One of the earliest, most valuable lessons I've acquired in my adult life is one that has resonated throughout nearly every waking moment and every situation in my existence. The adage seemingly comes into play every day as I deal with coworkers, subordinates, friends, and family.
"You have to choose your battles wisely."
So, I ask you, (the former) Officer Ben Fields... was it worth it? Was your battle one that was wisely chosen? When you look back on that October day five years, ten years, twenty years from now, do you honestly believe that your actions will be justifiable?
I understand... you were just "doing your job", right? Wrong. When your job requires constant interaction with youth, there is a certain level of caution that is required, and an expectation of compassion, care and delicacy that is necessary when engaging with the fragility and unpredicatability of adolescence. Instead, you chose that moment in time to exert your dominance in an otherwise innocuous situation in an absolutely unacceptable and unfathomable manner.
Yes, the girl was in the wrong, as well. She is in no way without fault. We can debate the actions of the teen ad nauseam. Should she have relinquished her cellular phone? Should she have exited the room? Should she have responded in a more acceptable fashion to authority. The answer to all of those questions are absolutely "yes". HOWEVER, you must remember that we are dealing with a teenager. Unfortunately we live in a time where teens have death-grip attachments to their cellular devices, and she is not unlike you, I, and every adult who, at one point or another, was rebellious, rambunctious, and had problems with authority.
Rather than focusing attention on the shortcomings of a child, someone who may or may not have been advised to choose their battles wisely, I choose to focus on the actions of the adult in the room. After all, another old saying that always seems to ring true is that you must own your actions. In that moment in time, your actions were to violently body slam and then proceed to sling, drag, and rough up a child. A young girl. Someones daughter. And that, sir, is inexcusable, negligent, and potentially criminal.
In fact, your reaction to such a minor situation exemplifies just how negligent you were. Maybe... just maybe, if proper research was conducted, you would have known that "someones daughter" had just lost her mother. That child was now an orphan who had recently been thrust in the foster care system. That young girl was in a new school, with new classmates, with no friends. She was alone in every sense of the word. So her response of "I don't know you" was not as much as a sign of disrespect, but more so an expression of despair and discomfort. More of a cry for help than a bucking of the system. So instead of choosing an alternative path to connect with a child who had nobody to connect with, you elected to engage in a power struggle with a teen who was powerless. A child who had nothing. A kid who's last concern was you up in arms over a cell phone. And now, you have added undue and unimaginable trauma to a life that was already in shambles. So again, I ask, was it worth it?
Was it worth joining the ranks of police officers paraded through the circus of mass and social media? Was it worth losing your identity, your job, and possibly your freedom? Was it worth being labeled a racist, a control freak, a criminal, a child abuser, and any other demonizing terminology the world can concoct to properly put your actions into perspective? You are now a unemployed, unhireable pariah, the newest face on a lineup of bad cops.
And for what? A cell phone? Your ego? Your pride? Because someone tested the authority that comes with your occupation? I hope whatever self-gratifying pats on the back you gave yourself were fulfilling. I hope every lie you told yourself to convince yourself your actions were justified allows you to sleep at night. I pray that your daughters wont have their cell phone out in class an one day become the victim of an egotistical, negligent "peace" officer aimed at destroying their life over a tweet, a text, or a status update.
I hope that you can look back on this day and lie to yourself and say that it was worth it, but i find that truly hard to believe.