MSU Sociologist Calls For Greater Empathy Among Law Enforcement

J. Carlisle Larsen/WDET

A South Carolina police officer faces murder charges after a video surfaced showing the officer shooting an unarmed man in the back as he was fleeing. This is the latest in a string of similar incidents of police violence against African American males in the United States.

Dr. Carl Taylor, a sociologist with Michigan State University, says there is a dangerous mindset among certain segments of police that causes these incidents. He says it’s a mindset that considers a person running away from the scene as something that requires shooting, or that views leaving a body on the ground for hours as acceptable.

It is a culture that dehumanizes and victimizes African-Americans and others,” says Taylor.

Taylor says that the leadership from the mayor and police chief in Charleston, South Carolina, has been good in this case so far.

The chief had a great deal of empathy, and he allowed it to be said that no one is a winner here. He felt horrible for his officer, he felt horrible for the family, he felt horrible for the city. That is the right path, and this is where we begin to heal,” says Taylor.

The reason this incident has come to national attention was the cell phone video taken by a bystander. Taylor says video is really important in helping citizen protect themselves. According to Taylor it is because of the video that we know the truth in this case, without it we would only know what the officer had called in.

We could not have asked for a clearer picture of what took place, and how unfortunate it was,” says Taylor.

Image credit: J. Carlisle Larsen/WDET

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