House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) fired back at those who’ve sent him “nasty little letters” accusing him of playing the race card after police-involved deaths of African-Americans.
Clyburn’s district includes North Charleston, where a police officer now faces murder charges for shooting a man pulled over for a busted taillight several times in the back as he ran away.
Clyburn stressed on MSNBC that he “really, really” appreciates how North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, who is white, has visited with the family of the victim, Walter Scott, and handled the situation.
He also thanked Police Chief Eddie Driggers, who is also white. “He said that he views his department as a family and many of his police officers as children,” Clyburn said. “But I want to say to Mr. Driggers there comes a time in dealing with our children when we have to have some tough love. And I think that this calls for some tough love in this instance. And I’m sure he is going to respond that way. I know both these gentlemen and I hope that they won’t disappoint me in dealing with this issue.”
Officer Michael T. Slager, 33, has been fired from his job in addition to being denied bond. The city has decided to cover health insurance for his wife, who is eight months’ pregnant, until after the birth of their child.
Clyburn noted that the big difference in this case was the clear video shot by an anonymous bystander. “I’ve advised young people, keep your cell phones tuned up. Keep the battery charged. And don’t hesitate to turn them on when you see things happening that’s unbecoming or you think may cross the line because I think that we are going to have to do more of this because I think that’s what it’s going to take for police officers to really think twice before pulling their weapons,” he said.
“To see a young man running away — they had his car. He’s running away from his car. They didn’t have any problems identifying him. Why pull out your service revolver and start shooting? I mean, eight times. And the man is running away from you throughout the entire ordeal. What is that about?”
The congressman said he believes “a climate has been created in the country.”
“And I’ve been saying this for some time now. And I get nasty little letters telling me about playing the race card,” Clyburn continued. “Well, I’m not playing the race card. I think that what is happening in too many of these instances, that these perpetrators are playing the race card. We’re just responding to what they’re doing.”
Police misconduct, he said, “is an issue that all of us know is here and must be dealt with and we ought to stop making excuses and ought to start holding people accountable for them because that’s all that’s going to be required for us to make this thing right.”
“We got to deal with police training. We’ve got to deal with sensitivity. Just having the cameras there to help verify what you’re doing, I don’t think that gets at the issue at all. The issue is whether or not you’re going to treat everybody out there with the same dignity and respect that you treat people who may be your next door neighbors,” Clyburn said.
“Or because we learn in the Book of Luke, the 10th chapter, that your neighbor is the one who shows compassion. And so we need to be neighborly, show compassion and stop being so trigger happy when we find ourselves in these kinds of situations.”