The employment record of North Charleston Police Department Officer Michael T. Slager shows that Slager excelled in basic training, received CPR certification, and was the subject of two citizen complaints. One of the complaints alleged that Slager wrongfully used a Taser on a man who was not a suspect, but Slager was exonerated by the police department.
Slager was arrested Tuesday and charged with the murder of Walter Lamer Scott, whom he encountered at a traffic stop near Remount Road on Saturday. An eyewitness video shows Slager firing his service pistol eight times in Scott’s direction as he tried to run away. An investigation by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division is ongoing.
Slager applied for a position at the North Charleston Police Department in January 2009. He listed an address in Ladson and had a Florida driver’s license. He said he was employed at the time by the Coast Guard in Port Canaveral, Fla., where he had reached the rank of fireman. He said he had been with the Coast Guard since January 2003 and listed his reason for leaving as “Military time is up.” Before the Coast Guard, he said he had worked as a waiter in “Voohres, N.J.,” possibly a reference to Voorhees Township.
Slager wrote that he had completed high school but did not attend college. The North Charleston Police Department, like the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, does not list any educational requirements for officers on its website beyond a high school diploma or equivalent. The Charleston Police Department allows high school graduates to apply if, like Slager, they have had four years of law enforcement or military experience. The police department in neighboring Mt. Pleasant lists an associate degree or 55 credit hours from an accredited college or university among the “Sworn Officer Qualifications” on its website.
In March 2010, while Slager was in basic training with the North Charleston Police Department, a supervisor gave him high marks in a wide range of categories, including “Attitude towards police work,” “Relationships: With Citizens,” and “Relationships: With Ethnic Groups.” The supervisor wrote, “Officer Slager on first day of training was very enthused and ready to work.” The supervisor continued to speak highly of Slager throughout his training, although on two separate occasions the supervisor wrote, “I spoke with him in reference to certain procedures in reference to conducting motor vehicle stops and citizen contacts.” On another day, the supervisor wrote, “Officer Slager demonstrates a good job in handling suspects (officer safety) and is very careful while searching suspects.”
Slager received eight hours of Taser certification training in January 2010. (He had previously been certified to use pepper spray while working for the Coast Guard in 2003.) In February 2011, he was certified to use the Taser X26, the same model that was on the scene of Slager’s encounter with Scott, according to a police department spokesman. The 2011 training included a requirement that he “hit targets from various distances and place both probes in the preferred target zones.” In December 2013, Slager participated in Active Shooter Incident Response Training. In 2011, 2012, and 2014, Slager passed a firearms qualification with a Glock 21, the same service pistol he was carrying on the day he encountered Scott.
In the death of Walter Scott, Police Chief Eddie Driggers has said that he is uncertain whether an officer on the scene administered CPR to Scott after he had been shot, but that he believed one of them had. Mayor Keith Summey has said that not all police officers are CPR certified. Slager’s employment record shows that he received two hours of First Aid/CPR training in 2013, along with training in firearms, Taser usage, driving, hazardous materials, and “Bias.” He also completed an hour of ethics training in 2014, along with an hour of training in “Bias Base Profiling.”
In September 2013, the North Charleston Police Department received a complaint about Slager from Mario Givens, who said Slager had used a Taser on him despite the fact that he had identified himself and was not a suspect of the crime that Slager was investigating. Slager and another officer were responding to a call about a burglary, and the victim had directed them to the suspect’s house on Delaware Avenue. Slager tried to make contact with the suspect via the front door, but another man, Givens, answered the door instead.
The complaint narrative, which was based on statements given by Givens, the burglary victim, and another witness on the scene, states that Givens “refused to exit the residence and tried to close the door because he is afraid of the police.” The burglary victim saw Givens in the doorway and “yelled to the officers that he was not the suspect.” Givens “stated he provided PTL Slager with his name and that he does not look at all like the suspect who is 5’5″ and he is 6’3″,” according to the narrative, but Slager “told him he would be tased if he did not exit, and [Givens] advised that he did in fact exit the residence and was tased for no reason and that he slammed him and dragged him.”
Givens filed his complaint on Sept. 16, 2013, but by Oct. 4, Slager had been exonerated. The report does not state why Slager was exonerated. Givens had a previous criminal record and is currently facing drug-related charges and a charge of second-degree assault and battery, according to Charleston County court records.
In January 2015, a woman filed a complaint saying that she had called police because her children were being harassed by a neighbor. She told the police department that Slager “told her that he was not doing a report due to the ongoing back and forth problems that the complainant and the suspect are having.” The complaint file lists the case’s disposition as “Sustained,” but it does not indicate what disciplinary action, if any, was taken against Slager.