What Happened To Michael Brown Is Not Much In Dispute

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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  1. NobAkimoto NobAkimoto
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    Whether or not he actually stole the cigars/cigarillos appears to be a fact that’s in dispute. Since it’s one of those “facts” being thrown around as a justification for the kid’s murder, I think it’s worth noting that it’s not really clear whether or not he, in fact, stole the cigars in question. Unless there’s been some conclusive evidence in one direction or another outside of the surveillance footage. (Which seems to show a conflicting narrative.)Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to NobAkimoto
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      says:

      I recall spokespeople/lawyers for Brown’s family admitting it was Brown in the grainy convenience store camera pix.Report

      • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto in reply to greginak
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        The point wasn’t that it was Brown in the video. It’s whether or not he actually stole anything or had an altercation with the store clerk over some other bit. Given that the supposed robbery even wasn’t reported by the store itself, it’s pretty hard to pin down that anything outside of an encounter with a store clerk had happened.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to NobAkimoto
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      Let’s assume that it was Brown who robbed the store.

      And let’s assume that Brown reached into the police car to grab for the officer’s gun (but failed).

      Still looks like a wrongful shooting, unless you believe that last fact, the one in the OP Mark declined to number fact 12. He did so because the police version of that fact is patently unbelievable — that an 18-year-old with no formal combat training and one gunshot wound would charge the very person who was actively shooting at him.

      I could see someone with infantry or tactical training, who believed himself to have been pinned down or otherwise in a “kill zone,” deciding to charge the attacker as the least-bad, highest-payoff tactical decision. But you pretty much have to be taught that. It would never, ever have occurred to me that the right thing to do when ambushed is to charge the attacker: my instinctual response would be to seek cover and I’m far from certain that, even with the education I got from my Army friends, that education would be powerful enough to override my instincts when I was in the heat and panic of the moment.

      So I think Brother Mark is right to conclude that this purportedly disputed fact cannot reasonably be held in dispute; it’s contrary to human nature and what we’d ordinarily and reasonably expect of people in the situation described.

      Taking what’s really in dispute and viewing it in the light most favorable to the cop, it doesn’t look like a righteous shooting.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Burt Likko
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        I just keep imagining a guy realizing he just effed up major, resigned to his fate, turning around with his head down to surrender.

        Because honestly, nobody charges with their head down. You can’t see where you are going & can’t stay on target. You might tuck your head at the last moment, but not when you have 10m to cover.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to NobAkimoto
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      Nob: My understanding is and was that Dorian Johnson’s attorney specifically acknowledged that Brown did not pay for the cigars: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/ferguson-police-name-michael-brown

      “We see that there’s tape, that they claim they got a tape that shows there was some sort of strong-armed robbery,” said Freeman Bosley, Johnson’s attorney. “We need to see that tape, my client did tell us and told the FBI that they went into the store. He told FBI that [Brown] did take cigarillos. He told that to the DOJ and the St. Louis County Police.”

      While there are some who are using this as justification for the ensuing murder, I think you and I both agree that this says a hell of a lot more about those people than it does about whether there was actual justification or whether Brown was some sort of a real danger.Report

  2. Avatar j r
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    I am sorry, but this post is a bit absurd. The idea that anyone who is cobbling together bits and pieces from news reports and Tweets can speak authoritatively about what did or did not happen is… well, it’s absurd.

    How can you even say what is and what is not disputed when we don’t even know what Wilson’s story is? The fact that you have to present William’s side through police department statements and leaked information from unknown sources should be proof enough that you don’t know as much as you claim to know.

    The thing that you are losing sight of here is that the refusal to rush to judgment about what happened between Wilson and Brown is a much a refusal to judge Brown as it is a refusal to judge Wilson. As @nobakimoto points out, we don’t even know if Brown stole those Swishers. I’ve heard one version that posits that paid for them and the confrontation with the store owner was over something else. What happened with Brown and Wilson could end up being the case of a cop who handled an escalating situation poorly or a cop who committed cold-blooded murder. We do not know.

    Further, you are sort of missing out on the fact that much of the anger surrounding this situation is because the police department was slow to say anything. They stalled. Popehat had a great post that I think someone linked here noting that if the police suspect a private citizen of committing murder, the police will snatch that person up, isolate and detain them as long as possible, and pressure them to make a statement. When police are accused of wrongdoing, they got the exact opposite treatment. No one questions them until they’ve had time to get their story straight and consult with lawyers and union reps. The uncertainty in this situation is a huge part of why people are, and ought to be, pissed off.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to j r
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      says:

      A fair amount of the anger also came from the police declaring martial law on the city when their authoritaii was disrespected.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Burt Likko
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        As well as a fair mount of anger of 500 years of mistreatment.
        I know this sounds inflammatory, but as Tod pointed out,this is really and truly the source of the anger.

        If this was one bad shooting, one bad incident of militarized police, there wouldn’t be any riot. If this was one local department gone bad, or one state where injustice happened, it would be a minor story.

        But when we grasp the fact that virtually every black person in America either has, or knows someone who has been the subject of racial based injustice at the hands of the criminal justice system, the rioting makes a lot more sense.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        I understand this, @lwa , and that’s drilling down to a root cause.

        The Ferguson PD’s overreaction to the protests is a more intermediate issue — and it is something that Ferguson PD did on its own, an “unforced error,” to use a phrase common in political parlance.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Burt Likko
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        If this was one bad shooting, one bad incident of militarized police, there wouldn’t be any riot.

        This is a demonstrably false statement. People riot all the time. People riot when there is a blackout. People riot over the result of elections. People riot when their sports team lose, or even win.

        In the case of Ferguson, I’m not sure why you would want to try and rationalize the rioting and looting that went on. I reject the notion that stealing hair weaves or burning down convenience stores makes is any sort of sensible reaction to injustice; it’s just more injustice. Better to just call the rioters bad actors and point out that they were in the very small minority of what have been otherwise peaceful protests, at least peaceful until the police showed up. In fact, I’ve seen pictures of young man guarding stores from being looted; young men who are subject to the same historical forces of injustice and yet they have somehow managed to grok right from wrong.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        My anecdotal story is this: After nearly 30 years on the police force here in Louisville my grandfather spent the better part of a year dealing with the 1968 riots. During that time MLK was killed. The members of the African American community did not go to the white parts of town to express their anger. They rioted (not protested, not demonstrated) in their own community. They burned down black-owned businesses. They destroyed black-owned cars.

