It’s time to take away the police excuse of “feeling threatened” for shooting someone or cutting them any slack when they kill someone. It should take a genius to know that basing law upon feelings is not the best idea, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the so-called “good cops” are perfectly willing to cover for the supposedly few “bad apples”:
Patrolman Michael Slager, 33, opened fire on father-of-four Walter Scott, 50, in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday morning after reportedly stopping him over a broken tail light.
Slager was arrested, jailed and charged with murder yesterday afternoon after the incendiary footage emerged. An outraged representative of Scott’s family said: ‘This was a cop who felt like he could get away with just shooting anybody that many times in the back.’
The killing comes at a time of mounting unrest over police use of force – particularly against black men – after violent protests erupted over the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson last summer. Slager had previously defended his actions as being in line with procedure, saying he ‘felt threatened’ by the Coast Guard veteran.
The officer claimed Scott ran away after being pulled over at which point he tried to Taser him. But he claimed Scott managed to wrest the stun gun away, prompting him to draw his pistol. At no point in the video, which does not show the initial contact between the men, does Scott appear to be armed.
In the footage, Scott gets a few yards away before Slager opens fire – seven shots in quick succession followed by an eighth, with three of them missing. Scott collapses face-down on a patch of grass. Slager then walks over, shouts at him to put his hands behind his back, then handcuffs him.
Footage then appears to show Slager jogging back to the point where the Taser fell to the ground, bringing it over to Scott’s body around 30 feet away and dropping it next to him.
According to police reports, officers performed CPR on the victim. But video shows that Scott remained face down on the floor for several minutes without being given any medical attention. It is only after two-and-a-half minutes that Slager is seen placing his hand on Scott’s neck in an apparent attempt to check his pulse.
The police are not, contra their all-too-common assumptions, above the law. And if they are not held accountable by the justice system, it is entirely predictable that they will be brought to rough justice by vigilantes and family members seeking revenge. It is stupid and short-sighted for police officers to think they can continue to get away with dirty business as usual; the ever-present eyes of the Panopticon are watching them just like everyone else.
Remember the idea that with great power comes great responsibility? That means that those given badges and guns by the state or local government must be held MORE accountable than the average untrained citizen. Not less.