Ferguson

Ferguson.

As in Ferguson, Missouri. That last time I witnessed such huge a racial divide among Americans was the O.J. trial with Rodney King just a few years prior.

Unfortunately, Ferguson and these other deplorable events only symbolize and brings to light what brews in the minds and hearts of some people 24/7, 365.

It seems that everyone has a strong opinion on the shooting of an unarmed African American young man and the subsequent rioting and pandemonium -along with the ultimate finding of innocence for the police officer who shot Michael Brown, Officer Darren Wilson.

I will offer you my take in a moment, though allow me to meander a bit here, first. I will Golden Snake, if you will.

I have “friends” (Facebook has really changed the meaning of the word thus I use quotation marks to qualify the meaning) who are on both sides of this issue. My more conservative friends tend to side with the police officer while my more liberal friends tend to side with the victim of the shooting –I find this disturbing.

This is all so predictable. The gun toting, law and order, ‘US-of-A-is-number-one-crowd’ so predictably sides with the police. The bleeding heart, ‘Give-me-your-tired-your-poor-USA-is-evil-crowd’ so predictably sides with the rioters and the victim in this case.

I find this bias all so VERY troubling…it is as if our ability to view reality is skewed by our deeper philosophical beliefs and predispositions and, subsequently, we have collectively lost the ability to critically think, discern, and evaluate such instances in a fair and objective manner.

It would seem we want to make events fit our reality rather than allow events to inform and guide our reality.  We will stretch, reshape, and contort pieces of such events and shove them into the puzzle of our personal mental schema in order to create a simple and uninterrupted map of our values and beliefs. In other words, we interpret events to fit our personal predispositions, bias and prejudices.

Critical thinking can be such a bitch.

Of course, we all have our own personal biases and prejudices. I, for one, am not a fan of law enforcement –I think you would only have to read my blog for 5 minutes to figure that out. It has been my experience that law enforcement in America has turned into an aggressive, bullying, “us vs. them” system that is running amok and out of control. Are there good cops? Of course.  Yet I contend most are not and have little to no concern for the greater public interest and welfare.

There. I said it. Now back to Ferguson. Appreciated the opportunity to meander.

You might think that I would obviously then side with the victim in this case given my prejudice. Perhaps, but it is not due to my prejudices. Acknowledging my personal beliefs and prejudices does NOT automatically mean I believe that an asshole cop overstepped his bounds in this instance. In fact, I believe he did not. First we have to be able to place our own personal shit aside and judge cases based on their own merit.

So what is my opinion in regards to Ferguson? I thought you would never ask.

We do not have a law enforcement racial problem in our country nearly as much as a law enforcement power problem.  Does racism in law enforcement exist? Of course it does. When one of my old neighbors told me they were quitting their lucrative job to join the LAPD, specifically in the city of Compton, I curiously asked him why. His EXACT response? “Cause I want to kill some niggers.”

Yep, racism exists. Particularly among hot headed, testosterone-driven, suburban white dudes.

Yet, it has been my experience that police officers love to use their guns, batons and flashlights –on anyone at anytime and therein lies the problem –racism only exacerbates a more fundamental problem.

One might opine they are assholes first and racists second. They seek violent opportunities first and foremost. By the way, I do not buy the “few bad apples” argument. This is a systemic problem that is growing worse.

Countless numbers of non-African Americans have either been killed by law enforcement or just gotten the shit beat out them (please do not click link if you have sensitive sensibilities) for no good reason. Whether it be cops high-fiving each other after punching out a Caucasian women or killing a Caucasian homeless man with their fist (while he was crying out for his father, no less) many police officers use their badge to work out their personal dysfunctional anger issues.

Tell me, and if you are in law enforcement, please respond. Why in the HELL did the police officer have to shoot and kill and a young unarmed man, hands in the air, EVEN IF the police officer felt threatened?

Could not a stun gun have been used just as effectively and save a young life? Pepper spray? If I have an ant problem in my home I purchase ant spray and solve the problem…I do not blow up the damn house. Both would work, yet the latter is entirely unnecessary.

