Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson Grand Jury Announcement Today

It has been a long time since I've been this nervous about a community's well-being, let alone one I'm hundreds of miles away from. All news reports indicate that the grand jury decision in the case of Darren Wilson's shooting of Michael Brown will be announced today.

It seems the entire media is bracing for a riot. I'm hoping that whatever violent elements exist will be largely contained by the righteously angry but largely peaceful demonstration in the case of no indictment--as has generally been the case since the demonstrations began.

Most people, on all sides, assume that there will be no indictment.

Even if everything (including the discredited broken eye-socket story) that Wilson's supporters said about the altercation with Michael Brown was true, the result has revealed the deep and unforgivable fissures between the local police and the community.

Much ado is made about the racial makeup of the Ferguson police force, and that certainly adds to the problems,  but this is really about a police force that enjoys no respect or benefit of the doubt from its community. As I've written recently, that blame falls entirely on the police departments, not the communities they are charged with protecting.

The release of the shoplifting tape, uninvestigated grand jury leaks, police-union backed "anonymous" fundraising campaigns, outright lies, and other Wilson friendly information fed to the media compound this distrust--and that's before you even get to the aggressive, unprofessional, and explicitly hostile way the police agencies have handled the demonstrations since the shooting.

Personally, I'm looking forward to going over the testimony and evidence the prosecutor presented to the jury. I'm very curious as to the actual police account of what happened--something we still have not had to date--and why, presumably, Wilson had his gun out to fight over in the first place, if indeed there was a struggle over said gun as supporters suggest. (That Brown reached inside an SUV and went for a holstered weapon could not pass the smell test.)

My layman's guess is that whatever transpired between Brown and Wilson, Wilson too quickly reached for his weapon. This is something that cost an innocent's life in New York last week, and I'm sure it happens more often than is widely reported.

Police who draw their guns as anything but a last resort demonstrate a fear and scorn of the people they are charged with protecting. Such animosity likely spills over into other, less violent encounters with police. A community that faces that animosity regularly will feel it and naturally resent it.

Regardless of the grand jury's decision, police across America should take this as a teaching moment. It is imperative that any police force has the respect and trust of the people its policing. Otherwise, when things go wrong--and they will--a bad situation may become exponentially worse. 

My thoughts are with the people of Ferguson today. Let us all hope for some measure of justice and, above all, peace.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

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