The Christian Science Monitor says that a judge’s decision this week to deny the release of Michael Slager, the former North Charleston, S.C., police officer charged with murder for shooting a fleeing man in April, suggests a legal shift in the country. Circuit Judge Clifton Newman cited “persuasive evidence” that Slager would “constitute an unreasonable danger to the community.” That decision is par for the course when it comes to the average homicide defendant, but Slager is far from average.
In the past, an officer like Slager might get the benefit of the doubt “at every stage of the proceedings,” says Kenneth Gaines, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Now, his trial is being seen as part of the broader shift in thinking about how police are treated by the legal system. Some police departments have begun reforming themselves, adopting body cameras to promote transparency in potential court cases. And local prosecutors have shown a new willingness to bring charges against police. Newman's bond decision in the Slager case hints that this greater scrutiny might be extending to the men and women behind the bench, too.