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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/13/15

What We Learned From Michael Slager

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Reprinted from Reader Supported News


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Feidin Santana's smartphone video of North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott multiple times in the back, while deeply disturbing and productive of outrage, is also an abject illustration of exactly how police get away with murder every day in America.

Slager takes us through a step-by-step demonstration of how to kill a terrified man -- under color of law -- and get away with it. And there should be no doubt that absent Santana's video, Slager would have succeeded.

A warrant was issued for Slager's arrest -- after the video went public -- but not by his own department, the North Charleston Police Department. Right up until the moment the video went public, the NCPD was passing off Slager's version of events as the official story to the news media. The warrant and arrest were coordinated by the state police, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

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In fact, a statement by SLED Chief Mark Keel was blunt about suspicions held by state investigators even at the original crime scene:

"There were inconsistencies including what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds in Mr. Scott's back. We believed early on that there was something not right about what happened in that encounter."

Mark Keel might want to consider applying for the vacant job of U.S. Attorney General, because this kind of thing is happening all across the country. What separates the killing of Walter Scott from the killings of countless unarmed men and women at the hands of American police every year? Video, and an honest state police agency. Both quite rare.

But it's Slager's cool, businesslike demeanor as he retrieves the stun gun, walks calmly over to the body of the man he has just shot multiple times in the back, throws the stun gun down beside him ... and then calls it in on his radio. There's a playbook, and Slager is well versed in the steps.

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What was it Darren Wilson said? He feared for his life, the suspect grabbed for my gun, he charged at me. The only thing that is lacking in this well traveled script is original material.

The time has come for a major national push for body cameras -- on all police personnel. With routine public access to the recordings. This will have many beneficial effects in terms of safety for suspects, and police officers. It will also provide an opportunity for the public to understand how police encounters take place.

A debate on policing tactics in the U.S. is long overdue, and people are dying every day for the lack of it. Is the concept of immediate interdiction really necessary in so many cases? Did Michael Slager really need to chase Walter Scott at all? Why? Where was Walter Scott going that the NCPD could not find him?

Is it really necessary for American police to rely so heavily on firearms? Would subjects and police officers be safer if the police officers were less aggressive and more observant, as they are in every other country on earth?

Is the principle of absolute police authority worth killing hundreds of people every year to preserve it? How many times do we have to watch video of police summarily executing a human being for the crime of failing to obey a command? Wittingly or unwittingly.

What Michael Slager taught us is that the time to address police violence on a local, state, and federal level has come.

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Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, now the founder, editor and publisher of Reader Supported News: http://www.readersupportednews.org

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