South Carolina officer who killed Walter Scott sues police union for "failing to defend him"

Former cop Michael Slager complains union took his $23.50 a month only to dump him after the shooting

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 11, 2015 6:07PM (EST)

Michael Slager         (AP/Charleston County Sheriff's Office)
Michael Slager (AP/Charleston County Sheriff's Office)

The police officer charged with murdering South Carolina resident Walter Scott is now suing his former police union for failing to adequately defend him from the charges.

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, who has been held in protective solitary confinement since his arrest after cell phone footage surfaced showing him shooting a fleeing Walter Scott back in April, has filed a lawsuit accusing his former union of breach of contract, unfair insurance practices and bad faith. Slager's attorney filed the suit against the more than 40,000 member strong Southern States Police Benevolent Association Inc. in federal court Tuesday.

Slager says that the PBA was cooperative shortly following the shooting, even assigning him a lawyer, only to drop him days later after cell phone footage of the fatal shooting emerged. Slager says he was unfairly dropped without a proper investigation.

The suit alleges that the union's insurance company "conducted no investigation whatsoever between April 7, 2015 and April 8, 2015, upon which it could have concluded that Officer Slager was not entitled to coverage for a legal defense under his Legal Defense Benefit plan."

Citing a clause in its insurance coverage that allows for the withholding of benefits for any officer determined to have “committed an intentional, deliberate and/or illegal act, either civilly or criminally,” the PBA refused to provide Slager with further legal counsel, according to the suit.

Slager's attorney argues that decision was a breach of contract and that the union engaged in unfair insurance practices, acting in bad faith.

“For us, it’s about how Slager paid $23.50 a month for one thing — to cover him if he got accused or sued if he did something in his capacity as a police officer,” Ronnie Richter told The Post and Courier. “Regardless of how you feel about the Slager situation, it seems to be an outrageous act by an insurance company to deny coverage.”

Slager's suit argues that he was actually entitled to legal representation for “any duty related shooting or action which results in death or serious injury,” as a union member. His suit says he has since had to pay for his legal services out of pocket.

No word on exactly how much in damages Slager is seeking but the former police officer argues he is entitled to full compensation for the losses he's suffered as a result of being dropped by the union, as well as punitive damages.

(h/t: Death and Taxes)

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Lawsuit Michael Slager Police Brutality Police Shooting Police Union South Carolina Walter Scott