Seeing is believing.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that a North Charleston, S.C. policeman, Michael Slager, murdered a man named Walter Scott by firing eight pistol rounds at him, at least one of which was fatal.
The disgusting, outrageous, vicious act of murder was recorded for all to see by a pedestrian using his cell phone.
At first, when Slager returned to the police station, he said he was in fear of his life when Scott tussled with him after he, Slager, allegedly used his taser on the “suspect,” who had been stopped apparently for having a busted taillight. At some point, Walter ran from the cop, and who can blame him? Who wouldn’t run after being tased? That was not the first time, we later learned, that Slager used his taser sadistically, for no pressing reason.
After he mortally wounded Scott, Slager planted evidence (some object, most likely the taser) next to his body. Another police officer who arrived at the scene was apparently unmoved by the death and did not even remark later about how Slager had dropped the taser next to the victim, who was either dying or already dead.
Oh yes, we’ve heard this same old story all too many times: Cop stops suspect, suspect becomes argumentative and violent, cop fears for his life, cop shoots suspect, wounding or killing him or her. Sometimes, in fact, that’s exactly what happens. Police work, after all, is fraught with unexpected dangers at every turn.
However, this cell-phone video is a stark reminder that rogue cops do kill with impunity; they too often get away with it. The video raises a sinister, troubling question mark: How many other times have such cold-blooded murders happened that went unrecorded? And how many times when it was a cop’s word against a brutalized victim’s word was the cop automatically believed? Is it any wonder young black males and even older ones (Scott was 58) live in fear of any contact with police?
Who can deny racist and rogue cops exist in too many police departments throughout this nation?
This hideous video should be a wake-up call, coast to coast. Police departments everywhere and the cities they serve absolutely must scrutinize themselves to get rid of these systemic attitudes that foster racism, rogue behavior, blatant lies and cover-ups.
Now, that said, we must keep reminding ourselves the overwhelming majority of police are outstanding public servants who risk their lives every day and night to protect those they serve. They are extremely hard-working, dedicated, kind and caring, and we should honor their courage and commitment for the so many thankless tasks they do on our behalf, for the sake of public safety, our safety.
However, that video is doubly disturbing precisely for those reasons – that reckless rogue cops can bring suspicion and disgrace to their profession, especially in largely black cities where their out-of-control behavior poisons trust and fosters hatreds.
It’s time all police departments and cities do a complete audit of their practices and policies, with the help of independent, outside scrutiny. It’s also time all police officers must be equipped with body cameras.
It’s so sad, so regrettable, it has come down to this lack of trust. Bad apples really can spoil the whole barrel.
But seeing is believing.