What It Looks Like

Shocked by the latest white cop-shooting-unarmed black man incident? Don't be
Charleston County Sheriff's Office

Shocked by the video of a police officer in North Charleston, S.C., gunning down Walter Scott in the street in like an animal after a traffic stop? Indulge your shock quickly, then get past it. This happens, and this is what it looks like.

The numbers are hazier than they should be. But white cops like Michael Slager, now charged with Scott’s murder, shoot and kill unarmed black men way too often. The fuel for the Michael Brown protests in Ferguson, Mo., last year was only in part a demonstration of grief for Brown, no model citizen; it responded to years of abuse and extortion from the municipal government and police.

Here, we have a former Coast Guardsman with a nearly spotless criminal record—and video evidence that allows for no ambiguity. “Without the video … it would be difficult for us to ascertain exactly what did occur,” said North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. With it, there was no doubt, and no choice for law enforcement to charge one of their own with murder.

The video, which a bystander shot on his cell phone, highlights a policy solution that needs adopting, across the board, yesterday: body cameras. There’s no way to eliminate the contempt some people may have for others. But body cameras, and police policies that force officers to keep them running, can at least deter cops from thinking they can get away with shooting an innocent man to death. It can help gather evidence against criminals who assault police as well.

We all know that. Cameras would be expensive, sure, but so are weapons, and riot gear, and armored personnel carriers. It’s time for police across the nation to start wearing them. If some cops won’t take their “protect and serve” mission seriously, they can at least be made to seem to.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest