’ve hit?

The punk teacher who felt it was a matter for law enforcement that the girl wouldn’t put away her phone.

“Man, what you calling me in here for to deal with this?” THWAAACK!!!

As Sheriff Lott said when announcing Fields’ firing, school officials “need to understand that when they call us, we’re going to take a law enforcement action. Maybe that ought to have been something handled by the school without ever calling the deputy.”


President Obama this week spoke to a collection of law enforcement executives about the tendency to “scapegoat” cops for society’s shortcomings, relying on them to fix all that ails us. This is Exhibit A: If the school had had a policy forbidding phones in class – “NOTICE: If you pull it out in here, it’s mine” – then cops wouldn’t have been needed. The hard-headed girl could’ve been suspended or expelled.

The still-unidentified victim wasn’t a criminal until the cop came in and charged her with a crime, nor was the other girl who yelled at the cop to stop tossing her friend like a sack of rancid potatoes.

Now, both of them could have criminal records.

Walter Mosley, in his book “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned,” wrote about besieged neighbors in Watts who, despite being terrorized by a robber, still refused to call the cops because of their justifiable leeriness of the law.

So, Socrates Fortlow and the other neighbors simply beat the crap out of the robber and revoked his neighborhood residency privileges. That, they felt, was more humane than calling the cops.

Now you see why.