Shot First and Ask Questions Later, With Callous Indifference
The last few posts have examined the growing practice of recording police officers behaving badly. Said recordings and the many attempts to curtail them by state legislators and law enforcement are worthy of continued debate and discussion.
As the practice of recording police activity has proven effective at revealing and hopefully correcting the many injustices of the criminal justice system, we encourage the use of body cameras and the recording of police activity. As if by providence, two addition videos have surfaced to buttress the point.
Preserved on a common cell phone by a bystander on his way to work, the first recording depicts the murder of Walter Scott by North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager. Stopped for a broken tail light, the unarmed victim was first shot with a stun gun and forever silenced by multiple bullets in the back as he attempted to flee arrest.
After the shooting, the officer walked towards the prone victim as he lay face down on the ground. When Mr. Scott failed to comply with the order to put his hands behind his back, (probably because he was already dead), the officer straddled him and cuffed his hands behind him. Officer Slager then walked briskly back to where he fired the shots, picked up an object and returned 30 feet later to the victim, dropping the object at the dead man’s feet.
Upon disclosure of the video, Officer Slager was immediately charged with murder and promptly fired from the force. Having been initially denied a bond, as of this writing he may still sit in jail. If convicted, the officer faces 30 years to life in prison. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/white-sc-officer-charged-with-murder-in-black-man.
Recorded by a local NBC News helicopter crew, the second video shows California deputies beating the hell out of a suspect after a failed attempt to flee on horseback. As he lay face down on the desert floor with his arms outstretched a sheriff’s deputy first stunned the suspect with a Taser.
Two deputies immediately kicked the prone and helpless man in the face and head 13 times. And more than a few field goal attempts were directed to the man’s genitalia. Eventually the group surrounding the victim grew to 11 sheriff’s deputies. In the two minutes after the suspect was stunned … it appeared that deputies kicked him 17 times, punched him 37 times and struck him with batons four times. At no time during this beating did the victim resist arrest.
For more than 45 minutes afterwards, the suspect did not appear to move. And he received no medical attention. Instead the deputies merely stood around him until he was removed from the scene. http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Man-on-Stolen-Horse-Stunned-by-Sheriffs-Deputies-in-IE-299250951.html.
The police conduct exhibited by these and other videos reveal a serious problem with our men in blue, the many excuses to the contrary. It is problem that extends far beyond a few rouge cops and/or bad departments. And it is not limited to a particular geographic area.
The malfeasance is instead both systemic and systematic, affecting every police department in the nation. It is a condition that lies at the very heart of law enforcement, i.e., a thug culture writ large and licensed under color of law. Moreover, this culture of overreach and abuse is not limited to the police. Rather it is an ethos that is adopted by all aspects of the criminal justice system, including but not limited to prosecutors, jailers and judges.
Frankly stated, some law enforcement officials are little more than gangstas in blue operating under the illusion that their role as enforcers of the law places them above the law; operating under the deeply held yet erroneous belief that their duty is not to serve and protect us, but it is our obligation to serve and defer to them. Law enforcement therefore has little tolerance for anything but immediate obedience and fawning appreciation.
The dearth of integrity, the disregard for the truth and the contempt for either law or justice is a shared mindset. Thus, in order to conceal their offenses and absent any remorse, they plant evidence, as did Officer Slager to cover the murder of Walter Scott. And with a straight face law enforcement will lie in a heartbeat, also as established by the same officer in the same case.
Furthermore, despite the evil they commit, they are seldom embarrassed. Theirs is a way of thinking, a sense of entitlement, an attitude of self-righteousness that places them above shame. Consequently there is no internal house cleaning; no self correction.
But what is most disturbing about these videos is the callous disregard for life (other than their own), which many officers display. Their go to pattern is to shot first and ask questions later. And rarely if ever do they either call for or administer first aide to the people they shot, strangle, choke and otherwise dispatch. They instead mill around until the person either dies or is transported to the hospital or jail.
Make no mistake about it. Officer Slager did not direct eight bullets towards the back of the fleeing Walter Scott because he feared for his safety. The officer towered over a suspect who had already been tased. In addition he was armed. Walter Scott was not.
More significantly, it is not fear that motivates a person to shot another person in the back. Fear is not occasioned by a person running away in a desperate attempt to escape. It is anger, contempt, incredulity (how dare he), evil, wicked delight and just not giving a damn about the sanctity of life that motivates eight shots to the back of a fleeing man.
Police misconduct is not a question of white officers being worse than black officers. Blue thugs come in all sizes, shapes and colors. In 2014, South Carolina police shot 43 suspects. White officers fired at 17 black suspects and 18 white suspects. Black officers shot 4 African-Americans and 3 whites. www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/exclusive-sc-police-shot-at-43-suspects-in-2014-kill. The problem therefore affects all of law enforcement.
In summary, we are neither naïve nor unappreciative of the difficulty faced by our men in blue. Theirs is a dangerous yet crucial task. And we do not expect our police officers to be perfect. Few if any of us have clean hands, a reality which includes many of the victims of police abuse.
We also caution against using the videos of Rodney King, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Floyd Dent, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, or the unnamed suspect in the California video to engage in resentment politics. The last thing we need is to engage in another shouting match.
Rather let us correct the problem by equipping the police with body cameras. Let us also call for fair and equal treatment under the law on the part of law enforcement and law-abiding behavior from us all.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum