One Murdering Cop Is Charged, Finally!

Apr 19, 2015

Four days after a North Charleston cop shot Walter Scott in the back, killing him, the cop was charged with murder. He should have been.

But in this country, it is almost unheard of. Cops aren’t charged with murder.

Over 2,000 black people were killed by cops in this country from 2005 to 2012. Only a handful of the murdering cops ever faced charges, hardly any were convicted, and practically none of those convicted spent time in prison.

In hundreds of cases, cops claimed that the people killed were armed – when they were not; claimed the people killed were a danger – when they were not. In most of those cases, the cops’ lies were contradicted by witnesses or even videos.

Nothing about the North Charleston murder was different, nothing that would explain why a cop who murdered was finally charged with murder.

What is different is the social atmosphere. Ever since Ferguson, authorities have had to worry about what the black population might do.

Certainly, the black population has more than enough reason to act, to go out in the streets in protest – in fact, to erupt in fury.

For more than 30 years, police agencies in this country have been rounding up young black men – and sometimes not so young ones. Walter Scott was 50 years old. Using pretexts like a “broken tail light,” or “failing to signal a turn,” police agencies picked up people. Almost everyone who was stopped was subjected to the indignity of a search of their cars and a search of their bodies. If a small amount of drugs was found – or planted – people stopped for a traffic infraction could end up with a felony charge.

The federal government effectively pays local police departments a bounty for every person picked up for drugs and convicted. The more people arrested, the more money police departments get. This is the so-called “war on drugs.”

The overall rate of incarceration for the total population is six times higher than it was 35 years ago when this “war on drugs” began. So many people have been sent to prison that the U.S., with only 4% of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s prisoners. That’s right, one quarter of all the prisoners in the world inhabit cells in this country that pretends to be “democratic.” Most of them, by far, were sent to prison the first time on a simple drug possession charge.

Hispanics and whites get caught up in these drug round-ups too, but by far the largest percentage sent to prison are black. Not because they use drugs at a higher rate – they don’t. They go to prison more often because cops stop them far more often, and judges sentence them more often.

Instead of providing enough jobs – which this economy will not do – authorities throw people in prison on bogus charges. Instead of paying for schools that would give people the training and skills they need to inhabit this technologically modern world, government pays to build more prisons. In a 25-year stretch, Illinois built almost one new prison a year.

Presidents from Reagan to Obama justified this outrage as a “war on drugs.” No, it’s a war on young black men. It’s a conscious policy aimed at criminalizing the part of the population that has been most doomed to absorbing unemployment in a society unable to provide jobs for everyone. Above all, it is a conscious policy aimed at locking up and otherwise incapacitating that part of the population that has always demonstrated its readiness to fight for justice and human rights.

The killing of young black men, which seems to have reached epidemic proportions, is only a consequence of this much wider policy, a policy aimed at the very heart of the working class. These killings are not new. What is new is the bright light that Ferguson shone on these despicable murders.

Murder will not be stopped with a bright light. But the flooding of people out into the streets – which people in Ferguson began to do – can push government and its cops back. Police power fears the power of a mobilized population.