        Telling me about this 20 years later, my grandfather told me they he never thought of himself as prejudice but after the riots it was hard to think the people in that community the same way.

        My point of telling this story is not to justify anything that has happened in Ferguson, but to agree with @j-r that rioting is something that happens all the time for all sorts of reasons and it has a lasting effect on police tactics and relationships between the police and civilians.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Burt Likko
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        If only police understood their place in the causal chain. For example, the Saturday of the shooting, the police busted up a vigil. Looting ensued. Then the police treated all protests as potential riots.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        I think the police definitely play a roll in escalating sometimes. IMO it’s a vicious cycle and both sides point the finger at the other.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko
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        This is a demonstrably false statement.

        No, it’s not. It may be under-argued from your pov, but the conclusion isn’t false, let alone demonstrably false. You even concede as much: that if not for the police showing up during otherwise peaceful protests there wouldn’t have been any (I’ll use scare) “rioting”.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Burt Likko
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        @stillwater

        I think that we are talking about two different things and that may be due to poor wording on my part. @lwa is offering a counterfactual and asserting that wouldn’t have been looting had this shooting not occurred against a particular social and historical backdrop. My point is that rioting happens all the time and under lots of different social and historical backdrops. The claim to know the counterfactual is what i am referring to as demonstrably false. Again, we don’t know what happens in some universe where the police don’t show up in riot mode. And we don’t necessarily need to know, because we know what happened in this world.

        @mike-dwyer

        White people do effed up stuff to other white people all the time, but that doesn’t get rolled up into some large narrative of white pathology. There is a large, documented history of riots at, and following, sporting events. And police certainly approach these kind of events with an eye towards what can happen, but somehow they manage not to show up at every game ready to tear gas the crowd.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Burt Likko
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        Yes black people riot all the time.
        Because racial injustice happens all the time.
        Like I said, if this was the first time any black person was on the receiving end of injustice, there would be no riot.

        Like a lot of white people, I used to be struck by how pointlessly self destructive rioting is.
        Except it isn’t.

        I notice how when that guy in Yemen burned himself to death, it was [correctly] seen as a last desperate act of someone who had nothing else to lose, and no other way to voice his outrage and anguish.

        Would we even be having this discussion had the black people of Ferguson calmly went about their business, and perhaps had a few luncheons to discuss methods of city council electoral campaigns?

        Black people’s suffering their voices objecting to it are consciously and unconsciously ignored, snuffed out, silenced, ridiculed, and belittled.

        Tod’s point about missing the forest was spot on- in these sorts of cases we always, always, always, rush to snuff out any discussion of a wider problem and instead fixate on the forensic details like a reality show CSI, as if this shooting by itself was the cause of the riot, when its the preceding 500 years that is the cause.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @lwa

        I think the ‘rush’ to ignore the wider problem is because ultimately one man’s life is on the line here. If the officer is found guilty of some crime he could spend a significant part of his life in prison. Putting his actions in the context of 500 years of oppression seems a bit unfair because honestly, if we use that standard how many of us would get a fair trial? i mean, what if i am having a property dispute with my black neighbor and the media starts to cite the history of blacks having their land stolen from them?Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Burt Likko
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        I don’t think that context should or would be admissible in a criminal trial, but it is very much context that is appropriate – indeed necessary – to discuss when we’re having a public discussion about what happened, what responses are appropriate, and how to evaluate those responses.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
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        Mike,
        What about the policemen committing perjury in open court?
        What about the prosecutor who ought to be recusing himself?

        A bigger perspective is needed, as well as a larger solution space, if change is gonna come.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Mark,

        I disagree. Historical context should also not dictate police tactics. Should the public have input on setting policy? Sure. Should the history of U.S. race relations determine when a police officer can shoot someone? No.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko
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        Should the history of U.S. race relations determine when a police officer can shoot someone? No.

        It does, of course, which is why so many dark-skinned people are shot by white policemen, rarely with any notice being taken of it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @mike-schilling

        The history of race relations determines why there are X amount of cops in a community and why they hassle more people, why there is more crime, etc. When we get down to shoot or don’t shoot, all of the other stuff is moot.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        What will happen after a shooting affects how many there are. When the presumption is “Nothing, because they’re all guilty of something”, you get more.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Mike – there is a strong perception that police officers are more likely to view the actions of a black person as being more threatening than they would view the same actions of a white person, even if this is something that is entirely subconscious and unintentional. There is also at least some evidence to back this up. Black people comprise 13% of the population of the US, but 28% of arrests, and 32% of people killed by police.

        See: http://www.vox.com/2014/8/21/6051043/how-many-people-killed-police-statistics-homicide-official-black

        I’ll acknowledge that the difference between arrests and people killed by the police is fairly small, but it certainly provides at least marginal evidence that police are more likely to shoot a black suspect than a white suspect.

        However, even if there is no statistical difference between likelihood of shooting a white suspect and likelihood of shooting a black suspect, there is a very clear difference in the likelihood that a police officer will consider a black person and a white person to be suspects. This conclusion is backed not only by the aforementioned national statistics but also by the huge disparities in ticketing and arrests in Ferguson specifically.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Burt Likko
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        @mike-schilling In fairness, I don’t think that there’s any difference in the likelihood (or more properly, lack thereof) that an officer will be prosecuted for shooting a white person or shooting a black person. The answer in both instances is “essentially never.”Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Mark,

        So we’re comfortable saying that blacks commit crimes at the exact same rate as whites and the only variable is that police pay more attention to the blacks?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @lwa

        Yes black people riot all the time.

