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

1 comment:

  1. I watched CNN for over an hour when this story broke, as they had non-stop coverage of it, and I was able to see a video expert who slowed down and zoomed in on the video from the time that Mr. Scott ran away until the time the officer went over to him after the shooting. Through careful analysis of the video, the expert determined that something shiny fell from the belt of the officer as Mr. Scott escaped from his grasp. As Mr. Scott ran, the officer reached for his gun and shot Scott 8 times (about 30 feet away from him, no less!) The officer immediately called to dispatch and reported that Scott had taken his taser. The expert then noted the officer picked up the aforementioned shiny object and softly tossed it next to Scott's body. He even re-positioned said object near Mr. Scott as another responding officer tended to him. Obviously, this object was the taser, as opined in the blog. The expert stopped short of making this assumption but it does not take an trained expert to connect the dots. The officer so quickly reported his version of the story after he fired the shots that it leads one to believe that he had this story ready to go if he ever shot an innocent person; a pre-packaged defense, if you will. It's a shame that police body cameras aren't standard yet, as it would help curb the brazenness of the boys in blue. Thank goodness for the good Samaritan that caught this all on camera. This officer thought his act was only witnessed by Scott and himself but he did not account for the readily-available access to cameras that almost all Americans have on a daily basis. If the guy on the camera was caught filming this, he may have been introduced to a bullet, as well. A tail light? A person is dead over a tail light? I know this blog is against mass incarceration and the private prison machine but, please, save one special room with a big lock on the door and no key for this particular cretin cop.

    Grant Stupeck
    Indiana Tech Law School


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