By now, many of us have seen the gut-wrenching video that shows white South Carolina police officer Michael T. Slager shooting Walter L. Scott, an unarmed black man, in the back eight times as Scott flees the scene. Although Officer Slager claimed he fired in self-defense, the video contradicts that story. Along the way, that video also tells a devastating truth—about the culture of policing in America today, about how Black men and communities of color are brutalized, about how excessive force is so easily explained away.
In the video, it appears as if the officer plants evidence to support his story, after gunning Walter Scott down. You can see him handcuff the dying man rather than provide medical attention. Why is no one trying to save him?
What would the current conversation around Walter Scott be if there hadn’t been this video? What would you be reading in the news? And how often does this happen in America, unseen by a camera?
Around Michigan, we’ve endured similarly disturbing instances of police violence. In 2010, as she slept on a couch in her family’s flat, 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was shot in the head by a Detroit SWAT team officer during a botched raid. In 2012, Milton Hall, a homeless African-American man, died after he was sprayed with bullets by a squad of Saginaw police officers with high-powered rifles. In March, we were shocked by the release of a video showing Floyd Dent, an unarmed 57-year-old black motorist, being snatched out of his car and pummeled mercilessly by Inkster cops following a traffic stop.
We cannot let this continue. Not one more day, not one more unarmed Black man senselessly beaten or gunned down execution-style, snatched from his family far too soon. It’s time for us all to stand up and shout from the rooftops: This must end.
The police, armed to the teeth, continue to treat us like the enemy, especially if we’re Black, young, poor, or homeless. It’s up to us to call for a drastic shift in the culture of policing, one that involves addressing racial profiling, excessive force and the heavy militarization of local police forces.
What will it take for police to start protecting communities of color, instead of waging war on them? It’s up to us to make sure the police understand that our communities are not warzones, and we are not the enemy.
Ending the militarization of police departments would send just such a message.
We need systemic change so we can stop this constant recitation of names, Milton Hall, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott. Not one more.
Stopping the funding and incentivizing of police militarization is a crucial first step to ending this war.
By ACLU Staff