        Huh? I will have more to say below in a bit, but that is an interesting way to start a comment.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Mike,
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53412/figure/ch2.f6/?report=objectonly
        nope, not comfortable saying that.
        Note in the rest of the report, average age of arrest is solidly in the teens.
        I think we have problems with Juvenile Sentencing, if more than half of sentences come down as “juvenile”. [I think I’d be arguing for a more tiered system, and more of an emphasis on finding ringleaders and doing the appropriate thing for them.]Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Burt Likko
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        @mike-dwyer It depends on the type of crime we’re discussing. If we’re talking about violent crime specifically, then yes it seems possible that a given violent crime is disproportionately likely to have been committed by a black person, as Brandon indicated on the other thread yesterday. However, violent crime comprises only about 16% of overall arrests. Source: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=datool&surl=/arrests/index.cfm#

        Also keep in mind that violent crimes are far more likely to result in an arrest (for obvious and good reasons) than most other crimes – e.g., everytime someone possesses a few grams of marijuana, they’re committing a crime, but they’re exceedingly unlikely to have that crime come to the attention of the police on any given occasion. The main way to get arrested for possession of illegal drugs is through some sort of a stop by the police.

        And if we’re talking about crime as a whole, then the difference in terms of actual likelihood of committing a significant offense is pretty neglible from what I’ve been able to gather. For starters, of course, there’s the whole “three felonies a day” thing. But beyond that, we’ve got plenty of data to indicate that black people are, if anything less likely to commit various crimes, and particularly crimes that tend to result in arrests incident to traffic stops or thanks to a “stop and frisk” type of action.

        Here, we can point to the fact that, in Ferguson (as in much of Missouri, and presumably the whole country), black people are significantly more likely to get pulled over by the police, twice as likely to get arrested incident to a traffic stop, but only a little more than half as likely to actually be in possession of contraband. Also note that white drivers in Ferguson are about twice as likely to get out of a traffic stop with a warning as black drivers.

        Sources: http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops/2013/reports/161.pdf
        http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops/2013/

        Nationally, drug use statistics are fairly similar across races, but black people are several times more likely to actually get arrested for possession.

        1 in 4 black men between 18 and 34 report having an unfair encounter with the police in the last month. I can count on one hand the number of times I had any encounter with the police between the time I was 18 and the time I was 34, and I’d wager that this is true of the majority of white people. I can count on one finger the number of times during that period of time where I’d characterize the encounter as unfair, and again I’d wager that to be true of the vast majority of white males.

        Source: http://www.vox.com/2014/8/19/6045335/the-racism-of-the-us-criminal-justice-system-in-10-chartsReport

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Mark,

        With regards to interactions with the police for blacks…I think the elephant in the room is that blacks engage in more behaviors that draw the attention of police. There seems to be a casual disregard for certain expected public behaviors. For example, blasting music out of a car. Illegal in many places, much more common from blacks. Another example that directly relates to this case, walking in the road. Extremely common among black youths. Illegal and sure to draw the attention of passing cops. I could go on and on here. We had a big problem with Derby Day cruising here in Louisville. Blacks would ride up and down a strip, violating numerous traffic laws and then when they were pulled over and drugs, guns, etc were found in their cars they claimed it was racial bias.

        I just think there needs to be some acknowledgement that certain behaviors create more interactions with the police. My grandfather used to say that a car full of white kids driving through the projects would warrant a traffic stop…but they rarely saw that scenario actually happen.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Mike,
        Okay, great. well, congratulate yourself. You got me to write a post.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        With regards to interactions with the police for blacks…I think the elephant in the room is that blacks engage in more behaviors that draw the attention of police.

        Yes. They are black.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        @j-r

        Take one of my examples: walking in the street. I see this at least once or twice per week. A group of black kids walking down the street when there is a sidewalk 10 feet away. Most of the time even if I pull up right behind them they will not move out of the way. They just look over their shoulders and keep walking. If I’m a cop, I’m probably going to talk to them, right? Is that racism?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
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        Mike,
        Do you even know the caselaw on the books for that? Around here, it’s quite frankly legal, and it’s not just the black folks that do it. White and Asian folks walk in the middle of the streets too. (When it gets icy in the winter, trust me, you want to be where it’s salted — but they do it the rest of the year too.)Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @mike-dwyer

        Having a negative interaction with a particular individual or group of individuals is not necessarily racism. What is racism is the insistence that some characteristic or action of that individual is inextricably linked to their ethnicity. Get it?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko
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        @j-r

        I’m not linking those behaviors to their ethnicity. I’m linking it to their culture.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @mike-dwyer

        Sounds like a distinction without much of a difference to me. You’ve decided that black culture is to be defined by the actions of a certain group of black people. Why is that black culture?

        When you see a group of white kids doing something questionable, do you call it white culture?Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Burt Likko
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        I’m not willing to concede this point. I have no idea whether black people are more likely to engage in the specific behaviors you describe (especially the claim about loud music), but I don’t think it matters – even if that’s true, it would then be hard to ignore that the behaviors that bring the attention of the police just so happen to be behaviors most frequently engaged in by black people. Thanks to the way in which neighborhoods tend to be segregated, these behaviors are also primarily occurring in neighborhoods where those behaviors are consistent with local norms, and they’re exceedingly minor ordinance violations.

        In various white neighborhoods, I’m quite certain young white people engage in their own sorts of cultural norms in public that may violate local ordinances (or even criminal laws) without any fear of getting grabbed by the cops. Go to a college town, for instance, and you’ll see underage white kids drinking on the front lawn of fraternities or their apartment house pretty much every day, and you will essentially never see them interrupted by the police.

        The other thing that makes me skeptical, for what it’s worth, is that I’ve heard no shortage of explicitly racist stuff come out of the mouths of a good number of cops over the years – and they weren’t just trying to be ironic. I’m not saying this is true of all, or even necessarily most, cops, but certainly enough to make a difference.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
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        Mike,
        yeah, but you’re choosing an extraordinarily stupid thing to say.
        I mean, it’s like me saying — based on someone pointing a gun at the two white boys in the ghetto after midnight — “that self defense is part of black culture”.
        um, no. It’s part of American culture, particularly in places where the police can’t be counted on to show up. and it’s happened in the sticks with white folks too — pointing guns at folks who aren’t where they ought to be.

