News Roundup

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Around here, the biggest news item this week was the shooting of Walter Scott by North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager. Scott, who is black, ran from a traffic stop, perhaps because he was afraid of being jailed for being delinquent on child support payments. It appears that Slager, who is white, gave chase on foot and caught Scott. Some type of scuffle ensued. Slager at least initially claimed that Scott sought to obtain control of his Taser during the struggle. A bystander captured video of the last moments of the scuffle, which ended with Scott breaking free of Slager and running away, apparently unarmed. Slager fired eight shots at Scott’s back as he fled, killing Scott. Slager has been fired from his job and charged with murder. CNN has the story here.

The incident has given a renewed impetus to the push to equip officers with body cameras. At least two bills are pending in the North Carolina General Assembly regarding cameras. The News and Observer discusses both bills in this article. H537 appears to have the better prospects, as it has attracted some Republican support. It would provide $10 million over the next two years to help fund the acquisition of cameras and generally would require all officers in counties with populations over 200,000 to wear cameras and record specified interactions with the public. A News and Observer editorial supporting the bill claims that the bill would cover about 60% of the state’s officers.

In other news:

Boston Marathon bomber found guilty, faces capital sentencing hearing. As CNN reports here, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty in federal court of 30 crimes in connection with the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. There was little question about his guilt and the main issue all along has been whether he would receive a death sentence. The penalty phase could begin as early as next week. The defense is expected to argue that Tsarnaev acted under the influence of his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in the manhunt after the bombings. The 2015 Boston Marathon will take place on April 20, potentially during the penalty phase. The Boston Globe just published an editorial arguing that the jury should not impose the death penalty. It strikes me as somewhat unusual for a newspaper to take a position on what decision a jury should make in a specific legal proceeding that hasn’t even happened yet, but I’m certainly no expert in journalistic practices.

Comments on the state of the death penalty in the United States and around the world. Also on the topic of the death penalty, Linda Greenhouse recently wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that begins: “You wouldn’t know it from the death penalty proceeding about to take place in the Boston Marathon case . . . but capital punishment in the United States is becoming vestigial. The number of death sentences imposed last year, 72, was the lowest in 40 years. The number of executions, 35, was the lowest since 1994 . . . . Seven states, the fewest in 25 years, carried out executions.” Meanwhile, Amnesty International released this report, summarizing the global use of the death penalty in 2014. It documented executions in 22 countries, the same as in 2013, and a 28% increase in death sentences between 2013 and 2014. Yet it also asserted that “the world continues to make progress towards abolition” – Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases – principally citing a decline in executions. There is considerable random annual variation in both death sentences and executions, so I am reluctant to put much stock in the figures from any single year, but still, perhaps they are food for thought.

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6 comments on “News Roundup

  1. All government offices where the People engage their ‘public servants’ need to be both video camed and sound recorded. All Law enforcement officers need to have both dash cams (front and rear) in their vehicles, as well as body cams. All the various tribunals need to be recorded and camed as well.

    Further, there needs to be an easy way for private citizens to bring both civil and criminal charges against their servants. It has been my experience that Magistrates are hesitant to bring any civil or criminal complaint against one of their own (another public servant) even if there is overwhelming evidence.

    If cameras and recordings were the law, and they would have been used several years ago a matter that has been pending in the NC system of Courts for nearly 5 years would have been concluded years ago. This matter has had more than 20 continuances, and cost the Tax Payers lord only knows how much in taxes unnecessarily, and for no legitimate purpose.

    The matter is a complete fabrication by LEOs colluding and conspiring together. If there had been recordings and videos this matter would have never happened. The lesser tribunals frequently referred to as District Courts, need to be recorded as well.

  2. I believe camera are a good thing and should stop a lot of the police bashing and lies by most suspects. Yes, there are police officers that make mistakes or should not be LEOs at all. They make bad decisions and should be held accountable. That being said, there are more false complaints and out right lies told by people being arrested. People that file false reports on misdeeds by LEOs, and the LEO is treated as he/she is guilty before any facts of the case come out. When the facts come out, the story goes away or the same people call it a conspiracy. If the Magistrate was to issue warrants on the LEOs, there wouldn’t be any of us left working. I am for bady cameras. But what happens when the officer forgets to turnit on, does not have time to stop and turn it on or the camera fails? Will that be worse than no camera at all? Remember, LEOs are nothing more than human beings…..

  3. Jon, LEOs are not “nothing more than human beings.” They are human beings with guns, badges, and the knowledge that what they say will be believed in court unless someone has something extremely convincing such as videotape with which to contradict the LEOs. Often even with contradictory videotape the LEO will be believed. People (particularly judges)do not like to admit that LEOs lie in court.

  4. As I read the comments above, I can’t help but get a sense that Law Enforcement Officers are being degraded and general slants about “The matter is a complete fabrication by LEOs colluding and conspiring together” (JIM), “They are human beings with guns, badges, and the knowledge that what they say will be believed in court unless someone has something extremely convincing such as videotape with which to contradict the LEOs.” (WALTER). Yes there are bad officers that exist, as there are bad people in all professions, like Doctors. Doctors have the power to kill you if they give you the wrong medicine, correct? But yet you wouldn’t refer to them the way LEOs are today because they are trying to save lives. Um… So are LEOs, they are doing the front line, life threatening, job that may one day cost us our very own life for trying to save someone we never met or bringing the one who hurt another to justice. Not sure when the support stopped, but it needs to return! I have served for 12 years, through blood, through sweat, and through tears. So others can feel safe.

    These cameras are a good thing if used correctly. For instance, if they are shown in their entirety and not chopped to sway public opinion by the media against the very ones who are trying to save them?

    Furthermore, the people are always preaching their rights, so at what point where those who purposed this bill going to ask the people if they want to spend that type money? Shouldn’t it be up to the agencies to choose based on what the local population wants? What happened to voting, or do we just want the “let the government care and provide for me” to take over. Socialism?

    This state is already in debt, we can barely pay our bills to provide services and now “10 MILLION”. Have you seen what these cameras cost to buy and then maintain. Okay, so let’s say you buy them, who is going to pay to maintain them? Have you researched the cost per year to store the data? I have! I would digress but I would have to break the cost per officer, per camera, per computer, and per file size. This is just for an agency of 100 people and it has already cost in excess of $50,000. That’s just this year, by the way!

    My over goal of this writing is to caution those against knee jerk reactions. If you think a camera will solve all problems, think again. We have cameras, they still only show a piece of the puzzle. Our laws at their foundation are based on what is reasonable under the circumstances and not what it convenient behind a desk with the safety of bailiffs around and the CRIMINAL in cuffs. If you really think that officers wake up and go to work hopping to hurt someone that day, that is sad beyond anything that I can write in this letter. Perhaps if we held true to our foundation and telling law breakers that they are not the victims and we the people WILL hold them accountable for their actions!

    There is not a systematic fix to individual human problems. Do you want a government agent standing in the bathroom to help you because the person before couldn’t use toilet paper properly? Um..

  5. I am a citizen, not a law enforcement officer, but I have obtained a body camera to wear while walking my dog just to protect myself from the crazy allegations that I am sneaking around “touching people’s stuff”. I am a senior citizen who walks a 65 pound greyhound in Franklin County NC. I carry a cane with a light on it. Doe that make me sound dangerous? My body camera will be my witness, and it will keep the sheriff’s deputies honest, too, if they don’t find some obscure law to justify confiscating it.

  6. […] a white police officer who shot Walter Scott, a black man, in April 2015.  As the News Roundup noted last year, a bystander captured the last moments of a scuffle between Scott and Slager which ended […]

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