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North Charleston Police
Do you think that the North Charleston Police Department has taken appropriate steps towards reform a year after the Walter Scott shooting?
Walter Scott Murder Demonstrates NCPD Culture Of Abuse
4/10/2015 9:41:16 AM

Protestor Jerome Smalls showing support at the April 9 Charleston NAACP press conference. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
By Barney Blakeney

North Charleston Branch NAACP President Ed Bryant said Thursday the April 4 Shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer is demonstrative of the culture of abuse that exists in the department when it comes to Blacks.

A witness captured the disturbing video account of officer Michael Stagler firing eight times at the back of Scott as he ran away. Stagler had stopped Scott for an alleged broken brake light. Initially Stagler reported that Scott had fought him and wrestled his taser from him.

Stagler said Scott tried use the taser against him when, in fear, he shot Scott. But the video, which doesn’t show any struggle between the two men, only shows Scott running away from Stagler who draws his service weapon and fires repeatedly as Scott runs away eventually falling after the final round struck him.

Although they expressed concern Scott was unarmed and running away from the officer, leaders of local civil rights organizations had taken a wait and see approach to the shooting before the video of the incident was made public Tuesday. But the video that has drawn national attention to the incident gives incontestable evidence Stagler fabricated details. Tuesday, Stagler was charged with murder.

In recent years complaints against North Charleston police officers average about 20 per year in the department of some 340 sworn officers. About 25 percent are sustained, an equal number are exonerated and most are determined unfounded. But Bryant says the statistics don’t reflect the reality of the abuse perpetrated against minority citizens.

Racial profiling is blatant, Bryant said. Only 64 of the department’s 340 sworn officers are African American. Blacks are subjected to traffic stops at a rate twice that of whites in the city.

In 2004 after North Charleston police officers had completed a three-day diversity training workshop several officers who entered a local law firm didn't reflect that training. Lisa Cotton was one of two Black female attorneys in the office intimidated by officers attempting to arrest a suspect who had come there as a potential client. Mrs. Cotton said at the time, there were bad apples among the department’s policemen who should be weeded out.

More alarming, the abuse has had deadly results, Bryant contends. In 2000 North Charleston police shot and killed Edward Snowden who was Black, and who had been assaulted by three white men outside a video store. Snowden was returning videos to the store when he was attacked unprovoked by the men who were leaving a bar in the same strip mall.

In 2003 Asberry Wylder was killed by a North Charleston police officer responding to a call about a shoplifter. Police cornered Wylder in a lot across the street from the store then shot and killed him after Wylder allegedly stabbed an officer.

“What we’re seeing is a culture of abuse,” Bryant maintains. “The video of Mr. Scott’s murder shows the officer slowly walk up to the man he’s just shot in the back numerous times. He doesn’t administer aid or even call for EMS. He commands Scott, who was lying there dying, to put his hands behind his back then handcuffs him although Scott was unresponsive.

After that he walks back and apparently picks up the taser gun, and comes back to Scott’s body and drops it. Stagler most obviously was more concerned about covering his own butt than that man’s life.

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