State of Emergency

Apparently, Missouri governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and alerted the National Guard in preparation for possible violence in Ferguson, Missouri, because the grand jury is close to a decision on whether to indict policeman Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown.

Heaven knows that the Ferguson Police Department is not up there with the best of police departments. Reports from everywhere seem to suggest that, while the department is better than it was years ago, it has a long ways to go. And some analyses of the way Darren Wilson handled the beginning of the confrontation with Michael Brown suggest that there might have been better ways to approach Brown.

That said, let’s be honest. No matter what Brown’s friends, family, and supporters say, Brown was not the innocent near-angel portrayed by his supporters. Minutes before the fatal confrontation Brown stole cigars from a local convenience story and brutally shoved the clerk and owner out of the way. This was caught on the store surveillance camera. The owner reported the theft immediately and described Brown. Police were looking for him. No one knows for certain what happened in detail after Wilson stopped Brown, except that Wilson did suffer injuries, that a quantity of his own blood was found in his squad car, and that Brown was fatally shot.

Some sort of confrontation occurred; Wilson was injured enough to bleed and have minor injuries; Wilson shot Brown. An autopsy performed by the former chief medical examiner for the city of New York, at the request of Brown’s family, found that the shots had all been fired at a distance of from one to four feet; this finding was consistent with the other medical examinations.

Now…for a moment, forget about the race card. A six foot four inch young man weighing 292 pounds who has been identified as a robbery suspect strikes a policeman… for whatever reason. The policeman shoots him at short range. This is not a violation of civil rights. It may have been an unwise split-second decision by a panicked policeman facing a giant of a young man who had just committed a crime, and that decision resulted in a fatal shooting. Or it may have been self-defense on Wilson’s part. In any case, Michael Brown was no innocent. Most likely, Darren Wilson wasn’t either.

But, however the grand jury rules, this shouldn’t be a case for rioting and great clamor over civil rights. And by the way, what about the civil rights of the shopkeeper who was robbed and assaulted by Michael Brown? I haven’t heard a word about his rights… anywhere.

10 thoughts on “State of Emergency”

  1. Bob Vowell says:

    Almost every decision in this whole mess seems to have been made based on bad assumptions and perceptions.

  2. Wine Guy says:

    The shopkeeper is likely keeping his mouth shut because he is afraid of retaliation.

  3. R. Hamilton says:

    Thanks for the reminder that civil rights should apply to everyone; they shouldn’t be restricted to membership in a historically abused group, given that for individuals at least, the abused often become abusers given the opportunity and any failure of either will or alternative support to overcome that predisposition.

  4. Dave says:

    This paradoxical situation spotlights a serious problem in the nation. A legal system, and the enforcement wing of that legal system, will only be successful as long as the citizens support it and even enforce it. There is no solution. When the common people stop participating in the government of the USA, only special interest groups will accomplish their goals. Have the common people been eliminated from the equation? I hope not. Have they been brain-washed into voting the will of special interests? I suspect so. Are they so discouraged with the status of things as they are that they are despondent and have given up on everything except staying drugged up on substances or entertainment all weekend only to go back to work in their impossible world on Monday? Sadly this is true of far too many. Is it possible that the people of Ferguson no longer have any hope?

  5. asaf says:

    In Turkey police officers have to respond with “equal force” to such threats, due to laws changed 15 years ago according to european standards. As a result, such cases in which a police officer fatally shooting someone are very rare nowadays. On the other hand deterrent effect of law enforcement is also lower, and more police officers and even chiefs are injured and killed while trying to placate madmen with knives. I don’t see why police officers can not be equipped with plastic bullets instead of live ones.

  6. JakeB says:

    @asaf–

    That was the original intent of giving tasers to police officers in the US. Unfortunately, tasers are now being used as torture weapons (google will give you an incredible list of children, pregnant women, the sick, and the elderly being tasered for doing something a cop doesn’t like) and frequently seem to be used as a first resort, to enforce compliance, rather than as a non-lethal last resort.

  7. Grey says:

    On a related topic, in LEM’s state of Utah, here is a headline from the Salt Lake Tribune that pretty much says it all: “Killings by Utah police outpacing gang, drug, child-abuse homicides.”

    http://www.sltrib.com/news/1842489-155/killings-by-utah-police-outpacing-gang

    Here is a gem of a quote from a spokesman: “The onus is on the person being arrested to stop trying to assault and kill police officers and the innocent public. … Why do some in society continue to insist the problem lies with police officers?”

  8. Sabine says:

    He might not be innocent but I wouldn’t call it a robbery, it’s shoplifting and shouldn’t be punishable by death. I pretty sure he wouldn’t be dead if he had been white all other things being the same.

    1. I think any 18 year old male who was six four and weighed nearly three hundred pounds who did what Brown did would likely be dead. Theft and assault [because throwing a shopkeeper out of the way is assault, and the use of force to remove goods changes it from shoplifting to theft] are not reasons for a police officer to shoot someone, but IF Brown did attack or appear to attack Wilson, which is apparently what the grand jury decided, the fact that he’d already used force makes it justifiable self-defense.

    2. Grey says:

      The victim’s DNA were on the cop’s gun and clothing, and he apparently punched the cop in the face when he was sitting in his patrol car. After being shot at least once, he ran away, turned around, and started to run back at the cop, and was killed.

      I’m pretty concerned about the militarization of police departments and training on use of force, disparate treatment of non-whites and the poor, asset seizures (and on and on) but I don’t think this incident is a great example of any of those problems.

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