Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, August 29th, 2014.


Attitude Adjustments and Police

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criminal justice

It’s a beautiful day in the Mahaneighborhood, and this morning I walked to the salon down the street for a long-overdue haircut.  And while I was there I listened to a salon full of middle-class mostly white and Latina ladies talk about an accident someone had had recently.  A speeding cop car, no siren, had struck the car of one of the ladies’ friends, shoving the car some distance and spinning it around. The friend was injured, although she will recover.

One woman in the salon saw the whole thing. And then she watched while the cops canvassed the neighborhood looking for people who would swear they heard the siren going, even though it wasn’t. They were building a case to exonerate the cop, not investigating what happened. And the interesting part of this, to me, was that all of these middle-class mostly white and Latina ladies agreed that the police were out of control and couldn’t be trusted.

I realize that a big chunk of the white middle class will still automatically side with cops. And I realize I have only anecdotal evidence that anything has changed. But I do think I’m seeing some shift in attitude toward the police around here on the part of white people, especially compared to the glory days of Mayor Giuliani back in the 1990s.

Not a day goes by I don’t see two or three fresh examples of police overreach from all around America. Today’s outrage, btw, is about the arrest of a black man sitting in a public space waiting for his children to be let out of school.

Of course, lots of people in social and news media are still trying to spin events in Ferguson to exonerate Officer Wilson. The standard trajectory of these arguments is that we shouldn’t rush to judgment regarding Wilson (agree) and, anyway, Michael Brown was a thug who had just robbed a convenience store and Wilson didn’t have a choice but to shoot him. Um, who’s rushing to judgment, again?

All kinds of stuff could have happened in Ferguson, but the only facts everyone seems to agree on is that two young and unarmed black men were walking in the street of their own residential neighborhood, had an encounter with Officer Wilson, and somehow this escalated into a shooting that killed one of the young men, which is self-evidently screwy. Beyond that, the police have one story and eyewitnesses have another.

Even if Wilson is exonerated of blame for the shooting, seems to me he’s still got some ‘splainin’ to do about why a jaywalking incident got  so out of control.  Whatever happened at the convenience store — which is not entirely clear —  is a red herring. The store owner made no complaint to police; Wilson could not have known about it.

The other part of this story that is beyond dispute is that since the shooting Ferguson and Saint Louis police have behaved horribly. They’ve put every possible foot wrong. See, for example, Michael Brown’s Body and Michael Brown’s Mom Laid Flowers Where He Was Shot — and Police Crushed Them. Since justice will likely be determined by forensics I sincerely hope the Justice Department at least keeps an eye on this, because if the investigation and possible prosecution are left to the local crew, they might as well not bother. Yeah, okay, #notallcops but it’s sure as heck #alotofcops.

What a change camera phones have made, eh? U.S. police departments need to realize the days when they could get away with whatever are coming to a close. Time for an attitude adjustment, folks.

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