Police militarization and an unequal justice system are real problems that deserve sustained scrutiny. These problems are more insidious than a rush to judgment against one particular officer, presumption of innocence be damned. So maybe the best thing to do would be to say, well, in this particular case, it turns out that the police officer might not have acted as wantonly as we thought. But it really doesn’t matter, because the response to the shooting called attention to police abuse and discrimination in a way that resonated across the world. They had tanks! They threatened to killed reporters! The truth here is less important than Truth.
For the news media, though, the “injustice is the story, not Darren Wilson” story won’t wash.
Archives For: Michael Brown
The WaP0 reports on the autopsy of Michael Brown. It “suggests that the 18-year-old may not have had his hands raised when he was fatally shot”:
Experts told the newspaper that Brown was first shot at close range and may have been reaching for Wilson’s weapon while the officer was still in his vehicle and Brown was standing at the driver’s side window. The autopsy found material “consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm” in a wound on Brown’s thumb, the autopsy says.
Another key piece of evidence:
Seven or eight African American eyewitnesses have provided testimony consistent with Wilson’s account, but none have spoken publicly out of fear for their safety, The Post’s sources said.
But Trymaine Lee relays some pushback on the WaPo’s reporting. He writes that “one of the experts whose analysis was central to those claims told msnbc that her analysis of the findings had been taken out of context”:
Jeffrey Toobin declares that after Obama was reelected, “Holder found himself—or rediscovered himself”:
He decided to embrace civil rights as his cause. His civil-rights division filed lawsuits against the voting restrictions imposed by the legislatures in Texas and North Carolina. He began the process of reducing the number of nonviolent offenders in the federal prison population. He went to Ferguson, Missouri, to assure its citizens that there would be a full and fair investigation into the death of Michael Brown, a teen-ager shot dead by a police officer. It is tempting, even hopeful, to believe that this was the real Eric Holder.
Holder also spoke multiple times about the discrimination he believed he had experienced as a black man.
Jacob Siegel worries about what happens to the footage:
Think of it like this: The police will have moved their evidence into a private warehouse staffed by private security guards and administrators. These private guards can see the boxes the evidence is stored in, how many and when they come in, but they’re not supposed to look inside. And instead of only keeping evidence related to criminal matters, this private warehouse is storing a bottomless pit of routine interactions between cops and citizens. Going 50 in a 35? Got stopped because you fit the description, but quickly released once the cops realized you weren’t the person they were looking for? There’s going to be a video of you in a private corporation’s digital records.
This isn’t abstract.
by Dish Staff
I suppose that, when an undercover officer came upon me and two friends smoking cigarettes and drinking beer on a park bench that night, he could have shot us dead and then the Times could have reported that we were no angels. We weren’t.
But he didn’t shoot us. He wrote us citations for drinking alcohol in a New York City park. … We were teenagers. But since the officer who apprehended us managed to handle the situation without killing us, the NYPD and the New York Times never felt the need to air our dirty laundry in public. And, indeed, though I know plenty of white kids from fancy prep schools who did illegal stuff in high school — who even got caught doing it by the police — I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story where someone like me was killed and then proclaimed to the world to have been no angel. Angels, it turns out, are pretty rare. But if you look the right way, you don’t need to be one to survive into adulthood.
Ta-Nehisi Coates piled on:
by Dish Staff
Paul Cassell previews the trial of officer Darren Wilson:
[P]roving a crime in the Brown shooting will require close attention to the details, particularly details about the shooting officer’s state of mind. Even if the officer made a mistake in shooting, that will not be enough to support criminal charges so long as his mistake was reasonable — a determination in which the officer will receive some benefit of the doubt because of the split-second judgments that he had to make. And, of course, if it turns out that Michael Brown was in fact charging directly towards the officer (as recent reports have suggested), the officer’s actions will have been justified under state law and no charges should be filed. Trial lawyers know that one thing above all else decides criminal cases: the facts. And that is what we’re waiting for now.
