Police Killings Essay

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Policy Analysis Essay on Police Killings


The recent police killings and other forms of abuse of authority by law enforcers in the US reinforce the critical and long-demanded need for policy reforms in the nation, a need that has too frequently been disregarded. While some attempts, on the part of authorities, at dealing with these issues have enjoyed a certain degree of success, others have proven unsuccessful. The issue of poor law enforcement relations with communities and police abuse of authority continues to acutely plague several communities in the country. The incidents at Baltimore and Baton Rouge highlight the urgent need to tackle this problem. Though all cases (Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and Minneapolis, to name a few) are unique, they are characterized by one highly disturbing similarity – implicit racial prejudice and unwarranted use of official force against Black Americans, especially male Black Americans. The incidents underline the extremely acute racial disparities existing in the context of police-civilian interactions. Just as alarming are the incidents of supposedly ‘disturbed’ civilians attacking law enforcement officials, partly with an aim to retaliate or take revenge (Sánchez-Garzoli, 2016).


The recent violent acts witnessed by the nation come in a period of economic stagnation and exacerbating inequality, with polarizing rhetoric overwhelming the US and giving rise to an atmosphere unconducive to reconciliation or problem resolution. This rhetoric, coupled with the growing trend of stigmatizing reasonable and nonviolent protest, is dangerous. The violent events occurring of late ought to open avenues for addressing structural problems which have long plagued the nation. Racial prejudice, unwarranted exercising of force, injustice meted out to Black Americans, marginalized populations’ distrust in authority, and extremely high accessibility of high-caliber arms are urgent issues requiring immediate focus (Sánchez-Garzoli, 2016).

Case Illustrating the Problem

Michael Slager’s (ex-cop) fatal shooting of fifty-year-old Black-American civilian, Walter L. Scott, on 4th April, 2015, is one landmark case of a police-civilian interaction going terribly wrong. On the fateful day, Scott’s automobile was stopped by North Charleston Police Department (South Carolina) officer, Slager (a White American), who noticed a faulty taillight. The police car’s dashcam video records a fairly ordinary verbal exchange between the two, followed by Slager returning to the car and Scott getting out of his own vehicle and fleeing the scene. Slager is shown pursuing the fleeing civilian on foot; the former caught up on a grassy ground adjoining a muffler establishment, where the two allegedly fight over Slager’s Taser. An onlooker who started filming the incident has captured the officer firing at the civilian, a subsequent tussle, something hitting the field, and the civilian’s subsequent attempt at fleeing (Cook 2015).

When the civilian’s (Scott’s) back was turned, Slager, who stood stationary and upright, fired at Scott 8 times. Several shots found their mark and Scott hit the ground, face down. Slager approached the fallen man, handcuffed him, and contacted dispatch claiming the man was “down” and had taken his Taser. Not even two minutes later, he re-contacted dispatch claiming the man wasn’t responding and had multiple injuries. Scott succumbed on the scene (Cook 2015).

David Norton, United States District Judge, awarded a twenty-year jail sentence to Slager in the month of December, 2017, finding him guilty of the second-degree murder of civilian, Walter Scott.
The justice was welcomed by Scott’s family, besides potentially marking a key milestone as the nation struggles with a series of law enforcement shootings typically involving weaponless male African-Americans. Scott’s killing that day was unwarranted, a fact Slager accepts. Slager’s sentence will give pause to the next police official considering shooting at somebody needlessly, simply because they can. Further, it may also embolden a district judge or attorney or police chief to make a just decision when presented with another such case. A few police departments may also be inspired to make their personnel training program more intensive. Slager made Scott pull over when he noted a faulty taillight. The latter, who had child support dues pending, ran away. But the law enforcement official caught up and a short struggle later, Scott was able to escape once again. Slager shot at him from behind. Of the 8 shots fired by him, 5 hit their mark. The official then craftily planted the Taser they were allegedly fighting over beside Scott’s dead body (The Observer editorial board, 2017).

It is clear that race, or to be more precise, the implicit racial bias of law enforcement officials, has a part to play. According to ‘The Guardian’, the number of African-American civilians dying at law enforcement officers’ hands stands at more than twice the number of Whites Americans succumbing to police force. Additionally, according to ProPublica, from 2010 to 2012, African-American teenagers’ likelihood to die at police hands was a shocking twenty-one times that of White teenagers. All law enforcement shootings have their own distinctive aspects; the details of Slager’s case clearly justify his sentence. Though it cannot necessarily be considered a beacon of hope for unrelated cases, it may be regarded as a defining moment that served to boost awareness. Increased law enforcement accountability and more efficient training ought to result from it, so that law enforcers and communities can accomplish the eventual mutual objective of trusting one another more (The Observer editorial board, 2017).


Discussion on the subject may and, in fact, ought to, commence with realizing the disturbing fact that Black Americans have been disproportionately victimized by law enforcement abuse. Authorities’ tendency of racial profiling leads to prejudice towards Blacks and subsequent unwarranted violence. Latin American and other minorities also face similar maltreatment. Attempts at reform can only succeed if this subject is openly deliberated on and dealt with (Sánchez-Garzoli, 2016).

Police reform efforts ought to outline the main requirements of a democratic, professional police force, be it in the US or within Latin American countries. Law enforcement departments require more superior training and recruitment systems and standards, sounder external and internal mechanisms for controlling potential abuse, an efficient approach when it comes to their relationship with communities, and advanced systems for conducting criminal investigations. Law enforcement relations with communities need to be grounded in both trust and awareness of the individual community’s dynamics. If law enforcement efforts reflect their priority of protecting all citizens equally, marginalized communities will tend to seek more law enforcement aid when it comes….....

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Brooks, R., (2016). America’s Police Problem Isn’t Just About Police. Retrieved 19 April 19, 2018 from http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/01/05/americas-police-problem-isnt-just-about-police-guns-violence/

Cook III, J. A. (2015). Policing in the Era of Permissiveness: Mitigating Misconduct Through Third-Party Standing. Brook. L. Rev., 81, 1121.

Sánchez-Garzoli, G., (2016). Police Abuse and Police Reform in the United States. Retrieved 19 April 2018 from https://www.wola.org/analysis/police-abuse-police-reform-united-states/

The Observer editorial board (2017). Can Michael Slager conviction lead to greater trust in police? Retrieved 19 April 2018 from http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article188862064.html#storylink=cpy
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