A South Carolina police officer was just charged with murder after fatally shooting an apparently unarmed black man who was retreating from the officer.
That man was stopped for a routine traffic violation in North Charleston, and the Washington Post points out that aggressive police tactics have upset residents of that city in the past.
In 2006, North Charleston was ranked the seventh-most-dangerous city in the country, according to FBI crime statistics. To combat a rising homicide rate, the police department there upped the frequency and severity of its patrols, the Post and Courier reported in 2012. Some criticised the move as promoting racial profiling and bordering on harassment. By 2010, however, the number of murders had fallen dramatically.
But as violence dropped, backlash against the police grew, according to the Courier. In 2008, 22 people filed written complaints about the department, compared with 36 in 2011, the highest since its increased patrols in 2007.
Of the 120 complaints filed between 2007 and July 2012, 89 of them listed race as a primary factor. And 69% of the 89 were black people complaining about white officers, according to the Courier, although few accused the department of racial profiling.
In the last five years, police in South Carolina have fired their weapons at 209 people, at least 101 of whom were black, The State‘s analysis of State Law Enforcement Division records show. Only a few officers were charged, and none were convicted of a crime.
The numbers may be incomplete, however, because no law forces departments to report police-involved shootings.
Public records do exist for lawsuits against the North Charleston PD though, and there have been 46 since 2000 alone, according to Salon. In one particularly shocking instance, officers allegedly entered the motel room of a sleeping, unarmed black man and began stomping on his face — enough to fracture significant bones.
Of course, this problem isn’t isolated to North Charleston. A ProPublica analysis of nationwide numbers in 2014 showed that young, black males experienced far greater risk than similarly aged white men of being shot dead by the police.
“No question, there are all kinds of racial disparities across our criminal justice system,” Colin Loftin of the Violence Research Group told ProPublica. “This is one example.”
South Carolina, and specifically North Charleston, appears to fall in line with the disturbing trend.
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