Fight, Flight or Film – Are American Police Officers Racist?

Selfie sticks, video blogs, photo-bombs – is it now our first instinct to pick up a camera in every situation?  

Like it or not, this filming trend is very much the only way we can tell fact from fiction and has even had an effect on a recent murder case in the U.S… and may suggest that some American police officers are racist.

 

THE STORY

South Carolina, USA. Police Officer Michael Slager shoots a black man called Walter Scott.
Slager claims: Scott had tried to grab his taser weapon, and that he felt threatened.

The Issue: This isn’t the first time a black man has been shot by police in suspicious circumstances. Is America’s police force racist?

 

WHAT’S VIDEO GOT TO DO WITH IT?

 

A video was then released, showing a whole different story. Scott is seen running away, unarmed, before being shot in the back by Slager.

The video appears to show Slager dropping an item by the dead body – and some are saying that the taser was planted near the body to suit the police’s version of events…

RIGHT NOW:  Michael Slager has been charged with the murder of Walter Scott.
A second video has been released, showing Scott being pulled over by Slager, for a broken headlight on his car and then fleeing the scene.

 

THERE’S A PATTERN HERE…

2009

Oakland, California – 22 year old Oscar Grant III shot by white Police officer Johannes Mehserle as he lay defenceless on the ground. Many videos show Grant was already restrained by other officers when he was shot. Mehserle was charged with manslaughter, not murder, and was released in 2011.

2014

Ferguson, Missouri – Unarmed black teenager Michael Brown shot dead by Officer Darren Wilson.  Wilson was not charged with murder and no video was taken to tell if this action was justified.

New York – Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold by a New York cop. A video shows him saying “I can’t breathe”. The police officer was not charged.

Cleveland, Ohio – Tamir Rice, aged only 12, is shot by police responding to reports of a youth waving around a “probably fake” weapon. The weapon did indeed turn out to be fake. CCTV shows the shots being fired within seconds of the police’s arrival. The verdict is yet to be revealed.

 

THE WIDER ISSUE

These events and the many other similar killings of black people by white police officers all add to the ongoing debate about whether America’s justice system and police officers are racist. Cue: public outrage, riots, protest marches and campaigns for justice.

Increase in CCTV cameras and video technology in mobile phones: the public has been able to compare the police’s version of events to what they see in the videos. And they don’t like what they are seeing.

 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Michael Brown’s parents have campaigned for a law to make police officers wear body cameras, filming their actions and as a result of Walter Scott’s death many others support this move.

Some body cam studies suggest that they reduce police misconduct.

Due to the fact America is made up of different states, policed by 18,000 separate police agencies its unlikely police cameras will be rolled out throughout the whole country any time soon.

 

Is America’s police force racist?

Very hard to tell. What we do know is that several people are protesting across various states in America over what they see as racist behaviour.