So we had an ever elusive incident of a cop being charged with murder, for murdering a person who was unarmed. I literally can’t remember the last time this happened so I was stunned by disbelief for a couple of days. You know the story by now. The murdering cop, Michael Slager killed Walter Scott during an incident that started with a traffic stop for a broken tail light.
The incident happened on Saturday, and unfolded in the usual way. The cop claims that he was in an epic battle for his life and had no choice but to shoot to kill. It’s fascinating how many epic battles cops get into. They seem to emerge victorious the in the vast majority of these incidents. Weird.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a total of 127 cops were killed in the line of duty last year. I don’t have numbers from any other source from last year, but I can tell you that they had the highest number of cops killed for 2013. In other words, no other source had a higher number than they did. So 127 is the maximum number of cops who were killed in the line of duty last year. Of those, 50 were death by gun. So let’s assume that all 50 were of the epic battle nature. I don’t have the 2014 numbers on how many justifiable homicides by cop from the FBI, but I have the 2013 figures. The FBI recorded 461 justifiable homicides committed by cops. These must nearly all have been of the epic battle variety since they were justified, right?
That 50 to 461 ratio is unfathomably imbalanced. It simply defies explanation. We don’t know how many of those 461 were unarmed, and that’s by design. No one is counting. Speaking of counting, that 461 number seems to be off by at least a factor of 2. Some think that the number of people killed by cops is closer to 1,100 per year. You know how anal I am about data, and presenting credible data but I can’t in this case. I don’t know how many of the estimated 1,100 cop killings were of unarmed victims. But I know that it would have to be no more than 5% in order to create parity with the number of cops killed in the line of duty.
If you go back to that FBI link, you’ll see that the police are justifiably murdering more people every year, while the murders of police officers are trending downward every year. There’s something seriously wrong here.
I’m not prone to believe the account of the lone survivor in a struggle, particularly when the one who died wasn’t armed. I’m not prone to believe a cop who won an epic battle for his or her life against someone who wasn’t armed. I’m not inclined to believe any cop whose story includes the word "waistband". I’m sorry, but I have no benefit of the doubt left for them anymore. Especially when they all seem to be telling virtually the same story.
Unfortunately, forensics in the real world is nothing like CSI. It never tells us exactly what happened. Darren Wilson’s story was very similar to Slager’s story. The victim reached for the cop’s weapon…..epic struggle….shoot to kill. In the Michael Brown case, forensics told us that Brown did have contact with Wilson’s gun, but it can’t tell us the circumstances. Was the gun being pulled out when he instinctively grabbed at it before it was aimed at him? We don’t know. We know that all of the bullets except one entered Michael Brown’s body from the front. What about the one we’re not sure of? That was one that went through his raised arm, which could have come in from either the back or the front. We know that Wilson missed half of the shots he took. Were these the shots he fired when they were both running? That would seem to be the most likely circumstances under which to miss, but we don’t know.
But Wilson gets a pass because we don’t know, and he’s the only one left alive to tell a story. The Michael Slager situation was on course to play out the same way as Wilson’s. He told basically the same story, and his department was standing behind it. This autopsy is going to have the benefit of a video tape showing it what happened, but there’s no telling how murky the results would have been without the tape. Based on that horribly imbalanced ratio of shootings, I think it’s safe to assume that the results were going to be too unclear to put a murderer in prison.
The only good thing that happened here, is that the video didn’t come to light until after the murderer told his lies. He’s going to have an impossible time explaining the disparity between his version and the video.
I am not prone to believe any cop’s story that isn’t accompanied by video evidence. You think I’m biased? We’re doing exactly the opposite now. We believe everything the surviving cop says unless there’s a video to prove otherwise. That benefit of the doubt given to the cops is unfounded. My bias comes from the data. Where does the reverse bias come from?