Lamont Scottwas killed by a police officer on Tuesday, September 20,
in Charlotte, North Carolina. The officer, dressed in civilian
clothing, said that Mr. Scott had a gun and that he did not follow
verbal orders to put his hands up. While there is videotape that
documents the interaction between Scott and Officer Brentley Vinson,
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney had, as of Thursday,
declined to release the tapes because there was “no compelling
reason” to do so. By Saturday, public protest along with a
disturbing tape released by Scott’s wife, provided a compelling
reason. Still, Chief Putney released just two short snippets of the
shooting and indicated that more videotape was being withheld.
compelling reason for the Charlotte police to release all of the
videotape is because there is a significant difference between what
they say happened and what the Scott family says. The police say
that Scott had a gun; the family says he was in his car reading a
book and waiting for one of his sons to come home from school.
Having reviewed the tapes, the family says it has more questions than
answers. Allowing others to see the tape will likely raise more
questions, but it will also close the trust gap. Failing to release
the full video suggests that the Charlotte police have something to
tape snippets seems like appeasement, like the drip, drip, drip of
the police trying to make a case. The North Carolina NAACP, the
ACLU, and many others have called for release of the all the tape,
but the police chief has dug his heels in. Does he have something in
common with Rahm Emmanuel, the Chicago mayor who clamed there was
nothing to hide on the Laquan McDonald tapes. They were released
more than a year after his murder, and they contradicted the police
version of his killing.
didn’t have the luxury of tape during enslavement, yet we know
that horrors were visited on black people. Slave owner journals,
along with some of the implements of torture that have been
discovered (and may be displayed in our new Museum) document the
horrors, but imagine having tape of it.
don’t have tape of lynching, although there are pictures of
those lynched, though they are conspicuously absent in many history
books. We don’t have tapes of Rosewood or of the evisceration
of Black Wall Street. Indeed, the carnage that economically envious
whites visited on a successful African American community is so
shameful that white Tulsans have attempted to erase the record of
their cowardly acts – the newspaper articles that recounted
white cowardice went missing decades ago.
don’t have tape of the police brutality that caused so many
black deaths in the early and mid twentieth century. We know the
brutality existed, and we know police officers were never charged
“back in the day” for killing or torturing Black people.
The fact that we didn’t have tape then contributes to the
urgency that we get tape now. I don’t know what the tape
shows, but I know that I don’t want to leave it to my
imagination, and I don’t want a minute here, two minutes there,
when we know cameras should have been running for much longer. When
another black man is shot and killed and the police version is that
he had a gun, the public deserves to see if the tape backs that
there is a video record of a police interaction with an African
American, it ought to be released, and it ought not to be edited.
Failure to do so fuels the anger that spilled over onto Charlotte
streets on the evenings of September 20 and 21. Once the family saw
the tapes and shared their concerns, people were back on the streets
on September 22, but they were peaceful, and the atmosphere was much
less tense than it had been.
is a marked contrast between the behavior of the police establishment
in Tulsa and that in Charlotte. In Tulsa, videotape was released
just a couple of days after Officer Betty Shelby shot Terence
Crutcher. Not a week had passed before the officer was charged with
first-degree manslaughter, based on what prosecutors saw on the
tapes. People in Tulsa have been outraged, but peaceful. People in
Charlotte feel outraged, but also hurt and betrayed.
is interesting that Rykeyia Scott keeps telling the police that her
husband has no weapon, even as the police keep insisting that he drop
the gun. Is this a set up? An Amadou Diallo moment (when a wallet
was mistaken for a gun)? Something else. There is a compelling
reason to release all, not just snippets, of the tape of Kevin
Scott’s killing. It is an opportunity to build trust and to
show that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have nothing to hide from
those they are sworn to “serve and protect”.