The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice have once again raised the question of police brutality in America. The video that surfaced heavily two days ago of Walter Scott, the latest victim of police brutality, showed an unarmed African American male running away from the North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager.
Slager fired eight shots into the back of the unarmed Walter Scott, from nearly 30 feet away, unquestionable police brutality. What makes the footage more sickening is the fact that Slager would have gotten away with planting his taser next to Walter Scott’s feet — given the fact that the North Charleston Police Department were backing their officer. If Feidin Santana had never shot the cell phone footage catching the event, the corrupt, twisted, coward Slager would be deemed a hero, and Walter Scott would be labeled a thug.
The fragile threads of structural racism have been tearing this last year. Activists, political leaders and political pundits have all been a part of the conversation about police brutality and what it means to still be a minority in America. Some of these pundits provide factual information, while others skew solid facts to meet the needs of their biased base, throwing fuel to an already flaming fire — the crucial cornerstone of the body camera debate has been molded by the unfortunate death of Walter Scott.
Studies show that when people are acting under surveillance, they act differently, more socially acceptable, as anyone would figure. The question has to be asked, would Walter Scott still be alive if Michael Slager had been wearing a body camera? This also raises another question, how common of a practice is it for police departments in areas with a history of racial tension to act just as Michael Slager did? How long have department cover-ups been going on with no evidence to support it?
The Huffington Post noted that 200 police shootings have been exonerated in South Carolina in the past five years. More statistics follow and show that “109 African Americans were shot at, 34 died. While 67 white suspects were shot at and 41 died, 5 other shootings were Asian, Native American or Latino.” It’s important to illuminate the statistical shadow, 66 percent of the population is White, while only 27 percent is African American. African Americans are absolutely being targeted at a higher rate than whites, furthering the discussion of racial tensions and the need for body cameras.
Although nothing is a total cure all, body cameras will eliminate split second, subconscious prejudices from making a life changing, or life ending choice.
Andrew Thomas LaVogue
Senior Criminal Justice Major