Police Shootings – Michael Slager Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager pled guilty in federal court last week. Slager, a white police officer, shot Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, in the back multiple times as Scott ran away following a traffic stop for a broken taillight. Slager initially said that he feared for his life because Scott grabbed his taser, a story that Slager’s first defense attorney also went with until it was revealed that a bystander had recorded Scott’s murder on a cell phone. Slager’s trial in state court ended in a hung jury, and state prosecutors agreed not to dismiss the murder charges in exchange for his plea in federal court.

Slager pled guilty to a federal charge of deprivation of rights under the color of law, and all remaining state and federal charges will be dismissed. Although media reports claim that he is facing up to life in prison, he is actually facing a maximum potential penalty of 25 years in prison under the federal sentencing guidelines for second-degree murder. With a lack of any criminal history and a history of serving as a law enforcement officer, his guideline range will be low and it is not likely that he will be sentenced to substantial prison time.

Roy Oliver Charged With Murder

The white Texas police officer who shot an unarmed 15-year old black teen last week has been charged with murder. Oliver fired into a car that was leaving a party, striking the teenager in the head and killing him. Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber initially said that Oliver fired into the vehicle because it was driving aggressively towards a group of police officers but later retracted his statement after reviewing bodycam footage that showed the vehicle driving away from the officers.

Official Statistics on Fatal Shootings by Police Officers

Literally, there are none. The federal government has been incapable or, more likely, unwilling to compile reliable or complete data on the number of fatal police shootings in the U.S. In lieu of official statistics, the Washington Post has taken on the task. According to the Post, 963 people were fatally shot by police in the U.S. in 2016, 991 in 2015, and 345 people have been killed by police shootings so far this year. Mental illness played a role in 1 out of 5 incidents.

More stories from the Post:

  • 1 in 5 officers who kill citizens are never identified by their departments. Many of the officers that are identified are only disclosed through the efforts of reporters or through lawsuits.
  • 55 officers who were involved in fatal shootings so far this year have a history of fatal shootings.
  • In 1 out of 3 fatal shootings following traffic stops this year, the victim was a black motorist.
  • A black CNN security guard was shot and killed by police as he struggled with his son to prevent his son from obtaining a gun.
  • A Texas court dismissed manslaughter charges against an officer who killed an unarmed man. The court held that the officer is immune from prosecution because he was a member of a federal task force at the time that he murdered the victim.

I could link to more and more recent stories of police officers shooting and killing unarmed citizens, an autistic child, and on and on. I don’t need to and I know that you can find these stories on your own. I also could link to many stories about law enforcement officers who have themselves been killed in the line of duty. Each time that happens it is an unthinkable tragedy, but that’s not the point of this blog post. Police have a badge, a gun, and a responsibility to their communities. Criminals are criminals. Murderers will shoot and kill people, including the police officers who are trying to stop them. That is why we have the police in the first place. The police are not supposed to be the criminals or murderers.

I support law enforcement. I do not support the notion of law enforcement having free license to shoot and kill citizens with impunity. I do not support law enforcement who lie to cover up their own or their colleagues’ murders. I support law enforcement 100% when law enforcement follows the laws that they were hired to enforce.

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