How Can We Prevent the Next Walter Scott?

With recent news of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old Black man who was tragically gunned down by a South Carolina police officer, it really makes you wonder if it’s open season on black men.

The police officer who killed Scott tried to cover up his actions by planting a Taser on the dead man’s body, according to video being shared around the country. And in case people wanted to cast doubt even on their own eyeballs, luckily, the man who filmed the incident was brave enough to come forward and lend further context.

When news of the video surfaced, North Charleston, South Carolina Mayor Keith Summey held a press conference. He was repeatedly interrupted by protesters, who chanted: “No justice! No peace!” The activists, some donning “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts, called for him to step down.

People are fed up. Plain and simple.

So there will be more protests, more silencing of politicians who issue scripted statements, and more demands for corrupt police to be held accountable until Blacks are heard.

walter scott

In addition to protests, young Black activists are calling for change that goes well beyond the case of Walter Scott. Among them: Charlene Carruthers, national director for Chicago-based  BYP100. The organization is dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all black people.

“I’ve seen the images. I have not watched the video. I’m not invested in watching videos of black people cut down by police,” Carruthers said when JET asked how she felt about the footage.

Well, I watched it, and it is horrifying to view. Walter Scott was cut down. Like many of us, Carruthers wonders what the narrative would’ve been if the video didn’t exist.

“For me, I thought about how if the young man hadn’t taped the actual killing. The news would be having a different conversation. I think among young Black people, there’s always skepticism about what might happen.”

Unfortunately, that skepticism was warranted. Officer Slager gave a completely different account of what actually happened. He said that Scott took his Taser and was posing a threat. The video, however, shows Slager planting the Taser on Scott’s lifeless body. It wasn’t until Feidin Santana started seeing media reports of Scott’s death that he decided to come forward. He’s the man responsible for the truth being revealed.

And it needs to keep being revealed, Carruthers insists.

“I think the most important thing to note is that this isn’t about a single incident,” said Carruthers. The police officer who took Walter Scott’s life is part of a broader institution that we know has consistently not just paralyzed, but is also complicit in the killing of black people in this country on a regular basis. Especially in the midst of calls for national police cameras, we should note that a bystander took this footage, not a police officer. And police officers have too much individual discretion over who they stop, when they stop them, and what happens when it occurs.”

Carruthers suggests that we have a publicly elected independent review board. “They won’t stop police officers from killing, however we live in a country that has little accountability for police. We need a review board that allows us to not only fire cops, but [one that] would also allow independent investigations of police violence. Because right now, what we see is police departments investigating police officers and that doesn’t get to the root of what’s happening when a black person is violated by police.”

Officer Michael Slager has been charged with first-degree murder, but the fight for justice is far from over. An entire trial still has to take place for blacks in America to see if justice will truly be served.

It’s a waiting game for many, but a few young black activists are speaking up. Speaking up for themselves, and for all of us who live in fear of our next police encounter.