Former Officer's Guilty Verdict for Killing Walter Scott Is the Exception, Not the Rule

Police officer Michael Slager shot and killed an unarmed Black man, Walter Scott, in 2015, and it was all caught on video. Today he was sentenced by a federal judge to 20 years behind bars for violating Scott’s civil rights. While this instance of accountability in a police killing is heartening, the fact that it is a surprising result tells you what you really need to know about police reform. The accountability of police to the communities they serve is still elusive in many places, and nonexistent in some.

Officer Slager was shown shooting Scott in the back while Scott ran away. Yet even with that video evidence, his first trial in state court resulted in a hung jury. Slager’s pleading guilty to federal charges and now being sentenced for the murder of a Black man is the exception to the rule. Usually there are no charges. Or there is no conviction. There are myriad cases, from Alton Sterling in Louisiana to Philando Castile in Minnesota, where video evidence was not enough.

Police officers often invoke the “fear” they felt in the moment. The fear they, as armed, powerful and body-armor-wearing officers, felt in the presence of a Black person running away, or selling loose cigarettes, or driving a car, or playing with a toy gun. Officer Slager invokes that fear, claiming that Scott was reaching for his Taser.

The fear that is not addressed is the fear felt by Black and Brown people who are routinely subject to police discrimination and brutality. This is a fear that needs to be addressed with nationwide police reforms that include more comprehensive training that allows the use of force only when necessary and promotes de-escalation techniques to keep people and officers safe during their interactions.

While the Slager case is a victory, it is not a solution. The ACLU of South Carolina, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, along with local NAACP offices and community organizations have repeatedly asked the federal government to step in and review the North Charleston Police Department, which has a recorded history of racially motivated policing. Such a review could address implicit bias and end racialized policing, and help to ensure that those who are charged with protecting communities fulfill that duty.

The ACLU of South Carolina along with other community agencies has been working to obtain an independent review of the North Charleston Police Department’s patterns and practices when it comes to dealing with minority communities. Numerous town hall meetings have been held in order to obtain data from the residents of North Charleston about their interactions with the police.

In sentencing Slager, Judge David Norton said he “acted out of malice and forethought.” That Walter Scott was another Black man gunned down by police matters. We need police practices in South Carolina to change and we need these same policing reforms across the nation. We know that these reforms must come from within communities. This is especially true now, with a Justice Department that has shirked oversight of law enforcement. The police need to know that the people are watching, and that they will not tolerate police criminality that results in the killing of people they are supposed to serve.

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A. Wyatt Mann

Why are these Negroids always having trouble with the police? The Mongoloids are a minority in America too and they don't seem to be having all these problems.

C Moran

Try studying some Black and American history. Among other things, you'll find that today's police are yesterday's slave patrols. Read, study, research. Know Your History.

A. Wyatt Mann

Why did the slaves need to have patrols? Didn't they have enough work to do already?

Anonymous

The report by U.S. Department of Justice's "Civil Rights Division" on Ferguson, Missouri touched on a huge problem that needs more focus: allowing cities to either annex or revenue-share with the surrounding suburbs. It not only contributes to the creation of poor inner-cities but turns some suburban police departments into revenue-officers instead of safety officers - through no fault of the rank & file police officers.

It's good police officers following orders in a dysfunctional system driven by financial incentives instead of safety incentives.

In this example: if Ferguson were part of the St. Louis Police Department or policed by the Missouri State Police (for very small localities) it may have prevented many of these problems by minimizing police interactions in the first place.

Most large cities in America became large cities because of their proximity to transportation infrastructure used for trade and commerce - access to waterways, railroads or auto-crossroads. The "fall line" of rivers, where deep-water ships could travel, is where most major American cities are located.

Industry and bedroom communities grew up around these cities. The affluent suburbs surrounding American cities are primarily wealthy due to their proximity to the city. For example: if Fairfax County, VA, suburb outside of Washington, DC, could be physically relocated to Southwest Virginia - it would be one of the poorest counties in America. It's only rich due to it's proximity to Washington, DC and major trade routes.

If taxation for suburbs were based on "commuting-miles" to the nearest city, it would help poor inner-city schools and inner-city infrastructure and services. Today in most American cities, there could be two next-door neighbors, living a mile from downtown, paying significantly different tax rates because one resides inside the city limits and the other neighbor in the suburban county. This creates an incentive for residents to move out of the city harming it's tax base.

The net result is that affluent suburbs are not adequately revenue-sharing with their nearby city government. On the other extreme, poor suburban places like Ferguson, Missouri that really can't afford their own police department, then prey on their own poor citizens to make up revenue - creating more police contacts with citizens which results in more shootings.

Solving the tax revenue-sharing problem and allowing cities to annex more of the suburbs is a big part of the problem. The U.S. Department of Justice's "Civil Rights Division" created an excellent report on Ferguson that all Americans should read.

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Crime Scene Analyst

Your analysis of the Walter Scott shooting is void of facts that can explain what happened. As the lead investigator in this case I can enlighten you if you have any desire to know what transpired, but beware that the facts would ruin your narrative.

