The National Bar Association Calls For The
Immediate Arrest and Indictment Of North Charleston Police Officer Clarence Habersham
WASHINGTON, DC, April 10, 2015 – The National Bar Association is outraged by the attempted cover up of the murder of Walter L. Scott, a 50 year old unarmed black man, who was shot eight times while fleeing from North Charleston, S.C. Police Officer Michael T. Slager after a routine traffic stop involving an alleged broken taillight.
In light of the fabricated statements made by Officer Slager and the incomplete police report filed by Officer Clarence Harbersham, the National Bar Association (NBA) is demanding the immediate termination and indictment of Officer Harbersham and any other North Charleston police officer who filed a false police report.
OFFICER SLAGER’S FABRICATED ACCOUNT
On April 5, 2015, Officer Slager executed Mr Scott. In an attempt to escape prosecution and deceive the public, Officer Slager made false statements to numerous North Charleston police officers regarding the incident. In addition, Officer Harbersham deliberately left material facts out of his report.
According to various North Charleston police reports, Officer Slager pulled Mr. Scott over for a routine traffics stop. At some point in time, the two engaged in a phyical altercation. Moments after the alleged struggle, Officer Slager reported on his radio, “Shots fired and the subject is down. He took my taser.”
Hours after the murder, the North Charleston Police Department actively advocated Officer Slager’s version of the incident. To that end, police department representatives made statements and/or released reports declaring Mr. Scott’s murder as a “traffic stop gone wrong.”
For instance, a statement released by North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor stated that a man ran on foot from the traffic stop and an officer deployed his department-issued Taser in an attempt to stop him. That did not work, police said, and an altercation ensued as the men struggled over the device. During the struggle, the man gained control of the Taser and attempted to use it against the officer. The officer then resorted to his service weapon and shot him.
Furthermore, other police reports alleged that several officers including Officers Slager and Habersham preformed CPR on Mr. Scott.
THE VIDEO DOESN’T LIE
After three days of Officer Slager and the North Charleston police department’s version of the encounter dominating the media, the New York Times released a telephone video which documented a drastically different version.
The footage begins at a moment when both men are standing, as Mr. Scott pulls away from Officer Slager and an object appearing to be a stun gun falls to the ground. As unarmed Mr. Scott runs away, Officer Slager pulls out his Glock pistol and fires eight times at the back of Mr. Scott, until he falls to the ground. After handcuffing Mr. Scott, Officer Slager runs back to the initial location where the men were standing and picks something up off the ground.
Thereafter, he returns to the location of Mr. Scott’s body. Upon his return, the video shows Officer Habersham standing next to Mr. Scott’s body and at times touching and/or examinig it. Moments later, Officer Slager drops an object which appears to be a taser near Mr. Scott’s body.
In his report, Officer Habersham does not describe Officer Slager’s actions, but said that he gave aid to Mr. Scott and tried to give directions to the scene. However, there is no evidence on the video that show Officer Harbersham, or anyone else, administered CPR to Mr. Scott.
LOT’S OF TALK BUT WILL JUSTICE PREVAIL
In Tennessee vs Garner, the United States Supreme Court held “that an officer may use deadly force against a fleeing suspect only when there is probable cause that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”
After the release of the video, Officer Slager was terminated from the North Charleston Police Department and charged with murder. If convicted he could be sentenced from thirty (30) years to life in prison. In addition, the South Carolina Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened companion investigation to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Finally, the South Carolina U.S. Attorney’s Office is also working with the FBI in the investigation.
While these actions are encouraging, the National Bar Association is keenly aware that a jury could acquit Officer Slager of all charges. Based on the limited current data, only two (2) percent of police officers who are charged with use of excessive force, and less than .002 percent are convicted. While a reality, these statistics are UNACCEPTABLE.
NEED FOR IMMEDIATE LEGAL REFORM
Since early July 2014, the National Bar Association has consistently advocated that one of the ways to eradicate the grave miscarriage of injustice caused by police brutality is by implementing legislative reform (local, state and federal) establishing Training, Accountability, and De-Escalation of the Use of Force:
LOCAL Click here to download
• Stricter Adherence of Mental Health Testing
• Detailed & Thorough Diversity Training
• De-escalation of Force Training
STATE Click here to download
• Establish an Independent Police Investigation
• Establish an Independent Prosecution Body (for cases involving police brutality and misconduct)
FEDERAL Click here to download
• Mandatory Body Camera With Penalty For Tampering
• Succinct Definition and Training for Escalation of Force
• Succinct Definition and Training for Excessive Force
• Felony Brutality & End Racial Profiling
“Mr. Scott’s case is now the posters child for immediate need to passage legislation to establishing a Succinct Definition and Training for Escalation of Force,” stated Pamela Meanes, President of the National Bar Association.
“As noted above, in Tennessee v. Garner, the U. S. Supreme Court held that a police office may utilize deadly force if he/she has probable cause to believe that a suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others, he/she may use deadly force,” President Meanes stated. “In other words, an officer has discretion to either escalate or de-escalate the amount of force that he/she utilizes in each respective situation,” sated President Meanes.
“Until Congress passes a law that contains a succinct definition and requires mandatory training for escalation and elevation of force, we will continue to see police officers murder African Americans and the “law” deem it “justifiable” or “self-defense,” President Meanes stated.
The National Bar Association will continue to vigorously call on local, state and federal legislators to reform laws impacting police brutality and police departments across the country to reform its policies and procedures regarding how they interact with black and brown communities in order to ensure equal protection under the law for all.
“We will not tolerate another person being victimized by someone whose job is to protect and serve,” said Pamela Meanes, President of the NBA. “We will and must be the voice of the voiceless,” said President Meanes.
Thus, the NBA calls on the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a full and independent investigation into North Charleston Police Department. The NBA fears that with no immediate intervention, the situation will worsen.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION
The National Bar Association was founded in 1925 and is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges. It represents the interests of approximately 60,000 lawyers, judges, law professors and law students.The NBA is organized around 23 substantive law sections, 9 divisions, 12 regions and 80 affiliate chapters throughout the United States and around the world. For more information, visit: www.nationalbar.org.