Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When I feel as I do this morning …

it's probably better to keep my thoughts to myself.

But THAT ain't happening! Heh.

I expected there would be no indictment against the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown. I haven't looked at the evidence, and I didn't hear the witnesses. I can't say whether the grand jury decision is good or bad. It just is.

What I'm left with – and what I started with, once the facts began to come out – is why that officer had to kill that child. Why was deadly force necessary?

I'll grant you that the young man wasn't a fine, upstanding citizen. He wasn't helping the Little Sisters of the Poor. He'd just shoplifted cigars (and not even especially good ones) from a convenience store. He apparently tussled with the officer. He was a big guy, while the officer was of average build.

But who are we, when it's acceptable to kill someone for shoplifting?

Yes, that's simplifying it. But to me, that's the essence of it.

My opinion – and I'm entitled to it – is that the officer overreacted in the worst possible way. A dozen shots weren't necessary. Gunshot wounds are largely survivable if they don't penetrate the head or the heart. Disabling the criminal would have been sufficient.

That child didn't have to die.

I'm not a law enforcement professional. I've shot a gun, but only in target practice, not in a dangerous situation. The only thing I can do with this is accept that the officer felt his life was threatened and he reacted instinctively.

That's tough for me to do. We don't kill shoplifters.

But in this case, I guess we do.

4 comments:

denise said...

I'm struggling with this one as well. Obviously, shoplifting should not be a crime punishable by death. But from what little I've heard, it sounds like the boy made the mistake of trying to fight back with the cop and actually charged at him in a threatening way. If that's true (and who really knows), then I can't fault the policeman for shooting as he did because in his mind, it was him or the kid.

I'm not sure how we fix the situation we're in these days. I wish I knew the answer. It seems to me that in this case, as well as many others recently, ONE of the contributing factors has been the victims show of bravado that gives the police the idea that they are a threat. But I suppose if you grow up in a disadvantaged situation, bravado probably gets you through quite a few things on a day-to-day basis, so it's a hard attitude to turn off when confronted by police - especially so if you feel threatened by the police in general

While I'm not trying to "blame it on the victim," I still think there's some personal responsibility that needs to be taken. In the Ferguson case, he was already known to have committed a crime and then if he did indeed try to tough his way out of it by attacking/threatening the policeman, there is some responsibility for him to bear in the situation as well.

What I do know for sure is that looting and burning down businesses doesn't solve this and, in fact, only gives people more fodder to think badly of a segment of the population that desperately wants to be seen differently. It's very frustrating to see what's going on in Ferguson and around the country. I would like to think that it's a very small subsection of "rabble rousers" (am I old or what?!?!) that start the problems and incite others to join in, but sometimes it's hard to see that.

I said to a friend last night that I couldn't imagine why anyone would think that these "protests" - which are nothing more than vandalism (and worse) trying to disguise itself as idealism - would have any positive effect in addressing the situation. To which she responded, "They're not thinking."

So how do we get people to slow down and THINK and plan a way to address the problems in areas like Ferguson? Because soon the looting/protests will stop, the ambers of the fires will be put out, and the cameras will go away. And then what? What positive change will be effected by this mess? Likely none...

And I reiterate - I wish I had the answer!

gingerzingi said...

I have been reading as much of the testimony as possible - the eyewitness accounts, if not the technical stuff - and I'm going to say flat out that I don't believe what Wilson is saying. His story doesn't make much sense, unless it's taken in the context of him overACTING, not REacting, from the very beginning. He instigated the whole thing. If nothing else, there was an excessive use of force issue. Yet the grand jury wasn't given the option of charging him with that. They could indict only on murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Yet another way the cops get a free pass - no one wants to charge a law enforcement officer with murder, so they let him off. We can't know exactly what happened, but I'm calling bullshit on that "I felt threatened" business.

Additionally, the entire GJ procedure was highly unusual. The prosecutor allowed an enormous amount of exculpatory testimony, which isn't normally done. The prosecution is supposed to support bringing charges, not proving the defendant innocent. That's what a trial is for. McCulloch literally did not recommend an indictment. That's his job! He's the prosecutor! How much clearer a message could he possibly send to the grand jury?

We can't claim ignorance about this kind of thing anymore. It's right up front now, it's not even hidden. People of color have no chance in this system.

Diane, I'm sure African Americans have slowed down and THOUGHT about their problems more than once before the Michael Brown incident. I don't want to start a flame on someone else's blog, but you are saying something really horrifying here by considering protestors and looters to be the same thing. Read a little bit past the headlines, and you will see that the vast majority of protestors in Ferguson and other areas of the country are peaceful and have committed no crimes. No violence, no vandalism. Why are you blaming them for what other people have done? They don't share the blame for other people's actions just because they share the same skin color.

denise said...

I definitely agree that the whole "special procedure" that was used in this case with the Grand Jury is suspicious and quite likely inappropriate - although I would like to think there was a good intention behind it...but willing to believe and highly suspicious that's not the case either.

As we all agree, we'll never know what really happened, we'll have to disagree about what we think could have happened, I guess. I can't accurately imagine being in the shoes of either Brown or the policeman. I totally agree that 12 bullets was not a reasonable reaction from the policeman, but then I don't really know what was happening or how I would react.

It was at best an overreaction by the policeman that you would expect to be better trained and prepared to handle the situation. At its worse, it's something much, much uglier than that.

On the protester vs. looter issue, I didn't mean to imply that all protesters are looters - or even that all looters are protesters. As I said, I think it's a very small subset who gets these things started for their own gain and some others (not all others) get caught up the rush of it all.

It's not that no one stops to think - it's that the ones looting - or more specifically getting caught up in the looting and acting inappropriately don't stop to think that they are destroying their own community and making the case for the very people that are already against them.

It would seem that if your goal is to improve your life circumstances, that it would be in your best interest to cooperate with law enforcement and do what you can to stop the vandalism in your community before it takes off, but again, it's hard for me to judge what's possible in that situation. And, of course, once the momentum is going, I doubt anyone could do much to stop it without endangering themselves.

Not to mention the fact that the media is not helping the situation by seeking out and replaying the worst of the worst for the drama factor. And, in their own way, inciting some of what' s happened as well.

I've also seen reports about peaceful protests that have happened in various parts of the country, including Atlanta where I recently moved from after living there for many, many years. I have no issue with people protesting by marching respectfully (i.e., without violence or vandalism) through city streets or congregating at a capital building or courthouse or wherever seems most appropriate for the occasion.

But what I don't get is the multiple reports across the country (including Atlanta) of interstates being shut down by protesters getting out on - and sometimes laying down on, the interstate - that's dangerous for drivers and protesters alike.

Like I said before, I wish I had the magic answer to how to make things right. I know there's much inequity that needs to be addressed - just not sure how we go about tipping the scales to make it right.

denise said...

BTW, the daughter of a good friend earlier tonight posted the following from Cory Booker's FB feed. I think it captures the exact essence of this situation. And what I find most concerning and sad about that is that it shows that we haven't made as much progress as many want to think we have - or this wouldn't ring so true still in today's world!

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.’S PERSPECTIVE on rioting and social unrest in the 60s:

“Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”