By: Kevin Alexander Gray –
We’ve heard the lie before.
When accused murderer and former North Charleston Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager’s lawyer said his client “felt threatened,” it wasn’t his life that had been threatened. What was threatened was his sense of authority. Sometimes, that can be the beginning of a life-ending escalation.
Running away is a threat to some officers’ sense of authority. It certainly was a factor in the death of Walter Lamer Scott, a 50-year-old veteran and father of four. Scott was unarmed, though it appears that Slager, thirty-three, tried to plant the taser he used on Scott near his body to corroborate his tale of the dead man trying to use the taser on him.
Unfortunately for Slager, a young barber, Dominican immigrant Feidin Santana, on his way to work with his camera phone in his hand, captured the crime on his device.
The video shows Slager firing eight shots at a fleeing Scott. Four bullets hit Scott in the back and one hit him in the
ear. Two of the shots were fatal.
Santana proved what many blacks take as gospel: Police lie.
Even before Scott’s killing, there existed a racial confidence gap over police behavior. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, “58 percent of white respondents said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in police, while only 31 percent of black respondents said so.” Also, blacks gave police officers lower honesty and ethics ratings than whites. In Gallup data from 2010-2013, “59 percent of whites say the honesty and ethics of police officers is very high or high, compared with 45 percent of blacks.”
Then there’s the act of shooting someone in the back.
When I was growing up watching cowboy movies, the “code of the West” held that shooting someone in the back was a cowardly thing to do. But handcuffing a dead or dying man lying face down in the dirt to cover up your misdeed is as low-down as you can go.
Other racial imagery comes to mind watching Santana’s unwitting ‘”snuff film.” An enslaved African unsuccessfully trying to escaping his deadly overseer. Or a black sharecropper or civil-rights worker trying to elude the Klansman’s noose.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey was smart in swiftly bringing first-degree murder charges against Slager after seeing the video. Yet the nature of Slager’s stop—a busted brake light and the actions of the officers who arrived on scene immediately after the killing—are further hints of problems not only with the police but also with the mayor’s administration.
Just as in Ferguson, Missouri, the Department of Justice will probably uncover the economic realities of running a town on the backs of the poor and working class through excessive ticketing, fees and fines.
Diversity is a problem in Summey’s police department. North Charleston has a 47 percent black population, yet the town’s police department is 80 percent white.
But hiring more black officers isn’t necessarily a cure all for a police department with a pattern of discriminatory race relations. Black officers can and do adopt the practices of their white counterparts. The first cop to arrive at the scene after Scott’s killing was black. The first official police report said that the officers performed first aid. They did not. The black officer arrived to assist Slager, not the dying man. And he participated in an attempted cover-up if he seconded Slager’s initial report in any way.
Racists harbor the illusion that it’s just black people getting killed and they deserve it. Just read the comment sections of the various news reports on such incidents. Some folks will always believe that black people are inherently criminal. So when police and media mention drugs, guns, gang-related activities, or prior arrests, it validates their beliefs. Worse are those who don’t consider themselves racists, black and white, who hear the indicting buzzwords, turn a blind eye, and tune it out.
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