The retrial of Michael Slager, the former police officer who gunned down 50-year-old Walter Scott as he was running away and planted a taser on his body, was recently pushed back to August, but records released by his former department reveal a brutal and dysfunctional culture among the officers.
After months of negotiation, the North Charleston Police Department recently released over 800 pages of civilian complaints. Prior to the release the department stated that there were about 1,600 pages of complaint summaries for the ten year period requested - I’ve reached out to North Charleston for comment to see if there’s a reasonable explanation for this discrepancy.
The number of complaints vary wildly from year to year, with just 20 complaints in 2006 and 95 complaints in 2007. Then in 2009 the number drops way back down to 15, and creeps upward until hitting 134 in 2014.
However, these numbers don’t tell much of the story.
In some cases, the way a complaint is categorized can be misleading as to the severity of the incident. For example, an officer missing a court date and an incident in which a woman inquired about the arrest of a juvenile suspect only to be arrested for obstruction are both filed under “conduct unbecoming.”
A “conduct unbecoming” complaint against the officer was not sustained, although an “equipment violation” complaint was.
Conduct unbecoming might also be used to describe incidents of alleged harassment. Although the extent of the alleged harassment is difficult to decipher from this complaint as it, like many that were released by North Charleston PD, is cut off in mid sentence with no exemption cited, and no explanation given.
Then there’s this cliffhanger:
With numerous complaints missing a full narrative of the alleged incidents, it’s impossible to determine exactly what happened. One could argue that in some cases the type of complaint doesn’t match the nature of the offense. For example, “conduct unbecoming” is also used to describe an incident in which officer Darryl Daffin was literally caught with his pants down in the bedroom of a very underage girl, and then attempted to pin it on his brother:
I’ve filed a followup request with the department for the rosters of officers for the years 2005-2016 in order to determine which officers named in the complaints are still employed by North Charleston PD, but so far it’s gone unacknowledged.
Also filed under a code of conduct violation, this officer who offers a very succinct mission statement for the department:
And finally, this code of conduct violating victim’s advocate who gave confidential information to a website called “Charleston Thug Life,” which posted the names, pictures, and racist-as-hell bios of local kids.
The website hasn’t been updated in a long time - for reasons that are now apparent - but there is a Facebook page called “Bring Back Charleston Thug Life.”
The term “policy violation” is rendered equally meaningless when applied to both an officer missing a court date and an incident in which an officer allegedly “penetrated a bodily orifice” during a traffic stop.
It also seems that in the city of North Charleston, speaking Spanish is frowned upon, as this man found out when the police responded to a criminal domestic violence call …
As these children learned while out for a night of bowling …
And as this woman discovered when she offered to assist an officer with Spanish translation at the scene of an accident, only to have a gun pointed at her head:
There are many example of abuse of authority and use of force filed under labels that make them sound more benign than they actually are, raising the question, just how bad does an incident need to be to be designated as “use of force?” This bad:
Other incidents include an officer beating on a woman in a wheelchair, punching a handcuffed suspect, berating a domestic violence victim who’d been doused in grease and was suffering second- and third-degree burns, and an officer who showed up at a wake and threatened to “put a cap in someone.”
And these are just the incidents people had the courage to file complaints about. In a city in which the police are so brazenly disrespectful and abusive toward the people they’re sworn to serve, attempting to hold an officer accountable is a heroic act. One release of the complaints is embedded below, and you can read the rest on the request page.
Image via North Charleston PD Facebook