Yishai Schwartz expects Wilson to get off because of Missouri law:
by Dish Staff
Amanda Taub spells out why militarized small-town police are especially dangerous:
When the ACLU asked officials in the town of Farmington, Missouri (less than a 90 minute drive from Ferguson) to provide a copy of training materials for its Special Response Team, which is roughly like a SWAT team, the town sent only a copy of a single article. The article warned that “preparations for attacks on American schools that will bring rivers of blood and staggering body counts are well underway in Islamic training camps,” and went on to say that “because of our laws we can’t depend on the military to help us … By law, you the police officer are our Delta Force.”
In contrast, SWAT programs in larger cities tend to train extensively, and constantly. The Los Angeles police department’s SWAT teams go through months of intensive training before being brought on, and once there spend at least fifty percent of their on-duty time training, former LAPD Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing told me. It is effectively impossible, Downing suggested, for small police departments to appropriately train their officers in the use of SWAT-style equipment, because they simply do not have sufficient resources or personnel. Small departments simply do not have the resources to support that type of program, but they do have the guns and trucks and armor, which they use.
Taub also runs down some of the military equipment the Ferguson cops are using:
by Dish Staff
Lanre Akinsiku shares what it’s like:
To be black and interact with the police is a scary thing. The fear doesn’t have to come from any kind of historical antagonism, which, trust me, would be enough; it can also come from many data points of personal experience, collected over time. Almost all black men have these close-call-style stories, and we collect and mostly keep them to ourselves until one of us is killed. You know how the stories go: I was pulled over one day and the cop drew his gun as he approached my window; I was stopped on the street, handcuffed and made to sit on the sidewalk because the cop said I looked like a suspect; I had four squad cars pull up on me for jaywalking. We trade them like currency. And it almost goes without saying that these stops are de facto violent, because even when the officer doesn’t physically harm you, you can feel that you’ve been robbed of something. The thing to remember is that each of these experiences compounds the last, like interest, so that at a certain point just seeing a police officer becomes nauseating. That feeling is fear.
Relatedly, Coates recalls, “A few weeks ago I received an anxious text from my wife informing me that a group of young men were fighting outside of our apartment building”:
My wife wanted to know what she should do. She was not worried about her own safety—boys like this are primarily a threat to each other. What my wife wanted was someone who could save them young men from themselves, some power which would disperse the boys in a fashion that would not escalate things, some power. No such power exists. I told my wife to stay inside and do nothing. I did not tell her to call the police. If you have watched the events of this past week, you may have some idea why.
by Dish Staff
Michael Bond criticizes American crowd-control techniques:
One of the most worrying aspects of this drama is what it reveals about US crowd-control methods. In Europe, many police forces have started to accept that the traditional model of public-order policing, which treats all crowds as potentially dangerous, often makes things worse. This model dates back to the French Revolution, which seeded the idea that crowds turn people into primitive, dysfunctional automata, and that the only way to deal with protestors is to attack, disperse or “kettle” them – a draconian form of containment.
Such tactics are slowly being abandoned in Europe because social psychologists have demonstrated time and again that they can have a dramatic and often catastrophic effect on how people in crowds behave. They have found that the way a protest is marshalled has a greater influence on whether it ends peacefully or violently than the actions of any hooligan minority within the crowd. This puts the police in a powerful position, even before they take aim with rubber bullets or tear gas.
He argues that Europe has this figured out. Matt Steinglass finds that Europe is transfixed by the events in Ferguson. One reason why:
Disturbing footage of Kajieme Powell’s death has emerged:
The newly released video begins before police arrive on the scene. A bystander has followed Powell after he took energy drinks and muffins from a market without paying for them, and can be heard chuckling over Powell’s erratic behavior. Powell is seen slowly pacing around the scene of the eventual shooting before police arrive. When the officers enter and draw their guns, Powell ignores warnings to put down his knife, and advances on them. He then repeatedly yells, “Shoot me!”
But Powell does not appear to be holding a knife high, and he looks to be walking normally — and to be further than two or three feet from the officers — when they open fire, killing him.
Ezra is deeply troubled by the video: