Howard weighed in on the news that the criminal charges against the police officer who killed Walter Scott ended in a mistrial yesterday. Video evidence from a witness’s cell phone shows police officer Michael Slager shooting at Mr. Scott, an unarmed black man, as Mr. Scott ran away from the officer. Jurors indicated that eleven out of twelve jurors were in favor of a guilty verdict, but unanimous agreement was not possible.
Howard’s comment in the article expressing sadness at the verdict but not surprise refers to the prejudice in favor of police officers in the court system, particularly in criminal cases. This pro-police bias exists at every stage of criminal proceedings. When police officers commit crimes while on the job, they are less likely to be investigated. When investigated, police officers are less likely to be charged. When charged, police officers are less likely to go to trial. When there is a criminal trial, police officers are less likely to be found guilty. When found guilty, police officers are less likely to be sent to prison. When sentenced to prison, police officers are less likely to have a long sentence. And when police officers appeal a sentence or a guilty finding, they are more likely to win the appeal.
We believe police officers who commit misconduct or engage in criminal activity should not be treated differently than anyone else. Police officers are sworn to uphold the law, and when they violate the law they deserve equal punishment. It is truly sad that a jury did not convict officer Slager when there was video proof he shot a man in the back several times and then tried to cover it up by placing his taser near the body. Hopefully an unbiased jury will convict him.