We do not solve problems by utilizing the most extreme measure first. If my car breaks down I don’t run out and buy a new one…I fix the problem.

Not to equate a human life with ants or a car, but I think you get the point

I am not suggesting the officer was not following protocol…apparently he was.  Yes, I side with the victim yet I also side with the officer in that he was doing what he was trained to do. My point is that this shooting protocol is what needs to change. The entire system needs to be changed. Officer Darren Wilson was doing what his training taught him to do. But come now, death in this instance? Absolutely pointless, meaningless, and unwarranted.

In another case of police violence, the officer who killed Eric Garner in New York City with a choke hold, was exonerated while the person who shot the viral video of this chokehold was found guilty of an earlier gun possession.  Hmmmm.

I guess police officers do not like it when you film them doing their job…poorly.

A racial problem? Perhaps, but far and away it is much more a power problem.

A couple of years ago I had a former California Highway Patrol Officer in one of my courses. After listening to one of my rants concerning law enforcement he claimed that I had no idea how hard a job it is. To which I responded that I agreed with him –it is a very difficult job -which is why I believe all officers must have a Bachelor’s degree and/or be at least 26 years of age before we give them one of the most powerful positions in society.

Will this solve the problem? No, but it certainly would be a good start.  It is very difficult to be EDUCATED and a power hungry racist.

What saddens me is that most protestors see the problem as skin color first and power second. If we all wait for members of our personal ethnic background to be viciously attacked to have our voice be heard, the problem will never be solved. White people need to stand up for black victims and vice versa. We all need to stand up for reasonable and civilized enforcement regardless of the ethnic background of the victim. Until then, our numbers will be weak and ineffective.

I was having a conversation with a friend last night who said she has had nothing but positive encounters with police in her life…which thrilled me.  As one who has needed protection in her life, I get it and am so grateful to hear that. Yet, why have I -a hardworking, tax paying, law abiding citizen (and one who apparently does not need much protection)- NEVER  had a positive experience with a police officer?  When we see a police car on the street our reaction should be one of relief and solace; why the hell is it the other way around? I see a police car and I feel they are out to get me for some chickenshit reason.

We are a crazy gun loving culture and law enforcement reflects this. Did the Ferguson officer do something wrong? Morally yes, yet legally no.  It is this type of “shoot first, obtain facts later” protocol and policy that needs to change.

As much as I hate to acknowledge it and wish it were not so, rioting works in the short term. It gets people’s attention and is an outlet for people so frustrated they feel they have no other alternatives. And until law enforcement changes their “shoot first, ask questions later” policies, I am afraid Ferguson is just the beginning. With new videos of police brutality popping up everyday, the problem is no longer hidden behind the closed doors of the good old boys club. We now see you and we are appalled.

jimmysintension

14 Comments

  1. Hey Jimmy,

    You’ve make a lot of good points, the majority I pretty much agree with. This is a current issue I have tried to make myself very aware of… because why not? Anyways, what I have noticed (in my humble opinion) is that many people on both sides of the case have yet to look into the evidence. Especially (also in my opnion) on the pro-Mike Brown side (not sure how else to word that). I’ve got quite a few opinions on the subject that I could wax on about… but I’ll link to some of the grand jury evidence instead. It’s an interesting read… http://apps.stlpublicradio.org/ferguson-project/evidence.html

    Also, some really good discussion here: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/2nbuxe/ferguson_decision_megathread/

    On a side note, I registered for your Comm 174 class again as well as a couple others. I think I finally got my ish together this time! Looking forward to next semester!

    • What? Look at the actual evidence? Good idea. Glad you are back and look forward to seeing you next semester. In the meantime, I am checking out your links!

