Letter to the Editor

Police brutality not common

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dear editor,

There are isolated cases of police brutality. In a charge of brutality (excessive force under the color of authority), it is easier to prove criminal intent on the part of the officer, as opposed to situations when an officer overreacts.

Granted, the consequences of police overreacting can be just as serious as brutality (or worse), but establishing criminal intent is far more difficult.

The April 7, 2015, shooting of Walter Scott by North Charleston, S.C., police officer Michael Slager is an example of an officer overreacting to what is unfolding in front of him. It deserves prosecution for manslaughter and decertification as a peace officer.

Why manslaughter and not first degree murder? Let's break it down. Scott's first illegal action (fleeing from a traffic stop) dictated that Officer Slager give chase.

Scott's second illegal (and violent) act was committed on Officer Slager as he attempted to disarm him of his Taser. Despite Scott's blatant unlawful and escalating criminal conduct, deadly force was the wrong force option. Prosecution of the officer is warranted.

Scott was no longer a threat to Officer Slager when he was shot. Nor was Scott a violent fleeing felon whose escape presented an imminent danger to the community.

As a firearms trainer, I find Slager's overreaction to Scott's criminal conduct disturbing to watch and tragic. At the same time, I understand the emotions and psychology of foot pursuits and close quarter hand-to-hand combat.

As ugly as the videos are to watch, there are mitigating factors and nothing that happened retroactively validates the allegations in the media and by the White House of a systemic racist, criminal (white) police culture. Race was not a factor; behavior was.

Scott's criminal conduct set in motion what followed. Although he had significant culpability for the outcome, Officer Slager had more.

Officer Slager's defense will be manslaughter, not murder. A jury will be challenged to suspend the conditioning of the media spin in recent police use of force controversies and look at this one in a vacuum weighing the totality of circumstances.

-- Doug Traubel