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ACLU: America’s Obsession With Locking Up Black Men Led Directly to Death of Walter Scott

Walter Scott

Walter Scott

If America hadn’t become a nation that excessively incarcerates Black men for minor, nonviolent offenses, Walter Scott’s funeral would not be happening today because he’d likely still be alive.

That’s the conclusion drawn by Ezekiel Edwards, Director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project.

Edwards traces a direct connection between the explosion over the last three decades in the incarceration of Black men and the fears coursing through Walter Scott’s head as he was being pulled over by police. Scott, who reportedly owed more than $18,000 in child-support payments, had a bench warrant for his arrest for outstanding payments when he bolted from his car and fled after North Charleston officer Michael Slager pulled him over.

Scott had been arrested on numerous occasions for the child support payments and his parents believe that’s why he ran.

“I believe he didn’t want to go to jail again,” Walter Scott Sr. told the “Today” show. “He just ran away.”

A big crowd is expected in North Charleston this afternoon for Scott’s funeral services.

“The killing of Walter Scott was a public execution,” Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, a pastor at Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, said to the Huffington Post. “There was nothing he did that deserved it.”

Edwards suggests that jail isn’t the proper solution for child support arrears.

“Our country’s addiction to arrests and incarceration has created fear in poorer communities of being arrested for minor, nonviolent offenses, prompting interactions with police that we have seen time and again escalate quickly into unnecessary tragedies,” Edwards writes on the ACLU website. “A moment of conjecture: If Walter Scott does not fear that a routine traffic stop or owing money is going to lead to his arrest and possible imprisonment, does he flee from the officer? Is he alive today?”

Before Scott’s killing, the ACLU last week released a report showing that since the White House released its task force report on 21st century policing at the beginning of March with much fanfare, American police officers have been busy: They shot and killed 115 people across the United States in the month of March.

The 115 people killed in those 31 days averages out to more than three people per day who fell victim to officers’ bullets. Because departments aren’t required to submit data on police-involved killings—one of the recommendations of the task force is that the reporting mechanisms be improved—the ACLU took the time to count the shootings using the Google search engine.

“Too many of this [last] month’s victims fit a profile we know all too well — unarmed men of color, some of whom have psychiatric disabilities. Victims like Charly Keunang in Los Angeles, Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisc., Anthony Hill in Dekalb County, Ga. and Brandon Jones in Cleveland, confirm that the problems with policing are national in scope,” said Kanya Bennett, Legislative Counsel for the ACLU in Washington, in a piece on the ACLU website accompanying the report’s release.

The numbers in January and February were slightly better—91 killed in January by police and 85 killed in February, according to the ACLU.

“This isn’t a problem concentrated in a few rogue police departments. Even those police departments with the best of intentions need reform. Take for example the Department of Justice report that Philadelphia police shot 400 people — over 80 percent of them African-American — in seven years. This is in a city where the police commissioner is an author of the very same White House task force report calling for police reform,” Bennett said, referring to Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey, chairman of the White House Task Force.

Bennett noted that the police departments were much more likely to use excessive and deadly force against people of color, particularly people with psychiatric disabilities.

“Jaywalking and selling individual cigarettes should not result in death, nor should failing to take [psychiatric] medication,” Bennett said.

The sheer impact of the number of killings being compiled demonstrates why police departments have been so reluctant to fully participate in reporting their stats. It’s also why the gun rights lobby has been so resistant to allowing agencies to collect numbers on gun deaths. There’s a power in the numbers that can’t be denied, a motivating shock to the public’s system.

Edwards said these killings have become a national “nightmare.”

“Police gunning down unarmed black men and boys is an American horror film that keeps getting replayed. Except that it isn’t a movie you can turn off: It’s a painful, outrageous, and unacceptable reality,” Edwards writes. “Walter Scott should be alive, and at home. Instead, he’s dead. His death is not an aberration. It is a direct result of the current state of policing in many parts of America today.”

 

 

What people are saying

16 thoughts on “ACLU: America’s Obsession With Locking Up Black Men Led Directly to Death of Walter Scott

  1. Meg Boesch says:

    Let's make sure all bad cops are exposed and all good cops are exonerated. Support Scott's Law!
    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-it-federal-law-all-armed-law-enforcement-officers-wear-body-camera

  2. Did you know that our prison system growth came with the end of slavery? It has little to do with public safety. It's mostly fear, and a money making industry.

  3. One black man in New York City had enough of the excessive force police have used against black men and acted vengefully on his feelings. Do "all" black men have to reach this violent state before things change? I fear for the reputation of our nation if that happens.

  4. Really CHILD SUPPORT isn't a real crime?!?!?!?! What planet are you from? I have had the nightmare of working 3 jobs to support my children because their Father didn't feel it was his responsibility. I didn't feel it was the governments responsibility to feed my child but from this article it would seem you feel it's necessary but you feel it's not important! This is the kind of thinking that needs to get fixed. A CRIME IS A CRIME, and just because you don't think it is doesn't make it so. Women around the country fought for these laws on child support enforcement. All the colors of the rainbow women fought hard for them. And for you to trivialize that is unacceptable. Why are so many people in jail well perhaps it's because they don't think the laws apply to them? Perhaps they feel that rape isn't a big deal or domestic abuse or child abuse? Perhaps they feel that the sale of illegal drugs should be considered a minor offense? Perhaps gang violence isn't that big of a deal? You Sir are showing why People think it's ok to disobey laws and you Sir need to change your thinking, then perhaps you can address this issue correctly and instead of seeing this as a race issue see it as an entitlement issue.

