Thursday, April 9, 2015

Executed for a Broken Taillight

Walter L. Scott, U.S. Coast Guard Photo
Hip hop has long decried police brutality and the hyperpolicing of black communities.  In 2015, it appears that the problems of police killing and racial profiling are continuing and perhaps growing, not dissipating.  When jaywalking, selling loose cigarettes, and driving with a broken taillight end up in the death of the African American citizens, we have a compelling need to reform policing.

Take for example the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina.  Before the video became public, the story told by police officer Michael Slager was one of justified killing.  "He took my taser" was his tagline and "I was in fear for my life" would have been the testimony, just as it was for a carefully-coached officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson.  However, here, the video simply cannot support a story of "stolen taser" and "fear for life."  The video shows Officer Slager shooting a slowly running away Walter Scott in the back eight times.  Any reasonable viewing of the video shows a calm and callous Slager not only firing eight times without giving further chase, but then that Slager later picks something up that was at his feet when shooting, carries it to the prone Scott and drops it down next to the body (the taser?).  Officer Slager has been charged with murder.  Video is here.

Law Professor and Vice-Provost Dorothy Brown discusses the events above and deconstructs them for CNN in "Did Cops Learn From Mistakes of Ferguson?" posted earlier today.  Professor Brown writes:

"This time the stage was set in North Charleston, South Carolina, a city of about 100,000 people. Walter Scott was stopped by Officer Michael Slager for a broken taillight, and within minutes Scott was dead. According to the incident report, Slager said: "Shots fired, and the subject is down. He took my Taser." His attorney at the time, David Aylor, said that Slager "felt threatened and reached for his department-issued firearm and fired his weapon."

But then came the video.

We watched in horror as we saw Slager shoot Scott in the back multiple times. Then we saw Slager pick up something from one location and place it near Scott's lifeless body. On Tuesday, the officer was arrested on murder charges. North Charleston police Chief Eddie Driggers told reporters, "I have watched the video, and I was sickened by what I saw." Apparently so was Slager's attorney, who announced after the video was made public that he was no longer representing the officer."

As we argue repeatedly in this blog space, the United States must get it right by reforming carceral policy in this nation and figuring out a different and better way to police our citizens.  We have suggestions . . .

cross-posted on the Corporate Justice Blog