The matter of the North Charleston SC police shooting of Walter Scott by NCPD officer Michael Slager is the perfect culmination to the recent discussions of officer involved shootings that has had America riveted.
In this case the officers actions are a very familiar narrative of policing in America but because of citizen video instead becomes damning evidence of homicide. This new narrative is less familiar to some. Officer Slager in fact has been arrested and charged and the usual suspects such as the NAACP and ACLU smell blood in the water. Support for either the officer,the police in general or the whole “don’t shoot” inc. is evident wherever one looks on social media outlets.
The facts appear to be:
- Scott was pulled over due to a broken tail light in his Mercedes Benz
- Upon running the driver it is found Scott has outstanding Family Court warrants
- Scott attempts to flee the scene,leaving a passenger in the vehicle,Slager initiates a foot pursuit.
- In some sequence Scott confronts the officer,a TASER is deployed,Scott strikes the officer causing the TASER to go to the ground,Scott runs again.
- Slager does not continue a foot pursuit or radio an increased danger to the public.
- Slager opens fire with his service weapon striking Scott multiple times.
- Slager handcuffs Scott and radios an update.
- Slager picks up the TASER and walks it to Scotts body and drops it beside Scott.
- Scott is dead at the scene.
The ‘hood gets bad vindication
The oft cited narrative from affected communities is bolstered as the actions of Slager reinforce every bias and belief that the police are corrupt. Others get a raw view as to how the police do in fact take actions to support their reports.
The worse part about this is that in the majority of incidents the police don’t need to embellish and usually don’t bother. The issue of ramped up charges seems like a scary tactic but it is something that the books not only allow but encourage. For example you can get charged with battery,assault and battery with a deadly/dangerous weapon(shod foot) all for the same single kick to someone. As for evidence there are incidents where in picking one suspect from a group officers see a bag of drugs,an open alcohol container or even a weapon. ITS RIGHT FREAKING THERE! The cops ask who owns it…nobody admits it the guy in cuffs buys it. You can call this unfair but it is hardly evidence planting.
My examples are real world seen with my own eyes stuff. I’ve stood in the rooms and on the street corners where the hate and fear or at least severe apprehension of the police was palpable. Its because of that I say with some conviction that the “‘hood is getting bad vindication”. The video of the North Charleston shooting cements peoples belief of an untrue norm.
Smile You’re on Camera
The case for police body cams has been given a startling boost. I dare say a now undeniable call for the deployment of the cameras has been sounded. Police officers in my opinion should be leading the charge in mandating them. Cops who resist the body cam are not taking the correct view of the new reality of their careers. Cameras are everywhere anyway and over 50% of them are going to be controlled by people who don’t view you positively. Cops should look at how dash board cameras have helped not only in criminal cases but helped improve the public perception of cops.
Policies need to be organized in a comprehensive and universal manner and enforced at the state level or even perhaps the federal level. It should not matter what zip code you are in as to how you are treated by the police or how as an officer you will perform your duties.
Areas of special focus include when it is proper to unholster lethal and non lethal weapons. The goal of deploying and discharging these assets should be clearly set. The public should be informed that secondary to some policies suspects including felons may not be pursued and that the police departments will be faultless of any consequences of that fact. The public and the police will need to come to grips with policies that will mandate proper strengths and controls to be in place. What this means is that one or two cops will not pepper spray,mace or even shoot the 100 looters ruining your life’s work unless a clearly defined and understood line is crossed at which time it should be understood by all that it is now “Shoot to Kill, Fire at Will”.
The world is very likely better off without Michael Brown and Eric Gardner but although all signs point to Walter Scott being a total piece of shit his death was unavoidable to an extreme.
Officer Slager’s story is yet to be fully told. One could make the case that he did exactly what the culture that formed him dictates. This wasn’t necessarily a racist or hateful shooting. It can honestly be seen as the mind numbingly “logical” outcome of official training and societal grooming.
Policing is not easy work,not for the officers or the policy makers. In fact policing is not easy for anyone and this includes the general public. Society calls upon the police to maintain order and have at times put the police on a tight leash as well as letting them loose. Vigilance of the police on the beat is important. Vigilance from the public is paramount.
***The video of this shooting is readily available via the NYT,The Charleston Post and the UK’s Guardian. I have chosen not to embed it for reasons of my own choosing