    • Jimmy,
      This is a topic that has been fought over for quite some time. I happen to disagree with the idea that police are making society out of control. Yes, there are some officers who are complete assholes and ruin peoples lives for fun, but there are also the genuine police officers who will help the children who are lost in the mall, or even cross the street with old ladies. My best friend, for example, is a police officer in Fontana. When this case was happening he ended up in a violent situation in which his unit was being attacked by a group of police-haters. Not only did this situation cause harm to police, but it spiked media interest. There are always two sides to every story, but no matter what people will always get hurt when riot and hate crimes exist. The police are there to remind us that we are not supposed to misbehave and cause problems for the society that we live in, not to scare us. If you are doing the right thing, then you do not have to worry about police attention. Going back to asshole cops, they should be removed from the force. period. But we should not be shame-bashing every single last one of these officers. They serve and protect with their lives on the line to save yours and thousands of others, they see the real world that we are shielded from due to crime like this. During Christmas time the officers get together and travel to homes who do not have as much as we are all lucky to have. They bring toys to the families and make a child smile. (I have read your Christmas blog and I know you will disagree with the idea of toy giving on Christmas, but the lives these children live are so sad that it is heartwarming to see the surprise on their faces after giving them something.) Many of the officers never leave the building, for there are hundreds of different positions that help run the station and help protect the city. Gun culture is something that is more on the level of responsibility and character of the officer. They never usually use their guns unless threatened to do so (from the friend I mentioned above.) Nobody’s perfect, but there is good in the world.

      I liked your support with the links provided. I passed those along to my friend I previously mentioned and he is looking into them.

  2. This is so thought provoking and insightful. Our culture needs more of this guidance~we need to learn to think. It’s so helpful for me.

  3. Personally I think the ferguson shooting was likely justified. However the other cases of police misconduct makes it difficult to take their word for it. If you lack credibility it does not matter if your right. Police power issue needs to be addressed, Until that happens they are only going to loose more credibility. Police are rapidly becoming the ‘warrior’ class of our society. Look back to history to see how they behave.

  4. Good point Odos. Even if they are justified half of the time…no one will care because they are unjustified the other half of the time. If I do my job poorly the result is a student not learning all they could regarding Speech. If an officer does his or her job poorly, the result is frequently death. The stakes are too high to have uneducated warrior dumbasses with guns on the streets…and most of my law enforcement friends tend to agree with me.

    • If you do your job poorly the result can be an uneducated warrior dumbass on the street with a gun. You are the education side of the factor. So do your job right.

      • At the very least they should be able to identify bullshit. Oh wait…only we can determine what is bullshit. Thanks for the unforgettable lesson Odos.

  5. Unfortunately, this is an issue that I have to tiptoe around, because I am a young white male who grew up in a suburban area. But since I’m already here, I’ll say it. I believe that Officer Wilson did what he had to do because he felt threatened. That aside, the words excessive force are the first two things to come to mind… but first, my golden snake moment.

    Yes, Missouri, along with many other states, still feel the echoes of racism caused by slavery when this country was founded…but does not justify it in any way. Race is very often the first card that minorities play when they feel offended…because our country has done nothing but give them the right to do so. I don’t know about you, but I feel oppressed as a white male, because I live in a country that was founded upon morals like freedom of speech…and yet, the second I open my mouth, I’m just a racist because I haven’t endured “the struggle” or haven’t had to live my life with “the (white) man holding me down.” We need to stop walking on eggshells here, and address the fact that we should all be treating each other as equals…because we are.

    That aside, Officer Wilson, from the cnn report I read previously (although I rarely trust media opinions… different rant) shot at least 6 times and Brown.
    I’m sorry…6? As in, if this was a western…he emptied a full revolver of rounds?! (Of course, those guns in the movies can carry like 30 shots each…but you get the point.)
    Excessive force is a huge issue in my opinion. I think your blog said it best when you mentioned “Yet, it has been my experience that police officers love to use their guns, batons and flashlights –on anyone at anytime.”

    When an officer is threatened, should they have the right to protect themselves? Absolutely. There are worse people than cops out there…and law enforcement has to deal with them, regularly. Should pulling out a pistol or shotgun and screaming commands at suspects be protocol? I’m not sold. I don’t have the answer to this problem, but I’ll gladly admit that there is one.