        Now, if you wanted to talk interaction of wealth and culture, you could talk about black people being more likely to be sitting out on porches up north (less AC, combined with residue of southern culture which used porches to cool off). And you could draw a reasonably tenuous association with “being in the public view” and getting arrested for things that would be fine in the house.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @mike-dwyer @mark-thompson

        Mike, I think what you are expressing is accurate in the reality, but it is a symptom not of bad citizens in a given area, but of police being very much out of touch with the people in the area they patrol.

        A cop who knows the area & is in touch with it’s residents would know kids do X, would know that X is not really a big deal, and would deal with X in a soft manner. A cop who doesn’t, or who thinks X is disrespectful because he doesn’t really know the residents, or who has an incentive to write tickets because the pension fund is looking a little weak, is going to be much more antagonistic in his approach.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Burt Likko
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        @mad-rocket-scientist This.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Burt Likko
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        @mark-thompson
        even if that’s true, it would then be hard to ignore that the behaviors that bring the attention of the police just so happen to be behaviors most frequently engaged in by black people

        I have sorta the same response when people point out part of the pay disparity between men and women is due to women self-selecting lower paying jobs than men. The question then arises: Are those jobs just inherently worth less, or are they lower paying *precisely* because they’re the sort of jobs women commonly do?

        Likewise, do the police care about loud music in cars because that’s some sort of menace, or simply because that’s a behaviour commonly engaged in by black people?

        And, just as relevantly, do they just *say* they care about loud music played in cars, but in actuality only appear to notice loud *rap* music, and not, say, loud country music? Or do they only respond to citizen complaints about noise, and only white people contact them, and only about black people?

        (And as I’ve said before, casually strolling down the center of the street without paying attention to anything happens *everywhere* that people walk and there are streets, and I’m completely baffled by the idea this is a black person thing. I suspect the only reason some people think it’s a ‘black person thing’ is that they’re living somewhere that white people live in rural areas, where they don’t walk, and black people live in urban areas, where they do walk.)

        Go to a college town, for instance, and you’ll see underage white kids drinking on the front lawn of fraternities or their apartment house pretty much every day, and you will essentially never see them interrupted by the police.

        Heh. Not in this college town. In this college town, the police once swarmed the city looking for someone drinking outside. Not *underaged* drinking, mind you, just the criminal offence of wandering down the public sidewalk with an open beer. Or, at least, something that looked like a beer. This is, apparently, illegal for no good reason that anyone can explain.(1)

        Then again, that wasn’t on the campus.

        1) I can think of some hypothetical reasons, but not of them apply to this town. I guess you can argue we don’t have drunken people wandering around causing problems exactly *because* of this law, but surely we’d have a few even if it was illegal.

        The other thing that makes me skeptical, for what it’s worth, is that I’ve heard no shortage of explicitly racist stuff come out of the mouths of a good number of cops over the years – and they weren’t just trying to be ironic.

        The people who operate the legal system in this country are often the most racist, because racism is self-reaffirming there…if you see the system arrest many more non-whites due to law enforcement focusing on them, sure enough, you’ll start thinking that non-whites are the major problem, and focus on them. At which point the next generation of cops will see the same thing.

        The problem is, *normally* this sort of thing would be good policing. Figuring out where problems come from, and paying more attention to them. There are, indeed, certain people that cops should keep an eye on. But it’s ‘Fred has sticky fingers and if stuff goes missing from parked cars, let’s talk to him’ and ‘Jim is a meth addict who likes to deal to support his habit, so whenever we see him standing on the street corner, we should wander over and talk to him and point out we know what’s going on’. Or ‘Ted thinks DUI isn’t a big deal, so whenever we see him driving poorly, we’re going to just assume he’s drunk and pull him over.’

        Those are reasonable ‘prejudice’ for the police to have, because they’re not really prejudices. It’s judging a specific person by their previous actions. Sure, it might seem a little unfair to a person who has actually cleaned up their act, but whatever. That’s how ‘keeping the peace’ works…the police should learn where the trouble spots, and who the trouble people, are.(1)

        But ‘Black people are the trouble people’ is *not* a reasonable prejudice for police to operate under. But it’s an *understandable* one, since the police were trained in a universe that went around assuming black people were the problem, so, tada, they were observed committing more crimes, so, tada, they get more police focus, so, tada…

        We really need to concentrate on breaking this feedback loop.

        1) However, there is a difference between ‘attracting police attention’ and ‘being harassed or wrongly arrested by the police’.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to j r
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      says:

      “What happened with Brown and Wilson could end up being the case of a cop who handled an escalating situation poorly or a cop who committed cold-blooded murder. We do not know.”

      Agreed.
      It almost certainly is one of those two options.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to j r
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      says:

      I think it’s fair to say, given how they’ve behaved, that the police department is doing everything it can to bolster Wilson’s defense. It’s also clear that he has given them statements, and there’s no reason to think that the police department has any interest in releasing information that is anything other than as favorable as possible to Wilson. Additionally, Wilson’s account has also been released second hand by one of his friends. What I am saying here is that even if we give that every benefit of the doubt, what happened is still wrong and morally unjustifiable.

      While I get that so much of the anger is because of the police department’s handling of this case, I was only interested at the moment in writing a short piece on what happened during the shooting and refuting the conventional wisdom that those events are meaningfully disputed – keep in mind that what I was doing here was mostly just converting a comment into a slightly longer post. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d like to see an example of a fact that is in dispute that would change the conclusion.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson
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        says:

        Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d like to see an example of a fact that is in dispute that would change the conclusion.

        Yah, me too.

        Excellent post Mark. This is precisely the issue I’ve been hammering on for a few days now – essentially, given what we know, even if we grant the worst case speculations regarding Brown/best case speculations regarding the cop which are consistent with the evidence, it still amounts to an unjustified use of deadly force.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        Here’s a thought: capital punishment for cops who are convicted by a jury of killing folks without good reason. Think of it as something like an honor code imposed by gummint on citizens accorded extraordinary power. Something to keep them in check and walking the True Path.

