Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Police Misconduct in America: The Michael Brown Shooting

#MichaelBrown #Ferguson #Policeshooting #policemisconduct #misconduct #racism #policeracism #michaelbrownshooting

You hear a lot of stories on the internet these days about police misconduct, and they just keep coming with no end in sight. From shooting family pets to throwing flash grenades into rooms with infants in them, the stories seem to become more violent and gruesome as time goes one.

Police misconduct isn't a new thing of course. Ever since police and others in authority have existed so has their misconduct, and in the past it seemed seldom reported. But thanks to advances in technology, private citizens can now own a video camera that is built right into their phone, which can record action in higher definition than we have ever seen. This is most convenient when at Disneyland filming the kids having fun, to take a picture of that awesome steak you were served at the restaurant, and even to record occurrences of police doing what they shouldn't be doing.

Most of these videos are of cops shooting family pets, and one video in particular, which is relatively more recent, shows an officer laying on top of a 13 year old boy, punching him for tagging a park bench. Luckily there were citizens on the scene who had camera phones, and captured the brutal misconduct of this officer.

Unfortunately, even with this great technology in almost everyone's pocket there are still terrible occurrences of police misconduct happened all across the country that are not being filmed as proof of said misconduct. The most recent situation at hand is that of Michael Brown, the 18 year old black teenage who was shot to death when a single police officer pulled his trigger not once or twice, but according to witnesses, several times.

This happened on Saturday, August 9th in the city of Ferguson, Missouri. As Michael Brown and his friend were walking down the street a police car pulled up beside them, and according to Brown's friend the officer very quickly opened his door to jump out of the vehicle,only to have the door bounce off of Brown and return to the officer. From there, the officer grabbed Brown through the open window of the police cruiser and tried to place him into a head lock. Naturally frightened, Brown and his friend took off running, a a few moments later the officer opened fire.
Brown had apparently turned around and put his hands up to show that he was unarmed, a move which ended up costing his life.

 The officer proceeded to fire at Brown several times while the teenager was stopped, facing the officer with his hands up.  Brown died on the scene in the middle of that street that he and his friend were walking on. His body was left there for hours before being taken away.

However, the police tell a different tale. A tale of a violent teenager, whom when stopped by a police officer who just wanted to ask him to not walk in the middle of the street, pushed the officer back into his car and slammed the vehicles door on him. A tale of a teenager who fought with the officer and threatened the officer's life, which prompted the use of deadly force.

Police in Ferguson are standing by this story, saying it is the way the events took place. But there is just one problem with that; the police have taken no witness statements at all since the shooting took place on Saturday.

Wait, what was that? Police have taken NO STATEMENTS from any witnesses. 

Anyone who has even been in a car accident where the police were involved know that the police will take your statement right away in order to investigate the accident and get to the bottom of it. In fact, once police make it to the scene one of the things they have to do is collect statements. And in the case of an act of violence in a public square with many witnesses collecting statements is the biggest, most important part of the job.

But in this case, the Ferguson PD has decided to wait until time has passed to do any serious police work, including collecting statements from witnesses. Because as we all know, memories are much more accurate when you wait days after an event has occurred to ask about the details.

Ferguson's population is around 60% black according to reports, and the PD has around 50 officers, of which only 3 are black. It's certainly a divided town, with a majority of black citizens, a white police force, a white governor, a white mayor, and a white city council.

Since the killing of Brown, the town has become outraged and began protesting, which of course were immediately countered by the police force. The majority of the protesters are black no doubt and some would say they are waging a battle against corruption.

But corruption and misconduct are not the only things on trial here, as the action (or inaction in this case) that is being taken is blatantly racist. An all white police force (minus three) are all covering for one white officer who unnecessarily killed a black teenager, by placing blame on the black teen and by not collecting any statements. 

Now of course the officer who committed this murder, and it is a murder, as not been named, an most likely will not be due to safety concerns. Yes, safety concerns. There are many angry men and women out there who would love to picket on this guy's lawn, or even worse, commit an equally unnecessary act of violence against him. Some media outlets are crying foul on this, saying that it is just more proof that the police are trying to cover up their misconduct. But honestly, the reasons for not releasing this man's name are in fact pretty logical, and necessary.

So if this isn't racism then what is? Lately there has been a pretty obscure line as to what some people find racist, and that line begins with conservative Republicans. I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with Republicans who say that it's not racist to say things like "blacks are criminals" or "Muslims are terrorists". A news story pops up about a black man who shoots a 7-11 clerk and to them it's perfectly fine to say things like "Of course he is black" or "well yeah, blacks are criminals". Their defense is the news story itself, so how can they be racist when they are just mentioning the fact that the criminal is black.

What's even more frustrating about this is that video of the protests in Ferguson have emerged which show one police officer yelling to protestors, "Bring it, fucking animals." This is the way cops should be acting when a community comes together to find justice for one of their own fallen?
This is nothing new though, this culture of police misconduct has been around for ages, we're only just now seeing more of it because of technology, and in this case, because of the community out cry.
But think about it critically, if the cops have nothing to hide then why are they not collecting statements and investigating this like they should be?

I respect police officers, I understand how hard the job can be, and I think they really are the repository of society's apathy. I have taken multiple ride alongs with the police here in Everett, Washington and see how they act first hand. Now granted they could have been hamming it up and acting professional because a civilian rider was in the car observing them, but face it folks, cops have one of, if not the most dangerous and hardest jobs in the country.

That being said, I think that some cops are just not meant for the badge, and this unknown cop who murdered Michael Brown is no exception. When you put on that uniform and wear that badge you have a great responsibility and duty to the truth. It doesn't matter whether that truth is truth in justice, truth in history, or truth in yourself. If you cannot uphold the duties of the position, or you do not think those are the duties of the position, then you don't deserve to wear that uniform or badge.

My heart goes out to the Brown family. Instead of planning a graduation they must plan a funeral for their son who was gunned down by the very men we appoint to protect us from harm and give us justice. It just makes me sick to think a young life was extinguished because one police officer decided that shooting someone was much easier than learning the truth.

The Brown family has come out to their community and pleaded to them that while it's OK to be angry and protest it must be done in a civil matter, with no violence or looting. It takes courage to speak to your community like that, to tell them "let's not give these hateful pigs another reason to kill us off."

I would like to convey that same expression but I would also like to add what I said above about police officers. Not all of them are bad people, and most of them truly do want to help serve and protect, not scare and destroy their community. These are the cops that we need more of.

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