when I say to someone “the evidence suggests that the officer used excessive force in shooting and killing Mike Brown”, and their response is “Well, all the evidence hasn’t come out yet.” Are these people actually suggesting that the police department has evidence it is sitting on that proves Mike Brown bull-rushed the officer and so he had no choice but to shoot and kill Mike Brown?
Because that is what they are suggesting, that the police department is holding back evidence. Have they already forgotten the release of the video of the strong armed robbery? The police got a warrant to seize the video from the store and released it almost immediately, even though it wasn’t directly related to the officer’s actions. Why would the police release something which didn’t justify the officer’s actions, but NOT release information – video, officer’s medical report, witness statements – anything that proved the officer was justified in shooting and killing Mike Brown? (And just to confirm, even if the officer suffered the facial injury that rumors have suggested, this would not be enough under published rules of engagement to justify the use of lethal force). A Black male is shot and killed by a police officer almost every day somewhere in the United States. And yet these shootings almost never result in an outcry from the African American community, because the police very quickly release the evidence justifying the shooting, the “he brought it on himself” evidence. We have seen almost two weeks of unrest in Ferguson. Is anyone actually suggesting that if the police department would have allowed all of this to happen if they had evidence that showed the shooting was justified?
I find myself getting angry…
when I hear people say that the grand jury has no choice but to recommend charges against the officers, because of the pressure put on them by the protesters and unrest, by the “Black” community? The fact that four eye witnesses have said that Mike Brown was not bull rushing the officer isn’t enough to think that the situation at least deserves to go in front of a jury? A grand jury indictment isn’t a conviction, it is just an acknowledgement that there is enough evidence, enough ambiguity, that we need a jury to decide whether or not a crime was committed.
I find myself getting furious…
when people suggest that if the officer is eventually convicted, it will be because of racial politics, because we are afraid of offending “the Blacks”. Juries white and mixed periodically find officers innocent in shooting cases, even in the face of public pressure. Why would this situation be any different? Is it really that hard to believe that in this situation maybe, just maybe, the officer did use excessive force? (And just to have it out there, OJ was found innocent because he could afford to spend several million dollars on excellent attorneys, not because he was Black). Is it really that hard to think that Mike Brown might not have deserved to die, and the officer might have gone over the line? If a jury of his peers finds him guilty, it will be because he was guilty, he did go over the line when he shot and killed Mike Brown, and not because of the racial politics of our country.
The racial politics will be on the part of the people denying the legitimacy of the verdict. I know many people – kind-hearted, decent people – that question whether our racial history is holding back economic gains for African Americans, that secretly wonder if maybe the problem isn’t with society as a whole but with Black culture. But could it be that if we acknowledge that yes, a Black youth was unjustly shot and killed that we will have to acknowledge that sometimes the police do treat African American males differently? Yes, there are problems with Black culture that make it harder for Black males to get ahead. But could it be that a guilty verdict would force us to acknowledge that yes, there are societal factors that make it harder for a Black male to get ahead, and it isn’t all their fault? Could it be that we would have to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the United States hasn’t yet erased the vestiges of segregation. That we as a nation are not yet living up to the grand ideas embodied in our Declaration of Independence, the belief that all men and women are created equal?