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Spring Valley High School incident shows why people need to record police activity


Spring Valley High School incident shows why people need to record police activity
The Spectrum

What do you do when you’re sitting in the middle of class and an officer enters the room for a disruptive student?

What do you if that officer drives his bulky forearm around the neck of your 16-year-old female classmate and hauls her to the ground on her back as she clings onto her desk?

Your first instinct may be to grab your phone to record, but you hesitate because of the possibility of being taken into custody yourself.

Everything goes by in a matter of seconds and you don’t have much time to think. Do you record and risk the possibility of getting arrested? Or do you hope that somehow the word of your black female classmate can fight against the word of a white male officer?

The incident involving a Spring Valley High School student and a school officer is one of the more sickening videos of police brutality we’ve seen up to this point and has left most viewers extremely uncomfortable.

And what happened after the video surfaced is just as concerning.

Niya Kenny, the student who recorded the incident that went viral, was also arrested. She said she was in disbelief as she saw what happened to her classmate, according to WLTX.

We live in a society where surveillance cameras are in every corner but a student using her smartphone is crossing a line?

Incidents like this only teach people to stay silent for the sake of staying safe. Students become afraid of those who are hired, trained and paid to protect us.

The government needs to look at regulation on video recording more in depth. Laws vary depending on the state, but I still see no valid reason why a person shouldn’t be allowed to record police activity in a public area.

In New York State it is legal to videotape police as long as it isn’t “interfering” with their work.

But what counts as interfering? If a person is standing at a distance, silent and cooperative, there is no possible way for them to inhibit an officer from performing his duties. This needs to be examined because it leaves too much room for misinterpretation.

But if an officer tells you to put away your phone, it may be best to comply for the sake of not getting thrown around on the ground.

This can’t be.

According to CNN, the officer was “within his rights.” But I don’t see what gives an adult male the right to use extensive force on a girl who posed no threat.

I’m not trying to distract from the bigger picture. I am going to pull the race card because no one would be questioning the student if she were white and no one would be defending the officer if he were black.

But the fact of the matter is a young black girl was severely “punished” for what thousands of kids do in school each day – use their cell phone and talk back to a teacher. Her classmate faced extreme and unnecessary consequences for giving people a first-hand view of an officer horrifically abusing his power.

What would have happened if the Spring Valley incident was never recorded? Would it have gotten national attention? Would Fields still have been fired?

It’s hard to say.

We have little control over police without video evidence. What will happen next time? What is an officer’s next move? Will he pull out a gun?

We don’t have all the answers. But a video recording is concrete evidence and the first step to ensuring a fair and just system.

It is also the only hope for a young black girl whose accreditation will never match that of a white male officer.

Gabriela Julia is the senior news editor and can be reached at gabriela.julia@ubspectrum.com


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