Many consider Officer Michael Slager’s arrest for the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. as evidence that the justice system works. However, it is not enough to simply say that the justice system works because it responded to an incident where a police officer was caught on video shooting a fleeing suspect in the back.
The justice system works when it relentlessly pursues the goal of exposing, confronting, and eliminating every kind of injustice, especially within the ranks of its officials.
Numerous people agree that Officer Michael Slager unjustifiably shot and killed Walter Scott, but should the matter end there? Michael Slager is not an average citizen. He is a law enforcement officer.
Should the unlawful actions of a law enforcement officer raise any further questions?
Suppose a wife caught her husband on camera cheating with another woman. She would likely ask questions such as: Why did you cheat? How do you feel about the other woman? How long has this been going on? How many women were there?
Probing questions about the depth and breadth of an offense tend to arise naturally, especially when committed by those we trust.
Should a police shooting be any different?
Admittedly, law enforcement is a terribly difficult and complex job. Police officers have to deal with some of the most irreverent and disturbed members of our society on a daily basis. In that kind of environment, it can be easy to slip into a mentality of cynicism and bias. Additionally, I imagine that many may feel alone when they put on their uniforms and enter their patrol vehicles.
They are only human.
That said, being human does not entirely excuse wrongdoing. It is, however, a reason to be vigilant for instances of wrongdoing. The public should maintain a healthy skepticism of every authoritative body. At the same time, citizens should keep in mind that honorable police officers need the support of the communities that they serve.
David Walker is a lifestyle photographer and graphic designer. He also publishes weekly essays and short podcast talks on his blog, TheAugustan.com.