        Oh, I can hear folks grumbling even now. It’ll never work. All’s it’ll do is cause cops to fearfully refrain from shooting people who might need it. (???) And also: what’s to prevent a cop from being capitally punished based on flimsy evidence, or the vagaries of the jury, or a poor defense attorney?

        Heh.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        I admit I fail to see how the state killing someone is a just way to answer anything, including the state killing someone. But my opposition to capital punishment is categorical.

        There are some pretty good proposed changes to police training and procedures, and to the ways in which police shootings are treated after the fact. In fact, several other countries seem to do a better job at it, and we’d do well to learn from their training and procedures. I’m not sure they’re improved upon by a potential punishment that gives them even more incentive to lie their asses off, as they are even in the St. Louis shooting.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Mark Thompson
        Ignored
        says:

        @mark-thompson

        I do not necessarily have a problem with the way that you have prevented the events or the conclusions that you draw. I just don’t understand why you have to paint it all with a veneer of false certainty that doesn’t actually add to the strength of anything that you are saying.

        The fact that you have to use terms like “I think it’s fair to say,” is proof that you are not just reciting known facts, but actively piecing things together to form a theory. Why not just say, “this is likely what happened and what that means?”Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      jr,
      apparently not the case in St. Louis city, where they released contradictory video evidence to what the policeman’s report said.Report

  3. Avatar James Hanley
    Ignored
    says:

    there’s no reason to believe Wilson would have stopped firing at Brown if Brown had kept running, and there’s no reason to believe that those shots would have been any less fatal.

    Given that shots were fired while Brown was running, but he had no entry wounds in his back…Report

  4. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    “As Officer Wilson got out of his car, the men were running away. The officer fired his weapon but did not hit anyone, according to law enforcement officials.”

    If that is the police’s only statement on the shots that did not strike anyone, then I don’t see a concession that Wilson shot at Brown. That’s a statement that he fired his weapon. Presumably forensics are being done on those shots (i.e., where/what did they impact?), but from that statement i don’t see a concession that those shots were aimed at Brown. Indeed, if they were, wouldn’t such a statement be a direct accusation of an unjustified killing by Wilson? Perhaps I am mistaken, but I thought a fleeing suspect by definition didn’t pose a risk to the officer he was fleeing from, and there’s no other person at that moment he could conceivably have been directly seriously physically threatening that we know of. I wouldn’t expect his own department to issue such a condemning statement at such an early phase of investigation, and, that I know of, they haven’t. OTOH, if they believed they were warning shots (which I’m guessing are not good procedure in that context regardless, but nevertheless wouldn’t constitute the use of deadly force unless they happened to hit someone), presumably they would have said as much by now. Presumably.

    More broadly, while I agree that the picture is starting to come into focus, for my part at least I have a hard time feeling like I have a good idea what happened before I’ve heard a full account of the events from the closest living witness to the event, and the person whose guilt we’re assessing, and gotten a chance to judge his credibility. Perhaps the notion that what happened is nevertheless not all that much in dispute is consistent with that, but for me significant questions still remain. In particular, the one I raise above about the shots that didn’t hit Brown, the specifics of the near/in-car portion of the scuffle scuffle that almost certainly no other witness had much access to, and, quite simply, why it is that Officer Wilson started shooting in the first place in his own mind.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
      Ignored
      says:

      …Or at least an unjustified use of deadly force, since, if shots were fired at Brown while he fled, they apparently didn’t hit him.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Michael Drew
      Ignored
      says:

      Presumably forensics are being done on those shots

      As to shots that did not enter a human being, I think you presume much, and without good cause. Forensics are expensive and time-consuming and only rarely is information about a shot worth that investment of time, money, and other resources.

      OTOH, if they believed they were warning shots …, presumably they would have said as much by now. Presumably.

      Again, you presume much. The story may be straightening even now.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t believe “warning shots” are accepted police procedure. Particularly in a crowded apartment complex, on a fairly busy residential street. In fact, I imagine that warning shots in such a situation would be pretty close to a fireable offense.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        On the former, given that the investigation now is at least dual-tracked with the Feds being one track, I think it’s a fair assumption that all shots fired are being run down to the extent possible. Possibly they won’t find the rounds, but seriously looking for them with the full resources of the FBI I think ought to count as a forensic investigation. It kind of matters a lot what direction they were fired in, after all.

        On the latter, the last “presumably” was actually meant to kind of say, “but then again maybe not.” And the story is certainly straightening. So you’re right about that. But it’s not clear to me that this is a claim that is off the table for Wilson to make given the evidence or police statements to date, is more my point.

        And I’m fairly sure you’re right about that, @Chris. But if it’s the case that Wilson did not fire those shots with the intent or the physical aim to hit Brown, then with respect to those shots it’s not (I don’t think) the case that those shots constitute unjustified use of deadly force, or certainly first-degree murder, as they likely would if he had. So the point is, if it’s not the case that the police have confirmed that Wilson shot at Brown as he fled, that’s one clear incriminating point that as yet isn’t substantiated the way Mark suggested.

        [Various typos corrected here. Initial comment was submitted in a big rush.]Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        If, as has been claimed, the gun went off in the car — well, you’d think that’d be pretty cheap to determine. The seat or floor of the car would have a bullet hole in it. And also a bullet.

        Although I’m really curious how that gun struggle would have actually gone, given the officer had no reason whatsoever to have his gun out of his holster. Which generally has that little snap flap over it. Easy if you’re used to it.

        Likely right-handed cop, so that means the guy would have had to be practically half in the car to reach it. If the cop was left handed, it’d be closer but still pretty awkward.

        I mean, you’re in a moving car. Just, you know, hit one of the pedals on the floor. Problem solved. Or put one hand on the gun and hit with the other. Or use an elbow.

        OTOH, sounds a lot more reasonable that the cop reached out and grabbed him, rather than the other way around. Mostly because no one has claimed the dead kid was out of his mind on drugs, drunk off his ass, or insane. I don’t care how hard-core you think you are at 18, you don’t reach into a cop’s car and play tug.

        Especially not from zero. Like if the two guys had been FIGHTING each other and the cop tried to pull them apart? I can see him getting tagged. Nobody’s gonna flip out on a cop and assault him over 50 bucks in cigars. But I can absolutely see a cop from Ferguson, given everything else we’ve seen, reaching out and grabbing a kid who was trying to walk away.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @morat20
        Mostly because no one has claimed the dead kid was out of his mind on drugs, drunk off his ass, or insane. I don’t care how hard-core you think you are at 18, you don’t reach into a cop’s car and play tug.

        And if you *are* the sort of hardcore person who would do that, you probably would *already* have an illegal gun on you.

        Seriously, at this point Brown basically is being called some sort of movie action hero, who can disarm armed people *inside* a car. This is Black Widow level shit here. (Or Melinda May, actually…’If I need a gun, I’ll take one.’.)

        Actually, I’m having trouble conceiving of that at all outside of a movie. You can’t take things from the center of a car like that, you can’t even *reach* that far without sticking your head in the window. Which is really stupid to do when the driver doesn’t like you, as he can rather easily slam your head into things.

        For this to even plausibly work, the cop would have to be left handed, and that raises the question of how the hell Brown knew that…he just attacked the window with no goal in mind and then happened to see the gun looking straight down?

        OTOH, sounds a lot more reasonable that the cop reached out and grabbed him, rather than the other way around.

        I suspect there might actually have been a grab for the gun, but what I’m picturing is the cop grabbing Brown and yanking him to the window with his left hand, and holding his weapon with the right hand to point at Brown…at which point Brown say ‘Hell no’ and tries to aim the gun elsewhere, causing it to go off.

        This, of course, is *completely absurd* police behavior.Report

  5. Avatar Chris
    Ignored
    says:

    I agree with everything you say here, so I just wanted to say the photo that accompanies this post, which I believe is either from the first or second night of protests, remains one of the most powerful images from Ferguson, and really one of the most powerful images I’ve seen in some time. This was before the “hands up, don’t shoot” had become a universal chant, and it was such a powerful statement to stand in front of the police line like that, akin to flowers in the barrels of National Guard rifles.Report

  6. Avatar D Clarity
    Ignored
    says:

    Is a law enforcement officer, in effecting an arrest, or in preventing an escape from custody, justified in using deadly force when he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested has committed or attempted to commit a felony?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to D Clarity
      Ignored
      says:

      There are two standards, and they differ by police department (both of which have, I understand, been affirmed by SCOTUS): 1) immediate threat to officer or someone else, 2) a fleeing violent felon.

      The Ferguson police have already said that #2 is part of their standard, and the violent felony would be assaulting the officer. This, I imagine, will be important for the grand jury (and perhaps a criminal trial), because if a jury believes that Brown assaulted Wilson, rather than the other way around, then at the very least he was justified in shooting at him as he ran. Now, this would not excuse him shooting him while he was standing still, but it’s the justification they’ve already given for the shots while he was running.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        I agree with Chris’ statement here. Assuming the entire story is true up to the point that Brown stopped and turned around, my civillian understanding of the law is that all the shots were justified. Morally excusable? That’s a whole other conversation IMO.

        I think the crux of this is going to hinge on what happened to warrant the fatal shots. One thing i would mention is that the law is pretty lenient with regards to officers feeling threatened and the idea of shooting to wound does not jive with police doctrine.

        I will also add that no amount of prior police history in Ferguson or anywhere else really has any bearing on the specifics of this case. It’s a very sad side-effect of a trend that has been happening for well over 50 years.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        I’ve got a question about doctors or surgeons or whatever: how many surgeries does a surgeon have to monumentally eff up before they tell a surgeon that he is being moved off of the surgery team to the diagnostic team or whatever?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        I could be wrong, but I think the Violent Felon part of the fleeing clause has a bit more meat behind it than just “he took a swing at an officer”.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Mad, I agree, and I don’t buy the argument in this case. In fact, I think that in general it’s a criterion that’s so loose that it can justify just about any shooting, because all the officer has to do is believe that he is pursuing a violent felon. However, I’m not so confident that a grand jury, much less a criminal jury, will see it that way. I’m not even convinced that the attorney presenting the case to the grand jury won’t steer them in that direction.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        @chris ‘ 9:49 comment, to the extent the information in it is applicable & accurate here, in particular the bit about use of force against a fleeing violent felon, definitely affects some of the logic in my 9:55. So thanks to @chris for it.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        I think the Violent Felon part of the fleeing clause has a bit more meat behind it than just “he took a swing at an officer”.

        I’m completely flying by the seat of my pants here, as I don’t know anything about this standard that Chris hasn’t shared. But if it’s accurate, I would tend to doubt whether it needs to be much more than that (under the standard as it is, not that it shouldn’t need to be more), certainly in practice (the “in practice” part being largely what you guys are speaking to), but explicitly as well. You could be right, though, I really don’t know.

        More generally, does “violent felon” here mean, “felon convicted of a violent crime”? Or, “any kind of felon (meaning convicted of a felony) who the officer observes being violent in a given time and place? (So that there needs to be the violent act present, not just one on the record.) Or, any person an officer observes doing something he believes constitutes a felony and who has acted violently during the same observation period (whether the observed felonious activity is identical to the violent actions or additional to them)? Or something else? Or, probably most likely, any of the above?Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird
        As I understand it, you can have, as a surgeon, a fairly large error rate before it is caught and your license is revoked. Besides fishing up as a surgeon need not mean just killing the patient (though in particularly risky surgeries, that too may not necessarily be caught). For example, fishing up often may involve some avoidable minor loss of function. Now, major fish ups may involve leaving instruments inside the patient’s bodies and those major fish ups only need to occur once.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-dwyer

        I’d be surprised if the trial ended up isolating the shots that ended up being fatal as distinct from the others that hit Brown, and examining Wilson’s frame of mind when firing those particular shots. Any of the shots that hit Brown and were aimed at him could have killed him. I think the issue will be whether Wilson continued to shoot after he no longer (if he ever did) have a reasonable fear for his safety (and I do think the question in practice will be fear for his safety even if it’s supposed to be for his life or for his safety against grave injury). If any of those shots are found to have come outside of such reasonable fear, it’ll be the same whether the killing shot did or didn’t.

