The simmering war on police could be reignited by the trial of Michael Slager, a white police officer who shot African-American Walter Scott after a traffic stop in North Charleston, South Carolina, because it ended in mistrial, says one expert.
In an interview with Tomi Lahren, Jeff Roorda, a former Democratic elected official, the executive director of the St. Louis Police Officers Association and the author of “The War On Police: How the Ferguson Effect Is Making America Unsafe,” said the controversy over the case could make an already bad situation much worse.
“With each one of these incidents, we see it followed by some act of violence against police officers,” Roorda charged. “As of the beginning of December, murder of police officers by gun are up by 70 percent, ambushes of police officers this year are up by 150 percent. This is a very violent time when it comes to attacks on police officers. And you can’t extort the verdict that you want from the judicial system by burning down buildings or killing cops. That’s not the way our system is designed to work and our system just won’t succumb to that.”
Last week’s ambush and murder of yet another police officer brought the number of police officers killed by firearms this year up to 62, an increase over the 41 killed over the entirety of 2015. Roorda and other critics charge Black Lives Matter is fueling such violence with its consistent anti-police agitation.
“These protestations presuppose that the system didn’t work,” he said. “This is how we determine guilt in this country. Two lawyers put on a case in front of a judge and 12 jurors and the 12 jurors have to be in agreement that a crime was committed. There was no agreement in this case.”
Lahren agreed, noting that Slager was not acquitted and the process is continuing.
“It’s not as if the police officer wasn’t charged in the first place; it’s not as if he even got off,” she observed. “I mean, this is going to go to more trial [proceedings]. It’s going to go through a lengthy process, and that is the way our justice system works. Now, they can’t pick and choose which times they want to agree with it and which times they want to disagree with it. This is the way it works.”
Roorda said Black Lives Matter seems more interested in punishing officers regardless of the facts than letting the system work.
“If you look at these Black Lives Matter protesters, it’s a moving target you can never hit,” he argued. “They want a grand jury until you give them a grand jury, then they want a special prosecutor till you give them that, then they want it to go straight to trial and you give them that, and no outcome is acceptable other than guilty.”
Lahren backed up Roorda’s contention, saying there really is a “war on cops” and Black Lives Matter can never be satisfied.
“They believe, and I’m not saying they as an entire group, but generally, most people, believe that in our system you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty,” she said. “They believe that system often benefits many in the African-American community as well. We’re all given those rights by the Constitution. Then, they don’t believe the institutions when the outcome isn’t in their favor and they just want someone to be slapped guilty when they’re a police officer or because they’re a white police officer and they killed an unarmed black man. So to me, you’re right, I don’t know if they would ever be happy.”
Still, the evidence in the Slager case was seemingly damning. The video footage broadcast around the world shows Officer Slager killing Scott by shooting him in the back. However, Roorda said there is more evidence which the jury was exposed to but that the public doesn’t know about.
“If we were on the jury and all we saw was that single piece of evidence, I think we’d all convict,” said Roorda. “But that’s not what the jury saw. They saw all the evidence and I think, critically, they looked in the eyes of Officer Slager as he took the stand and told his story. That’s risky for a defendant to do, and he persuaded at least one juror that he was in fear for his life, that he acted properly.
“Here’s what we know for sure. Officer Slager stopped Mr. Scott, quickly learned that he had a felony warrant for non-support of his children. Mr. Scott, right after that, fled from his car. There was a chase that ensued. There was a struggle, a physical struggle, altercation, between Mr. Scott and Officer Slager, at which time Mr. Scott, irrefutably, tried to take Officer Slager’s Taser. Then the chase is on again, and Officer Slager fires his weapon at the suspect.
“Now, maybe that was a moment of panic or bad judgment, but panic or bad judgment doesn’t mean that a crime was committed. And it certainly doesn’t mean that murder in the first degree or voluntary manslaughter was committed. It’s interesting that the judge and prosecutors didn’t allow the jury to consider involuntary manslaughter.”
The foreman of the jury in the case, an African-American, recently confirmed in an interview several jurors could not bring themselves to convict the officer because of additional evidence that was presented in the case.
Because the evidence in every case must be carefully processed and understood before coming to judgment, Lahren argued the media is being irresponsible by seemingly championing Black Lives Matter protests regardless of the facts of the case. Indeed, she said journalists are part of the same problem as the rioters.
“I think just by calling them ‘demonstrations,’ the mainstream media is part of the problem,” she said. “If something is a riot, we should deem it a riot. And if the people in the streets are no longer protesting or demonstrating, but they are now rioting and looting and burning, we need to call it what it is and say that it is not defensible.”
Roorda says police officers around the country feel under siege because of the Black Lives Matter movement and what he says is a hostile presidential administration. However, he is hopeful President-elect Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, the man Trump nominated to be attorney general, will turn the tide.
“I hope Attorney General Sessions will be a departure from what we’ve seen under the Obama administration,” he said. “Every civil rights investigation that they’ve launched against a police agency has resulted in a consent decree or some other court order, which is in contrast to Bill Clinton or George W. Bush who about half the investigations launched under the presidencies resulted in consent decrees. The federal government is trying to federalize law enforcement agencies one consent decree at a time, and I’ll be glad to see that end.”
Yet even at a time of fierce national divisions, Roorda said it is important for everyone to remember that police are not the enemy of the African-American community. Instead, Roorda says police, more than anyone else, are interested in stopping the violence and promoting healing.
“That’s why I wrote the book, ‘The War on Police,'” he told Lahren. “The first part of the book is about refuting the false narrative that came out of Ferguson and other places, the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ narrative. But the second part of the book is about healing, about where do we go from here. And it’s meant to lay out a path forward that results in less cops and black youths getting involved in these deadly confrontations. Sometimes it’s a dead black kid, sometimes it’s a dead cop, neither one of those is a happy outcome for law enforcement, and we’re invested in this more than anybody about ending these.”