What if there hadn’t been video?

Incredibly disturbing story and video:

North Charleston officer faces murder charge after video shows him shooting man in back

I keep coming back to this:

Summey, the city’s mayor, said the cameraman handed over the footage to Scott’s family, who gave it to SLED. City officials reviewed it late Tuesday afternoon.

The mayor said that the case could have ended differently if it weren’t for the footage. But Summey said he couldn’t speculate about what would have happened.

“Without the video … it would be difficult for us to ascertain exactly what did occur,” Summey said. “We want to thank the young person who came forward … because it has helped us resolve the issue.”

Chris Stewart, an attorney for Scott’s relatives, also questioned during the family’s news conference whether Slager would have been charged.

“What happened today doesn’t happen all the time,” Stewart said. “What if there was no video? What if there was no witness? … This wouldn’t have happened.”

North Charleston Pastor Nelson Rivers, who is a vice president in the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, called the cameraman a “hero.”

Rivers said he was alarmed by the ease at which the officer shot Scott. He called it disturbing for the officer to show so little about “what life means.” He called it “sobering and evil.”

“If not for the video, we would still be following the narrative from the officer,” Rivers said. “If not for this video, the story would be entirely different.”

Councilwoman Dorothy Williams said the city’s handling of the episode showed “the people of America that the city of North Charleston is not going to do no cover-up.” But she also stressed the community’s role.

“I’m asking all the citizens of North Charleston,” she said, “to continue taping.”

It’s a serious question, and something to ponder vigorously. What if there had been no video? What if there had been nothing to counter the officer’s story? How many times has this happened before? It’s haunting to think about. Consider: Tommy Sanders walked. Randall Kerrick hasn’t been tried yet, but even if he is convicted, he faces a maximum of 5 years. Johannes Mehserle received a 2 year sentence, minus time served. Jason Blackwelder was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to probation. Ian Birk wasn’t charged at all.

The trends are disturbing and undeniable. Police who murder people are rarely charged. The ones that are charged are rarely charged with murder. The ones that are charged with murder are rarely convicted. And the ones that are convicted are rarely convicted of murder.

The net result? There have been so few cops convicted of murder for a shooting while on-duty that the Wikipedia list of American police officers convicted of murder is 13 entries.

There are only two instances in which a police officer should be authorized to use lethal force: the officer’s life is in danger, or someone else’s life is in danger. An unarmed suspect running away poses no immediate threat, and the correct tool to use is the radio, not the gun. The police in this country have been empowered and emboldened by the relatively light treatment they receive when they use lethal force, and they are largely protected by broad policies of consideration when it comes to examining what the officer believed the threat to be. No one else receives this kind of protection. I know what the answer to this problem is, but I don’t know what the answer is to the problem of this problem going unaddressed on a widespread basis. I guess all I can say at this point is, thank goodness for the proliferation of recording devices in the hands of the public. Keep shooting those cameras, people, so we can force the cops to stop shooting their guns.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *