Monetary Toll for Bad Cop Behavior Continues To Grow

The city of North Charleston, S.C., on Thursday night reached a $6.5 million settlement with the family of Walter Scott, the unarmed Black man shot in the back by a police officer in April.

The City Council voted 100 to approve the settlement, which City Attorney Brady Hair said was “the largest settlement of this type in the history of South Carolina.”

The financial impact that communities face as a result of racism is not insignificant and goes beyond simply the dollar amount of these settlements. For example, the enormous civic costs of rebuilding communities such as Ferguson or Baltimore in the wake of racially motivated police actions result in long-term effects that hinder communities’ economic development.

Corporations intent on promoting diversity, such as those on theDiversityInc Top 50, realize the cost benefits of having an enlightened workforce not prone to racism, sexism, homophobia or other bigotry. Municipalities can do much better by looking at how these corporations recruit talent and structure their workforces.

Last month, the city of Baltimore approved a $6.4 million deal to settle the civil claims tied to the death of Freddie Gray, who died from a severed spine as a result of his arrest and treatment while in police custody. And New York City reached a settlement with the family of Eric Garner in July, agreeing to pay $5.9 million to resolve a wrongful-death claim after Garner was choked by a police officer for selling loose cigarettes.

Walter Scott’s brother Anthony said his family was pleased with the settlement and will donate a portion to Red Cross disaster relief efforts in South Carolina, which is recovering from recent deadly flooding.

“Our family is pleased that we have resolved the civil portion of Walter’s death with the city of North Charleston,” he said, following the announcement. “While nothing can replace having Walter in our lives, the city of North Charleston[‘s] historic actions ensure that he did not die in vain. The city sent a message, loud and clear, that this type of reckless behavior will not be tolerated.”

Walter Scott, a 50-year-old father of four, was shot by officer Michael Slager as he ran from Slager after being pulled over reportedly for a broken tail light. A bystander recorded the killing, and the footage shows Slager walking back to Scott’s body and dropping his taser next to it to make it appear that Scott had taken his weapon.

Slager was charged with murder in June. He was denied bond last month, with a judge saying his release “would constitute an unreasonable danger to the community.” If convicted, Slager faces 30 years to life without the possibility of parole.

“This settlement is a step in the right direction for the family, the city, the Lowcountry, and our state,” Mayor Keith Summey said in a statement. “This will allow us to move forward and focus on the issues our citizens have elected us to do, advance quality of life and make the future brighter for the citizens of North Charleston.”

Chris Stewart, an attorney who represented the Scott family in the settlement, said the settlement was a “blueprint” for how police shootings should be handled: “Governments are listening now and they’re not tolerating this type of behavior.”

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