Racial discrimination evident between officers, community



April 9, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Police forces across the country say they are trying to make the demographics of their departments better reflect their communities but struggle to find enough people of color to apply.
Little wonder.
Overwhelmingly, minorities in the United States report they feel they are targets of undue violence by the law enforcement community.
Saturday’s alleged fatal shooting of Walter Lamer Scott, an unarmed 50-year-old black man, by a North Charleston, S.C. police officer, is but another nail in the coffin in the defense of police departments.
Scott had been driving with a malfunctioning tail- light. When pulled over for the infraction the two tussled, the officer fired his stun gun and Scott fled on foot. The police officer then fired eight shots at the fleeing Scott from a distance of 15-20 feet.
A video of the encounter was recorded by a bystander. Footage refutes the officer’s contention that Scott had taken the Taser gun or posed a significant threat to either him or others.
Until the video was released to the New York Times, the officer’s superiors were none the wiser.

ENOUGH of these incidents have happened that wearing body-mounted cameras should be mandatory for every police force. The evidence produced from such technology helps protect the innocent.
Had the officer in Saturday’s incident been wearing a camera affixed to his lapel, perhaps it also would have given him pause to his actions. Or, who knows, provided an angle that strengthens the officer’s defense.
But that’s the nuts and bolts.
Racial discrimination by law enforcement officers against ethnic minorities exists in many communities across the United States and it’s fair to say that generates a culture of rampant fear on both sides of the line.
North Charleston has a population of about 100,000 of which 47 percent are black, 37 percent white and the rest of a multitude of ethnicities. Its police force is 80 percent white.
That imbalance, unfortunately, is reflected not only in how officers treat the citizenry, but also in how they are viewed.
In Scott’s case, a history of being delinquent on child support payments made him fearful the traffic stop would lead to his arrest.
If only a respectful conversation could have taken place first.

POLICE departments must do a better job of making their forces more integrated for blacks and other minorities to feel they are not unnecessarily targeted.
It’s only through understanding that both sides can develop compassion and stop such senseless violence.
— Susan Lynn

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