While it was surprising that Michael Slager, the police officer who killed 50-year-old Walter Scott by shooting him in the back five times as the father of four ran away, was charged with murder — a clear video of the seemingly merciless killing appears to have left prosecutors no choice — statistics show that Slager fits the profile of police officers who have been arrested for shooting suspects.
In fact, Michael Slager fits the profile to a “T.”
A report in The Washington Post on Wednesday, citing data compiled at Bowling Green University, shows that while arrests of officers for using unwarranted violence against suspects are rare — and charges of murder, as Slager now faces, are even rarer — the cops who do find themselves facing charges are almost always cut from the same cloth as Slager.
Most police officers who are arrested, according to data assembled by Bowling Green Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Philip Stinson in his report “Police Integrity Lost: A Study of Law Enforcement Officers Arrested,” share the following characteristics.
• They are employed by departments in mid-size southern cities. Slager worked, until he was fired Wednesday, for the North Charleston Police Department in South Carolina.
• They are between the ages of 32 and 43, Slager is 33.
• They have served on the police force for between three and eight years. Slager had five years on the force.
• Finally, the vast majority of police officers charged with violent offenses are men.
One characteristic that finds Slager in the minority is when he committed the alleged crime for which he is charged. Slager was on duty when he shot Scott in the back, killing him. But more than twice as many cops are arrested for alleged offenses committed while off duty.
But Stinson also found that out of 104 cases in which a police officer was arrested for shooting a suspect dead, the officer was charged with murder or homicide just 41 times.
The Stinson data on arrests of police officers was compiled between 2005 and 2011.
Slager had one previous violence-related incident, when in 2013 he was named in a complaint for allegedly having “tased a man for no reason.”
As the Post report noted, Walter Scott, the man killed by Michael Slager, also fit the statistical profile of victims in cases where police were arrested for violence — except for one thing. Most victims of police violence, in the cases studied by Stinson, were women.
[Image: North Charleston Police Department]