  5. White people are being killed in exactly the same
    ways and rate, but they have been fooled into thinking it's a "bad black people" issue and not bad policy, bad policing and systematic corruption that affects us all.

  6. Ben Hayes says:

    Man shouldn't die for not paying child support and if you think he should than you women who commit adultery should be stoned because that's a crime toi

  7. Ben Hayes says:

    A man shouldn't die for missing child support and if you think that is justice than women should be stoned for adultery. Because there both wrong

  8. Rosa Smith says:

    Angela White! buy yourself a clue and then you can repost…you sound very stupid for posting and making a comment you clearly wouldn't understand the meaning of being black…

  9. Rosa Smith says:

    Georgette Hoyah Not everyone feels this way, because others truly believes that this can't happen to them..

  10. No a man shouldn't be murdered for child support, but he should be put in jail. Now, if a man runs from the police that's another crime called avaiding arrest. No law should be trivialized and that is where the problem lies. If you don't break the law you don't go to jail. If you don't wait to pay child support be responsible enough not to father any and if you do break the law don't run away. An old saying don't do the crime if you can't pay the time. I mean would you run from a police officer? If you say yes then you need to rethink your view on how the legal system works.

  11. Chanay Smith says:

    And you must think you're choice in that certain type of man isn't your responsibility? It's not a crime it's his fault for not being responsible and your fault for choosing to lay down with that type of man. Yes, take some of their checks but jail and making not paying a crime…no…y'all did that shit by y'all selves make it a crime to not be smart enough to make smarter choices when it comes to a mate then.

  12. One of the major issues, in addition to profiling black men, is definitely the fact that child support guarantees that a minority, low-income father will be hunted and arrested because of owing child support debt. In these cases where public assistance is received by the mother, the debt automatically becomes one that is owed to the state. More than half of the states retain 100% of the child support payment in order to, allegedly, repay a grant in the form of a welfare payment. Not only does the child not receive the money, when and if it is paid, the custodial parent is, more than likely, working to pay for that cash assistance. In addition to this, the federal government pays incentives to the states that meet child support enforcement performance measurements. This means that the state is being paid three times for paying one TANF benefit to the family. It receives the labor from the custodial parent, the child support payment, and the federal incentive payment. Criminalizing people for owing child support debt is not only unconstitutional, it violates equal protections of citizens that happen to be parents. Not to mention that most people arrested for owing child support debt are indigent and are held without an attorney to defend them in court. The law in every state and on the federal level says that a parent must 'willfully' fail to pay support in order to be violating the child support law. If a parent cannot afford the payment, they are technically not breaking the law. Therefore, there should be no warrants issued, no arrests, and no imprisonment. The system needs to be reformed, if not abolished. Join the fight! thechildsupporthustle.com

  13. Ben Hayes says:

    I never ran from police and never will. I have no fear of doing time if I did a crime. But to be shot for petty crimes by police is ignorant and thuggish on the police behalf. I remember when people were getting shot for a pair of Jordan's or a gold watch. That's no different from police shooting you for a traffic violation. Of course you shouldn't break the law but the law shouldn't be abused

  14. Bev Forte says:

    Angela why can't you admit that excessive force was use in some of the above mention. Although I do agree that Mr. Scott shouldn't have ran but being murdered was way over the top. No kind of way can you justify this! We teach our children how to respond in "kind" to some officers and it's still not working. I am a law abiding citizen and so are my family members! You think it is just Black Men being terrorized by "some" officers, think again! I seen a recent video where this white guy was being apprehended by more than one white cop and this guy beat the crap out of all the policemen involved and he took off running. The cops did not even pursue him…I heard a young Black Man stated if it had have been a Black Man he would have died today. It was unbelievable and I could not understand how they just allowed him to get up and run away! I am not advocating that this guy should have been killed but before you attempt to school someone let's be more objective and stop thinking with a subjective mind set. It might be hard for you to accept but at times the system is bias…walk a mile in someone else shoes before you determine based on your preconceive notions how things should be done. You are speaking hypothetically and do not have any factual proof.

  15. Bev Forte says:

    Holly are you serious and I too have taken care of my son with disabilities for over twenty years and yes his dead beat Dad never lifted a finger but did I want him killed? Are you serious? We work with the cards we are dealt and prayerfully life goes on. I am not justifying Fathers not taking care off their children but ultimately we as women choose some of these Men…just maybe we should have spent more time getting to know them before they became the Father of a child or children. Non child support does not = death! The courts should handle a non paying parent but not a BULLET THAT IS BARBARIC.

  16. Rosa Smith says:

    Well said Bev Forte''And that goes for you as well Georgette Hoyah…

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