Santana did not capture the entire incident as your article falsely claims. From the time Walter Scott ran until the first shot was fired, 1 minute and 45 seconds elapsed. Santana's video does not capture the first 1 minute 28 seconds of the incident.

The shooting occurred 200 yards from where officer Slager stopped Scott, meaning officer Slager ran after a man, not knowing whether or not he was armed or why he ran, in full equipment for 200 yards.

Have you ever boxed or performed intense activity for 1 minute and 45 seconds? How about doing so and then being forced to make an extremely critical life or death decision?

Scott can clearly be heard saying "F**k Police" as Slager tries to get Scott to comply.

The first 13 seconds of Santana's video is very blurry, but when the FBI, working for the prosecution, analyzed the video, you can clearly see the taser tumbling behind Slager in a trajectory consistent with the taser coming from Scott's right hand, which officer Slager is holding in an effort to keep Scott from using the taser on him, again.

The FBI's analysis also shows frames in the blurry video demonstrating that a ground fight took place where Scott's green shirt is on top of Slager's dark blue uniform shirt.

Scott's claimed to be trained in martial arts.

Scott had cocaine metabolites and alcohol in his blood as shown in his toxicology report.

Scott's DNA is on the Taser, and Scott is the major contributor to the mixture even after the taser was handled by Slager post incident.

Slager’s uniform had marks on it consistent with the marks a taser’s probes leave on similar fabric.

Eight shots were fired - striking Scott in the right flank, not back, 3 times, grazing his right ear and perforating his right shoulder. The shooting stopped once Scott went down and there is no way to tell if shots struck a moving target unless the motion stops - which could also be a ploy to distract the officer.

Scott, who had not been searched for a firearm and was believed to be carrying Slager’s taser, fled towards tree cover and NOT the exit to the park in which the shooting occurred.

Slager was alone for the entire incident as poor management allowed most of his platoon to be off on the Saturday before Easter.

Slager did not drop the taser near Scott's hand. It was more than 20 ft. away from his body. 20 seconds after the taser was dropped, Slager picked it up and holstered it and NEVER claimed that it was by Scott's body (interesting how you've omitted those facts and repeatedly showed Slager DROP the taser, but not the part where he picked it up and holstered it).
There was a second passenger in the vehicle with Scott (most people don’t know that) who Slager thought about while trying to control the violent, drugged up Walter Scott – a second threat.

While fighting on the ground, Scott was calling his location out into his phone to someone, a THIRD threat. Scott had backup much closer than Slager did from his perspective.

NCPD trained their officers to shoot if their taser is taken away from them.

All 12 jurors, including the black foreman, acquitted Slager on Murder and it was 7 to 5 to acquit on Manslaughter. All 12 agreed that there was no racial element (google "Slager jury foreman speaks).

Slager pleaded federally to violation of civil rights because looking back, it wouldn't be hard for people sitting comfortably in a courtroom to assume that he should have known, after the running and fighting and losing his weapon, to stop firing after the first 3-4 shots.

The Obama justice dept. set up a web to ensnare Slager with multiple charges, each one of them carrying an underlying charge of murder, so it would be very difficult to presume that a jury would not convict on the very least of charges, which would mean he could still get the maximum sentence for murder.

Police work is very difficult work and when a mistake is made, someone can die. Quite often it is the officer (search “cop shot” on Youtube and see how quickly things can turn around).

You have no idea what it is like to be in a situation like that so you should be more objective, honest and better researched before you comment on police involved shootings.

See what an anti-cop activist learns when put through a SIMULATION by Maricopa County Sheriffs. This is only a SIMULATION and he shot an unarmed man and also got himself killed in another scenario. He now knows something, albeit very little, about what a police officer faces and does not have the same perspective he had prior to partaking in this training exercise (copy and paste link if it’s not active):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfi3Ndh3n-g

Doctors also have to make life or death decisions, but the only life on the line is the patient's. If cop's are to be held criminally responsible for a death while doing their job, then so should doctors and everyone else who is responsible for people's lives every day.

If a doctor tells a patient "Don't eat anything before this surgery”, and the patient has a large meal and dies on the operating table, is that still the doctor's fault? So when a police officer orders someone to stop, and they instead fight or pose a threat, causing their own demise, why then is it the cop's fault? Doctors are only liable civilly, while cops get charged criminally. Either everyone gets charged or no one gets charged.

Maybe you should educate rather than infuriate with false/incomplete narratives. Tell people what to do when stopped by the police. Use the voice you have for something positive.

When activists instill fear in people rather than presenting them with an informed analysis of an incident, they are setting the stage for more disasters as the fear of police that activists fabricate will cause good people to flee rather than comply, raising the likelihood of a fatal encounter exponentially.

I’m not making a claim that all cops are good. I’ve worked many cases where the police were wrong and have been very vocal in those instances as well. My job is to find the truth, whatever it may be.

Stop ringing the alarm, do your due diligence research-wise and tell the whole truth and maybe this world stands a chance of being a better place.

Stay Informed