        I could be wrong, though. I guess if somehow it were found that the killing shot came while he was reasonably afraid but others came after (or before?), the outcome could conceivably be a little better for him. I doubt it, though. In practice, the killing shots were likely the last ones so it’s probably all the same. But I think the issue will be whether any of the shots fired at Brown after Brown stopped running happened while the officer was not afraid for his safety.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        @murali @jaybird

        I was just thinking today about how many amputations of the wrong limb are completely unacceptable for a hospital, and how many are… acceptable. One a decade? More? Not even that few? No idea.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m not just asking about a guy dying on the table. All men are Socrates, after all. I’m more asking about “what does it take to take a surgeon’s scalpel out of his hand?”

        Because I’d like to compare that to what it takes to fire a cop.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird
        According to my mom, who is a transplant physician, it takes either very clear evidence of a fish-up that resulted in a fatality (e.g. leave a scalpel in a body that kills the patient) or lots and lots of fish ups where the evidence of a fish up is murky or the consequences relatively minor. I know for a fact that the surgeon who fished up on my dad’s arm is still working and my dad lost a lot of the function on his wrist and fingers because of it. He only managed to get most of it back after two years of physio. Most halfway competent surgeons don’t fuck up in a particularly lethal way so often that when they do actually do so, people suspect something. Sometimes people dying is just what happens on the table, and there without actively looking for it you cannot tell between a case of that happening and where it is the patient dying because the surgeon screwed up.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        “Hold on: his left or my left?”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Hrm. So it seems that it’s easier for a police officer who kills people after making a mistake to keep his job than a surgeon.

        That should probably change.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird
        Hrm. So it seems that it’s easier for a police officer who kills people after making a mistake to keep his job than a surgeon.

        That should probably change.

        I don’t think so. Let me be clear. Certainly, it shouldn’t be as easy as it currently seems to be for a police officer to keep his job. But it seems to be the case that police officers and surgeons have very different job descriptions. The surgeon’s JD is something about saving lives. Any death is the opposite of what was intended. Now, while a policeman’s jd is not about killing bad guys, it is about applying coercion against wrong-doers in order to maintain law and order. Somewhere in there is a license to kill. Now, of course, this license can and is perhaps often abused. It almost certainly seems like it was abused in ferguson and that cop probably should lose his job and maybe even face criminal charges. But, since cops have at least notionally a license to kill and surgeons don’t lethal mistakes by the former are less likely to cost him his job than lethal mistakes by the latter.
        Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        Here’s more about the standards, and the legal precedence:

        http://www.vox.com/2014/8/13/5994305/michael-brown-case-investigation-legal-police-kill-force-murder

        I’ll add that SEO URLs are strange poetry.Report

  7. Avatar greginak
    Ignored
    says:

    Here is some really WTF info about Ferguson from Marginal Revolution:

    Apparently there are so many fines and petty enforcement that there is ” $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household” in the town. Now i don’t have any number to compare that with so maybe it really isn’t odd. But it seems like a wow! kind of thing to me.

    http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/08/ferguson-and-the-debtors-prison.htmlReport

  8. Avatar Hoosegow Flask
    Ignored
    says:

    The push for police body cameras can’t come quickly enough. Perhaps they could use some of their MRAP maintenance budget.Report

  9. Avatar Wardsmith
    Ignored
    says:

    I have a question for all the attorneys present. Is it normal procedure in these kind of cases for “witnesses” to be represented by lawyers? Because so far I have seen at least 4 on the cable news shows giving interviews. If I am ever called to be a witness, should I hire my own lawyer and why should I? Who pays?

    One of the lawyers kept calling Brown, “big Mike” which is why I got curious how big he was. Googling “big mike” got the surveillance still with him towering over the shopkeeper. That’s why I thought he was 6’7″ and 300 lbs. turns out he was 3″ shorter but about that weight. Wilson must have been a fool to tangle with him in the first place. He should have requested backup, which is SOP. Also getting to your holster from a sitting position is very difficult. There is no room to pull it out and back. With a seatbelt on, it is virtually impossible.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Wardsmith
      Ignored
      says:

      If I witnessed cops shooting an unarmed kid down, I’d want to retain lawyers and possibly bodyguards, to be with me 24/7.Report

    • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to Wardsmith
      Ignored
      says:

      I have read a number of reports on crime where witnesses have attorneys. It doesn’t seem that unusual at all.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jonathan McLeod
        Ignored
        says:

        If what you witnessed appears to have potentially been a crime committed by The Law (who then proceed to run roughshod over the town), then retaining lawyers to protect you from The Law seems like sound thinking.

        Whatever the facts of the original incident, subsequent events have made it clear that the residents don’t trust the police, at all. When that’s the case, pulling together your own form of “witness protection” makes sense, to protect yourself against retaliation or silencing.

        After all, cops have resources and tools at their disposal that the Mafia only wishes they had.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jonathan McLeod
        Ignored
        says:

        Look at what happened to the dude who filmed the murder of Eric Garner. I’d get a lawyer too.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jonathan McLeod
        Ignored
        says:

        I guess what I am saying is, if I witnessed what these people claim to have witnessed, I’d be making all statements not only through a lawyer, but via satellite from a fortified underground concrete bunker, possibly located in Antarctica. I’d be bunking with Snowden or something.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jonathan McLeod
        Ignored
        says:

        Huh. You say that as if being shown the business end of an AR-15 in the hands of a visibly pissed-off SWAT officer for no apparent good reason would alter your perception of the police’s professionalism.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jonathan McLeod
        Ignored
        says:

        Glyph,
        and you wonder why wikileaks came about…

        In other news, bearing witness against some people is Just Not Worth It, no matter what crimes they’ve committed.
        (I mean, yeegads, you ruined someone’s life because of a fucking joke? I’m not going to actually imperil your freedom. Fuckers).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jonathan McLeod
        Ignored
        says:

        Huh. You say that as if being shown the business end of an AR-15 in the hands of a visibly pissed-off SWAT officer for no apparent good reason would alter affirm your perception of the police’s professionalism.

