Walter Scott’s Killing Is a Direct Result of the Current State of Policing in America Today

It’s déjà vu. And it’s also a nightmare.

Police gunning down unarmed black men and boys is an American horror film that keeps getting replayed. Except that this isn’t a movie you can turn off: It’s a painful, outrageous, and unacceptable reality.

Why was Walter Scott killed? Why does this keep happening?

Racial profiling by law enforcement is at odds with American values of fairness and justice.

The recent shooting of Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer has brought the issue of racial profiling and excessive use of force against communities of color into the spotlight in South Carolina. 

Communities of color are not the enemy. 

Police officers have been empowered to use violent means such as tasers and chokeholds when they interact with the community.

Aggressive enforcement of nonviolent infractions is not justified, and it disproportionately affects communities of color.

The safety of all communities must be the central concern of those who have sworn to protect and serve. 

 

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WHEN ENCOUNTERING POLICE OR PROTESTING

The deaths of Walter Scott, Eric Garner and Michael Brown are part of an alarming trend of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters. While many officers carry out their jobs with respect for the communities they serve, we must confront the profound disconnect and disrespect that many communities of color experience with their local law enforcement.

The ACLU will continue to fight for racial justice. To build trust, we must have a democratic system where our communities have an equal say in the way their neighborhoods are policed. Collaboration, transparency, and communication between police and communities around the shared goals of equality, fairness, and public safety pave the path forward. 

WHAT ABOUT BODY CAMERAS?

In the wake of the recent shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. in August of last year, body cameras have come under serious consideration and scrutiny.

President Obama has announcement that he will seek $75 million in funding for police body cameras and training; Mayor Keith Summey of North Charleston has announced that all North Charleston police officers will wear body cameras; and there is a proposed bill in the South Carolina legislature to mandate body cameras for law enforcement.

Body cameras are an important public policy issue – the devices have the potential to function as a powerful oversight mechanism for police in departments around the country, but also (as explained in the ACLU white paper on the topic) raise serious privacy issues. It’s important that these knotty issues be worked out transparently, in public, through the democratic process.

ACLU of SC in the press on body cameras for police

Read more about the ACLU position on body cameras for police

 

religious freedom and discrimination

The promise of equality is not real if it has exceptions.   

Discrimination in the name of religious freedom undercuts core American values of fairness and equality.

Not too long ago, a South Carolina bar-b-que franchise owner who believed that mixing races violated his understanding of the Bible took his belief that he should be allowed -- in the name of religion -- to discriminate against African-Americans all the way to the Supreme Court. The Justices called his case "patently frivolous."

Should a school run that is run by folks who believe, as a matter of faith, that the role of men is to be the head of households, be allowed to pay women less money? The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said "no" to that discrimination in 1986.

What about a school counselor who doesn’t agree with the “homosexual lifestyle”? Should she be allowed to turn away a gay or transgender youth considering suicide as long as she does so with “respectful politeness”?

Religious freedom is a deeply important value that’s woven into the fabric of this country, and it must be protected. But that right, like all others, has limits. And those limits stop when acting on our belief hurts someone else.

Our thanks to Louise Melling, Director, Center of Liberty; Deputy Legal Director, ACLU for allowing us to quote extensively from her blog "Why David Brooks is Wrong About Discrimination and Indiana's RFRA."

 

Legislators are not our doctors - TAKE ACTION!

On Wednesday, April 1, H.3114, the bill which originated in the SC House and bans and criminalizes abortions after 20 weeks, passed from the Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee to the full committee. 

Abortion is currently legal in South Carolina in the first two trimesters, or 24 weeks, of pregnancy. In the last trimester, it is only permitted to save the life or health of the mother. H3114 would ban abortions before the point in a pregnancy when a woman may find out from her doctor that something has gone seriously wrong.

Please take action NOW against this bill.

Imposing one rule on every woman, regardless of the circumstances of her pregnancy, is extremely callous. A woman shouldn't be denied basic health care or the ability to make the best decision for her circumstances because some politicians disagree with her.

 

children, families and immigration

There are children in cages along the U.S.-Mexico border right now. And more are showing up every day. Under our laws, we do not turn away unaccompanied kids who come here fleeing violence. The Constitution is not expendable. Its principles define us as a nation. We must stay true to them.

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ACLU OF SC IN THE NEWS

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