Police brutality: Shots in the back


Police officer Michael Slager of South Carolina shot and killed Walter L. Scott — a fleeing, apparently unarmed 50-year-old black man — earlier this month.

According to the New York Times and police reports, Officer Slager radioed in: “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my Taser.”Michael Fleshman via Creative Commons copy

And yet, video of the scene obtained by the Times shows Slager fire eight shots into Scott, Scott fall to the ground, Slager walk back to the site of their scuffle, pick something up (presumably the stun gun) and drop it by Scott’s body.

We do not, however, witness any of the attending officers offer Scott CPR or any sort of medical treatment after he is on the ground, bleeding out from gunshot wounds. Officer Slager does manage to walk over and handcuff him, though.

Officer Slager is facing charges only because an observer began recording the situation before it became violent, from a distance far enough to avoid observation and likely confiscation of the recording device.

Such video evidence was not enough to even charge Eric Garner’s uniformed killer in New York even though Garner’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.

Remember this: the police work for you. They exist to serve and protect you, the citizen.

As long as you are not interfering with an investigation, you are guaranteed the right to publicly take photos and videos in a public place, by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Remember this: we’ve learned in the past few months that you may not be able to trust the police, particularly if you are of any visible minority.

This isn’t to say that the majority of uniformed officers will kill you and file a misleading report, but at least one will and has.

Even so, there exists what Randy Balco called a “Blue Wall of Silence” in a 2011 issue of Reason: a massive and overarching sense of “brotherhood” that keeps law enforcement from condemning itself.

But the people protesting Slager’s actions should not be you or me, but the supposed “good cops.” As New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow says, “their silence has never been — and is certainly no longer — suitable.”

And finally, remember this: you should feel safe around law officers, but I know I don’t.

Racial violence committed by law officers shouldn’t be a mainstay of the news in 2015 but it is. You shouldn’t have to police our police force, but it is becoming apparent that you do.

Any time you feel threatened, unsafe or unsure around the police, pay attention and be unbelievably polite. Try not to panic. Record your encounter, if you can.

Do not give an officer the opportunity to make what the mayor of Charleston called “a bad decision” which for you, the citizen, may mean loss of liberty or life.

Hayden Davis is a senior English major. Email him at hdavis2@samford.edu.

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