Crime

N. Charleston traffic stops halved since Scott shooting

Video appears to show Walter Scott running from North Charleston officer Michael Thomas Slager before the shooting last year. Slager was charged with murder.
Video appears to show Walter Scott running from North Charleston officer Michael Thomas Slager before the shooting last year. Slager was charged with murder. AP file

Police in North Charleston are making half the number of traffic stops since a motorist ran from an officer and was shot repeatedly in the back last year.

More than 26,000 motorists were pulled over in the nine months after Walter Scott’s fatal shooting on April 4, 2015, compared with 54,000 in the same period the year before, The Post and Courier of Charleston reports.

Scott’s death was caught on a video showing a white policeman shooting as the 50-year-old black man ran away. It led to the officer’s arrest on a murder charge.

North Charleston officials say Scott’s death likely played a role with patrol officers. University of Kansas political scientist Charles Epp says the statistics may reflect community pressure to reduce police stops for minor violations.

“You could call this a ‘Walter Scott effect' locally,” said Epp, who studies the intersection of policing and race relations.

Police said for years that traffic stops of small-time violators were needed to root out larger problems in a city once notorious for violence. North Charleston had the highest rate of traffic stops of any South Carolina law agency. Civil rights activists spoke out against the “pretext” or “investigatory” stops.

The video of Scott’s death that might be leading officers to subconsciously hold back from enforcement, but the department also was incorporating a community policing philosophy, city officials said. Officers also now wear cameras.

“Police officers are concerned about stops and how they are received,” Mayor Keith Summey said. “They are concerned about their perception in the public.”

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