        Fixed that for you. No charge. You’re welcome.Report

  10. Avatar Shelley
    Ignored
    says:

    Why are the police becoming an army? What’s the root reason?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Shelley
      Ignored
      says:

      @shelley

      Yes, this.

      One of the the most important questions in all of this (maybe THE most important), and one I do not believe I am seeing addressed nearly enough.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Shelley
      Ignored
      says:

      Root reason? Fear.

      People have it, political leaders whip it up & sell themselves as the solution to that fear, if only they are given the tools (power) to tackle it. To, you know, protect your freedom.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        I can’t find it now, but I was recently reading a defense of the 1033 program, and some police talking head was saying the program was essential so police have the equipment they need to keep criminals from taking over our cities.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        Ferguson, MO — slightly above average crime rate compared to the country now, right?

        Compared to 1994, it’s down considerably.

        Back in the 90s we had the whole rise of the serial killers and gangs and drug wars and super predators and then…the crime rate dropped. Drastically. Everywhere. And kept dropping. But apparently no one bothered to adjust their views, even cops who should know better.

        Because, as noted — fear sells. It gets eyeballs on your TV station, it gets money for your department, it gets votes for your policy.

        And it’s really easy to make someone afraid.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        And it’s really easy to make someone afraid.

        That’s frightening.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        but @morat20 ! It’s because the police all got a surplus Blue Thunder (with their very own Roy Scheider!) that crime has been dropping. It’s all because of them & the machine guns! If we take away the toys, the criminals will come back!Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        to keep criminals from taking over our cities.

        That’s a very real threat in both New York City and Washington D.C.

        We’re talking about bankers, right?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-schilling

        That’s what I was thinking, but then I rarely ever see the story of a SWAT raid to take down a shady trader office. So they must have other criminal take-overs in mind.

        I mean, criminals with the capacity to take over a city aren’t terribly stupid. They know that to do it openly & blatantly is to invite the state & the feds to move in & take it all apart, so they work within the system, they get appointed, or elected. They co-opt lawyers, judges, & the police…Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist It’s not like a SWAT team would raid an American factory employing blue collar workers under the guise of some arcane law, using a sealed warrant that has never seen the light of day. Oh wait.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @wardsmith

        Or the oft cited SWAT raids of those dastardly raw milk producers & organic tomato farmers.Report

  11. Avatar j r
    Ignored
    says:

    @lwa

    Yes black people riot all the time.

    And lots of black people, as in the overwhelming majority, riot never.

    Like I said, if this was the first time any black person was on the receiving end of injustice, there would be no riot.

    And like I said, since people riot all the time, most of them not black, that pretty much destroys your counterfactual.

    Like a lot of white people, I used to be struck by how pointlessly self destructive rioting is. Except it isn’t. I notice how when that guy in Yemen burned himself to death, it was [correctly] seen as a last desperate act of someone who had nothing else to lose, and no other way to voice his outrage and anguish.

    Congratulations on your enlightenment, but you are still wrong. Looting and burning down businesses in your own neighborhood is a pretty good example of pointless and self-destructive behavior. In what universe is it morally acceptable to respond to an injustice at the hands of the government by stealing from and destroying the property of a private citizen that has done you no harm? Also, if black people have nothing else to lose and no to other way to voice outrage and anguish, why is that the overwhelming majority of black people somehow manage to never loot and riot?

    Would we even be having this discussion had the black people of Ferguson calmly went about their business, and perhaps had a few luncheons to discuss methods of city council electoral campaigns?

    I don’t know who the “we” is, but I’ve been having this conversation for a long time. This is exactly why I say that a bunch of white people sitting around patting themselves on the back about racism is a very uninteresting conversation. Maybe it’s important on some level, but it lacks depth and dimension.

    James Baldwin expresses it better than I can:

    The avowed aim of the American protest novel is to bring greater freedom to the oppressed. They are forgiven, on the strength of these good intentions, whatever violence they do to language, whatever excessive demands they make of credibility. It is, indeed, considered the sign of a frivolity so intense as to approach decadence to suggest that these books are both badly written and wildly improbable. One is told to put first things first, the good of society coming before niceties of style or characterization…

    Whatever unsettling questions are raised are evanescent, titillating; remote, for this has nothing to do with us, it is safely ensconced in the social arena, where, indeed, it has nothing to do with anyone, so that finally we receive a very definite thrill of virtue from the fact that we are reading such a book at all.

    Baldwin is talking about literature here, specifically Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but the sentiment he expresses capture quite well my objections to the way that you’re trying to justify looting. Easy to say it’s just when it’s not your neighborhood being burned. If a group of white men came and burned down your home or your business, would you try to rationalize away their behavior? Probably not. You would likely hold them accountable for their actions, which is how you generally treat people who you view as responsible, fully-formed, individuals. For whatever reason you have decided not to do that with black people, instead choosing to treat the folks in Ferguson as one big, justified, reactive mass, flattening all the distinctions between those who protests and those who loot and those who try to stop the looting and those who remain at home.

    The irony here is that in your attempts to distance yourself from white racism, you’ve come to exhibit one of its major characteristics.Report

  12. Avatar Dennis Sanders
    Ignored
    says:

    Mark, I’m going to have to disagree. With so much information flying around, I think it is hard to determine truth and very hard to do it by piecing together random bits. The reason we have a judicial system is to find out the facts and then establish guilt. As much as I might want to believe that Officer Wilson is guilty and Brown in innocent, we can’t know that until a court of law can determine what happened- the concept of innocent until proven guilty still stands and the proof has to come through our judiicial system.Report

    • Avatar Mike Farmer in reply to Dennis Sanders
      Ignored
      says:

      I think the Feds would have the officer arrested if it was clear he was guilty, just to placate the community. The fact that more information hasn’t been forthcoming is as likely as not due to not wanting to create chaos because of evidence that shows the officer is innocent.Report

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