Good cops come in all colors.
So do bad cops — and the victims of excessive police force.
Hasty, race-based generalizations come from all colors, too.
But whether you’re black, white or other, and whether you like it or not, there is an ugly, historic basis for the widespread American perception that bad cops are unduly hard on “suspects” of color.
So don’t imagine that the awful sight of Walter Scott being gunned down by a North Charleston cop will fade any time soon.
Yes, the Rev. Al Sharpton, during a Sunday sermon in North Charleston, gave the city his seal of approval for the way it’s handled the aftermath of that tragic violence.
Yet while that praise is warranted, it can’t erase proliferating concerns about how cops of all colors treat — and too often mistreat — black people not merely in our community but across our nation.
Maybe you think some folks — not all of them are from around here — doth protest too much about that April 4 killing, for which North Charleston Police Patrolman 1st Class Michael T. Slager has been charged with murder.
Maybe you think those who blocked traffic at North Charleston City Hall on Monday morning and on Remount Road later that day went too far in their manner of demanding justice.
Maybe you’d better get used to such demonstrations of righteous rage, which will swell if Slager doesn’t get a serious stretch of hard time — and he’s got an outstanding attorney in Andy Savage.
Then again, there’s no maybe about what’s on that video:
Slager fired eight shots. Five of them hit Scott as he tried, not very swiftly at age 50, to run away from Slager. All of those rounds wounded any valid senses of fairness and decency. That gruesome spectacle, which started as a broken-tailight stop at the corner of Remount and Craig, has become the most-watched, downright “viral” video ever to come out of these parts.
And before dismissing this as an isolated incident, check out another new moving image of a white law enforcement officer killing a black suspect.
Recorded two days before Scott was killed, that video was released last Friday by the Tulsa, Okla., Sheriff’s Department. It shows 73-year-old reserve Deputy Robert Bates fatally shooting 44-year-old Eric Harris on the ground, then saying, “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”
Deputy Bates later said he meant to shoot Harris with a Taser, not a firearm.
Tell that to the judge — though the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office initially called it an accident, Bates was charged with manslaughter on Monday.
Meanwhile, tell more misinformed TV news watchers how Michael Brown died last August in Ferguson, Mo. Some initial — and irresponsibly reported — versions of that story have been refuted by a thorough U.S. Justice Department investigation (see Peter Moskos’ column on Page A11).
As The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, who happens to be black, wrote last month, those officially documented facts “forced me to deal with two uncomfortable truths: Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and (police Officer Darren) Wilson was justified in shooting Brown.”
Still, this is also an uncomfortable truth:
Some black friends, few of them particularly political, have long and frequently told me about being harassed by police officers without credible cause. Those pals have been convinced of, and convincing in their assertions of, racial bias in those encounters.
Back to these times — and this place:
What if Feidin Santana hadn’t bravely shot video of that awful North Charleston scene 10 days ago on his cellphone — and bravely given that evidence to Scott’s family?
Why did Slager shoot Scott?
Why did Scott run?
How can we convince people that running from cops is much riskier than cooperating with them?
Another painful puzzle, based on the logical possibility that Scott bolted because he was way behind on child-support payments, a shortcoming that had landed him in jail before:
How many parents who fall behind on child support can catch up while incarcerated?
At least the authorities, including North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, acted quickly and correctly after the damning video surfaced: Slager was promptly charged with murder and fired.
At least North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers has been trying to strengthen the department’s long-strained ties with the city’s black community.
And of course, today’s other North Charleston cops shouldn’t be found guilty by association with Slager or of the department’s reputation, dating to my distant West Ashley youth, for rough stuff — and not just against blacks.
Moving forward, though, body cameras on police should help protect the public — and the so many good cops.
Now, as income tax day looms, we have to figure out a way to pay for them.
We also have to figure out a way for agents of the law — and the rest of us — to stop assuming the race-based worst.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.