two high profile police misconduct cases that will be discussed are Walter
Scott and Joe Arpaio. Both were extremely publicized cases and both displayed
police misconduct. They are two very different cases. One ended with a man’s
life being taken and the other involved the Latino race. Both authority figures
were guilty but had two very different outcomes.
first is Walter Scott was a 50-year-old man that was shot in the back 8 times
by former Police Officer Michael Slager with the North Charleston Police Department. On April 4th,
2015, Michael Slager pulled Walter Scott over for a broken break light. (Blinder,
2017) Walter Scott had a warrant for unpaid child support which is said to be
the reason he ran. Michael Slager fired his stun gun but was unsuccessful.
Slager then fired his police issued fire arm 8 times while Scott ran away. Several
other officers stated that Slager said that Scott took his taser over the
radio. Slager was not charged with murder until a cellphone video was released.
The video showed Slager shot Scott in the back when there was almost 20 feet
between the two. Slager was also recorded picking up his taser and dropping it
next to Scott’s body. (Blinder, 2017) Walter Scott was pronounced dead on
scene. He was shot in the back four times and the fifth bullet grazed his ear. Slager
stated that he was in fear for his life. The first trial was a mistrial. The
jury could not come to an agreement. The second trial is where Slager pled
guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison. (Blinder, 2017)
The killing of Walter Scott, an unarmed African American,
is not unusual or shocking. What makes this case unique is that the officer was
convicted. Not only was he convicted but sentenced to 20 years in prison. There
were several cases before this and several after, that a police officer stated
he or she feared for their life and was acquitted for murder. This sets a tone.
It sets a precedence that says this is acceptable. There are times and reasons
to be fearful and discharge your weapon. However, someone running away from you
is not one of them. This took place in a rural area. The police naturally
become defensive. They allow their biasness to overpower their ability to think
rationally. Being a police officer is an
extremely tough job and can be very dangerous. However, they are human and can
make mistakes. They need adequate training on how to deal with threatening
situations. Police officers should also be trained on when to use deadly use of
force. The state of Texas used to train correctional officers that deadly use
of force could be used to stop an inmate from escaping. That was changed. The
new policy says that you use the necessary amount of force to hinder. They
changed their policy because there was no way to continue justifying shooting
someone in the head climbing a fence when a leg could suffice.
Joseph Michael Arpaio was the Sheriff of Maricopa County
in Arizona. He was the sheriff for 24 years from 1993 to 2017. He lost finally
to Democrat Paul Penzone. Joe Arpaio and his staff racially profiled Latinos
while on patrol. They then handed them over to federal immigration. (Etehad,
2017) In 2011, he was ordered by United States District Judge G. Murray to stop
racially profiling and detaining Latinos. Former Mesa Police Chief George
Gascon stated that violent and property crime between 2006 and 2009 went down.
(Mark, 2017) Unfortunately, crime in Maricopa County went up. Arpaio was
accused of using all the department resources on targeting presumed immigrants.
Grascon’s statement was confirmed by Arizona- based Goldwater Institute. IN
Maricopa County violent crimes increased by 69%, homicide by an astonishing
166% between the years of 2004 and 2007. (Mark, 2017) Joe Arpaio referred to
himself as “America’s toughest sheriff”. He was first recognized for his “tent
city”. It was an outdoor jail where people were forced to wear pink underwear
and work in a chain gang. Arpaio had supporters including the President of the
United States who gave him a pardon after being convicted. People honestly
believed he was doing his job and there was nothing wrong with it. Those
supporters are saying that detaining Latinos simply because you think they
might be in the country illegally is ok. Even when he ordered to stop he
continued to do so saying that he was following the law. How did this make the
Latinos in the community feel? What about police community relations? An
illegal immigrant who was brutally raped, beaten and needed to be seen by a
doctor was afraid to call the sheriff’s department. She did and said nothing.
The rapist went on to rape other women. (Mark, 2017) Had an investigation been
started, he might have been captured and it could have prevented the other rapes.
The community need to feel like they can trust the authorities. If they are not
reporting crime or information on crimes, it can make the investigation harder.
Arpaio faced several lawsuits over the years yet continued. Sheriff Penzone
will have a long road ahead of rebuilding the department and the enforcing the
new policies. He then has to make sure the community knows that things are
changing and that they will get better. It will be a long road but a needed
journey. The biasness and racial acts of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio will not be
forgotten and talked about for decades to come.
Both of these cases show how police misconduct negatively
affected others. In the case of Walter Scott, a jury was unable to decide. He
plead guilty in hopes of getting reduced time. There is no guarantee that he
would have been convicted the second time either. He could have been another
officer acquitted for killing an unarm civilian. This is what outrages the
public. It is not only the shooting itself but the lack of accountability the
officers face after the incident. It continues to draw a wedge between police
and the community they serve. Police culture is how new recruits learn bad
habits. The police culture is different in every department. Slager was not the
first person to shoot an unarmed man and he was not the first to lie about it
either. Slager dropping the Taser beside the victim is also not new. Police
have been accused of planting evidence for years. Until police are held
accountable for their actions, they will not fully get the respect they deserve
especially from minorities.
actions of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio effected illegal immigrants as well as
legal immigrants. To be racially profiled and detained without cause is
unacceptable. Arpaio showed that he was above the law. He refused to stop
targeting Latinos. He instructed his staff to continue and pulled resources
from other departments to do so. He was ordered by a judge. Not even two months
after, he was giving an interview stating he would continue. (Etehad, 2017) That
is a blatant disrespect for the judicial system. To make matters worse, he was
given a pardon from the President of the United States. That send a clear
message not only to the Latin community but to us all. This is another example
of not being held accountable. He did not plead guilty but was convicted and
still came out on top. How is it that an entire department carried out this
order for decades? Arpaio still currently has supports and is now running for United
States Senate. We cannot be surprised if or when he gets it. In 2018, we can
expect more of the same which is several incidents police misconduct and very
few police being held accountable.