Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Last Call For Holder The Line

I know it seems like this place is rapidly turning into the 24-hour Ferguson protest blog, but frankly it's news and I feel like running stories on it, and things need to be said.  Attorney General Eric Holder had some things to say today too in an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch entitled "A message to the people of Ferguson".

The full resources of the Department of Justice have been committed to the investigation into Michael Brown’s death. This inquiry will take time to complete, but we have already taken significant steps. Approximately 40 FBI agents and some of the Civil Rights Division’s most experienced prosecutors have been deployed to lead this process, with the assistance of the United States Attorney in St. Louis. Hundreds of people have already been interviewed in connection with this matter. On Monday, at my direction, a team of federal medical examiners conducted an independent autopsy.

We understand the need for an independent investigation, and we hope that the independence and thoroughness of our investigation will bring some measure of calm to the tensions in Ferguson. In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority — and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson — they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice. And they interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance.

The Justice Department will defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told. But violence cannot be condoned. I urge the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to join with law enforcement in condemning the actions of looters, vandals and others seeking to inflame tensions and sow discord.

Law enforcement has a role to play in reducing tensions, as well. As the brother of a retired law enforcement officer, I know firsthand that our men and women in uniform perform their duties in the face of tremendous threats and significant personal risk. They put their lives on the line every day, and they often have to make split-second decisions.

At the same time, good law enforcement requires forging bonds of trust between the police and the public. This trust is all-important, but it is also fragile. It requires that force be used in appropriate ways. Enforcement priorities and arrest patterns must not lead to disparate treatment under the law, even if such treatment is unintended. And police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

I'm glad to see Eric Holder openly say that he's backing the people of Ferguson here, and that regardless of the outcome of the shooting of Michael Brown, the Ferguson PD and St. Louis County PD have a lot of work to do to earn back the trust of the people.

For some that will never happen.  There just isn't anything that can make this 100% right again.  But they have to go ahead and do it regardless because it's the right thing to do.

And yes, I wouldn't mind seeing both departments taken over by the feds.  They've lost the trust of whom they serve, and that's enough to pull the plug and reform them wholesale.

Cops Talk Shop, Cops Talk Shock

Former LAPD officer and professor of homeland security Sunil Dutta explains that cops aren't murderers, but boy you will fear and respect them or they will end you.

Working the street, I can’t even count how many times I withstood curses, screaming tantrums, aggressive and menacing encroachments on my safety zone, and outright challenges to my authority. In the vast majority of such encounters, I was able to peacefully resolve the situation without using force. Cops deploy their training and their intuition creatively, and I wielded every trick in my arsenal, including verbal judo, humor, warnings and ostentatious displays of the lethal (and nonlethal) hardware resting in my duty belt. One time, for instance, my partner and I faced a belligerent man who had doused his car with gallons of gas and was about to create a firebomb at a busy mall filled with holiday shoppers. The potential for serious harm to the bystanders would have justified deadly force. Instead, I distracted him with a hook about his family and loved ones, and he disengaged without hurting anyone. Every day cops show similar restraint and resolve incidents that could easily end up in serious injuries or worse.

Sometimes, though, no amount of persuasion or warnings work on a belligerent person; that’s when cops have to use force, and the results can be tragic. We are still learning what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and Brown, but in most cases it’s less ambiguous — and officers are rarely at fault. When they use force, they are defending their, or the public’s, safety.

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Believe me when I say that 98% of cops believe the same as Dutta here does.  They are police officers, and you are not.  When they tell you to do something, you do it or else, regardless of what that may be.

So when these guys swing their weight around and go after black men and women and Latino men and women, they expect obedience, respect and fear.  If you are black or brown and the President of the United States, for that matter, and a cop like Dutta pulls you over, it's because he knows he has 100% of the power in the encounter.  It's because he knows he has the power to take your life if he sees fit.  You only continue to draw breath because he allows it.

So yes, black fathers and Latino fathers have "The Talk".  That you assume all cops are Officer Dutta, and you do 100% of what they say, or they will end you.

How difficult is it to cooperate for "that long"?  For a black man, "that long" is his entire lifespan.

Or that lifespan may end.

The Division Hell

Pew Research has unsurprisingly found major racial divisions in how blacks and whites view the case of Michael Brown, the man shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri nine days ago.  The disagreements are very telling nationwide:

Blacks More Likely than Whites to Say Brown’s Shooting Raises Racial Issues

Some 80% of blacks say the case raises important issues about race, while a plurality of whites, 47%, say "Race is getting more attention than it deserves."  That actually doesn't surprise me in the least and I'm honestly shocked it's not a full-blown majority of whites who feel this way.

As far as the police response is concerned:

Whites Divided in Views of Police Response to Ferguson Shooting

Nearly twice as many blacks, 65%, as whites, 33%, believe the police response in Ferguson has gone too far.   Perhaps it's because black America is actually paying attention to the story: 54% of blacks say they are following this story very closely, where only 25% of whites are.

After last night's police response where both MSNBC's Chris Hayes and CNN's Jake Tapper and Don Lemon were on the ground in Ferguson and tear gassed, maybe these numbers will change.

For his part, Chris Hayes suggested that maybe police should charge Officer Darren Wilson with the shooting of Michael Brown, but that's just going to happen.


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