    To finish my rant and let you resume your daily activities, I read about police officers in Rialto being forced to essentially wear a GoPro on their shoulder during shift, and it mentioned a 50% reduction to use-of-force issues…THATS SOMETHING I CAN GET BEHIND!

    Read that article here, its a short one:
    http://www.policefoundation.org/content/body-worn-cameras-police-use-force

    • Thank you for contribution James. If a police officer feels threatened he or she has a right to kill the person? Weapons such a stun guns can keep the officer safe while sparing a human life. In regards to your whiteness and lack of ability to speak out…this is the context we find ourselves in. There are things we can or cannot based on a number of different factors. I was watching the opening of the Golden Globes the other night when Tina Fey and Amy Pohler did Bill Cosby impressions and joked abut drugging people. Could a man, of any color, get away with this joke? Hell no. I believe our gender, ethnicity, etc. all play an important role in what we can or cannot say. That is just the way it is.

  6. I disagree that we have a power problem with police. Yeah there are some cops who abuse their power but i would say that it is mostly rare and that a large majority of police are there to help. I believe it is as simple as following the law and people wont have a single problem with any cop. Lets say someone makes a mistake which we all do, if someone gets pulled over they should just listen to the cop instead of always trying to argue or get out of it somehow which in a lot of cases just leads to violence. I would say it ends up in violence because they dont know the suspects intentions or if they have a weapon on them, to me it would be very scary that each time you pull someone over you have no clue if they are just gonna have a gun ready in their car to shoot you. But then again there are those crooked/racist/power hungry cops but i would say that would be more rare than having the police force with a majority of a power problem. There are a lot of people out there who just have what seems like a natural instinct to hate and be against cops with a lot of music fueling that instinct to hate the police. I myself get scared when i see a cop car but not due to them hurting me but due to the fact that im usually speeding or doing something wrong and i really do not want to get a ticket, but other then that i feel safe to know they are out there doing their job. Because when we are doing something wrong we are putting others are risk and not only just ourselves and its their duty to help stop that and to prevent accidents or crimes.

    Now to Ferguson i do not believe that anyone deserves to die…well maybe a few people. But anyways i agree with what the cop had to do. Michael Brown was a teenager. but he was quite bigger than most adults had just strong arm robbed a store then is walking in the middle of the street just completely ignoring the laws and the people driving. But then Brown attacks the cop and the gun fires off inside the car which resulted shooting Brown in the hand. In your argument you stated that Brown had his hands in the air, but i would disagree due to some of the witnesses and autopsy report of the bullet traveling through his arm which most likely would not have allowed him to raise his hand (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/22/report-autopsy-analysis-shows-michael-brown-may-have-gone-for-darren-wilsons-gun/) Yeah maybe a taser at that point probably would have been better since Brown was already shot, but how does the officer Darren Wilson know that Brown does not have a sort of weapon, after all he just attacked the officer in what seems was going for his gun. So thats why i agree with what Wilson had to do, i do not see any racism involved in this shooting. As i said earlier in my argument its as simple as following the law and all of this could have been avoided.

    As for the choke hold part i do agree that the cop should have been punished. He used and illegal choke hold which should not have been done. Even tho Eric Garner was a fairly large man i believe they could have taken him down some other way. But once again just listening and following the law this would have been avoided too but then again were human and we all make mistakes.

      • After looking briefly at Casey’s comment, there appears to be at least one issue on which he disagrees with you, which is the same issue where I disagree with you. Brown did not have his hands up when he was shot. There was a bullet wound on his forearm in which the bullet traveled from the back of the arm to the inner arm, which could not have happened while Brown’s palms were facing the officer, as stated in the article that Casey linked. The claim that Brown had his hands up comes entirely from witness testimonies, which tend to be unreliable, and in fact contradict the physical evidence in this case.

        I’m convinced that the incident was probably justified, but I don’t disagree with what you’ve said about police in general.

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