Another black man is dead, murdered at the hands of a white police officer. This time, however, the cop is not getting away. Michael Slager has been fired, arrested, and charged with murder. At the very least, he’ll never work as a police officer again. Hopefully, he’ll wind up behind bars where he belongs.
Though circumstantially similar, one can’t help but notice how the shooting death of Walter Scott has diverged so wildly from the shooting death of Michael Brown. In both cases, black men were stopped and confronted by police for petty offenses. In both cases, black men were shot multiple times some distance away from their attackers. In both cases, the attacking police officer claimed to have been in dire fear for his well-being at the time of the shooting.
A few minutes of video recorded from a cellphone, it seems, makes all the difference in the world.
Michael Slager sits in jail while Darren Wilson breathes free air because Slager was stupid enough to kill a man in front of a camera. We saw him drop something on the ground. We saw Scott attempt to escape, looking rather frightened. We saw Slager fire eight shots at Scott’s back. Then–for fuck’s sake–we saw Slager handcuff the dying man’s hands behind his back. We watched Walter Scott die as Michael Slager allegedly planted evidence beside the body to cover up his crime, all while his vile accomplice Clarence Hasherbam stood watch.
Neither officer so much as attempted to render the dying man even a moment’s medical attention.
And now both officers have found themselves in their respective pots of boiling water. Slager has a murder trial to forward to; Hasherbam is being sued for the role he allegedly played in an unrelated assault.
And if there hadn’t been a video? For many of us, that’s not a brain-buster of a question.
Slager would still be in uniform, walking the streets.
The truly terrifying question–the question no one, least of all North Charleston officials, seems to ready to ask–is, “how many others are there?”
The shooting of Walter Scott is but one moment captured on video. What of Slager’s career up to that point? How many arrests has he made? How many times has he used force against civilians? How many times were these uses of force legitimate?
How many other North Charleston officers have done the same? How many across the country?
There is only one method by which authorities may reasonably rehabilitate their reputation after such an unabashed violation of the public’s trust.
We must record the police. Every minute of every day.