Monday Morning Comments II: Here We Go Again in Ferguson

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Ferguson burning last fall
Ferguson burning last fall

It was a day of peaceful protest and remembrance that will unfortunately be remembered as yet as another day of violence and lost opportunity for reconciliation. Perhaps it was an isolated incident or perhaps it is a reminder that calm and peace will not come with time, but with restorative work.

Late Sunday in Ferguson, a man fired multiple shots at four plainclothes detectives in an SUV. When the detectives fired back, the shooter was struck and critically wounded.

We would learn that the victim was a young man who graduated from high School and was really close with Michael Brown, who was killed in Ferguson a year ago.

As the Washington Post put it in a comprehensive story this week, “It begins with a relatively minor incident: A traffic stop. A burglary. A disturbance. Police arrive and tensions escalate. It ends with an unarmed black man shot dead.”

They write, “Perhaps most infamously, the pattern played out one year ago Sunday in Ferguson, Mo., where a white police officer searching for a convenience-store robber shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. That incident sparked a national movement to protest police treatment of African Americans and turned 18-year-old Michael Brown into a putative symbol of racial inequality in America.”

The statistics are chilling. The Washington Post is now keeping a database on fatal police shootings. They have found that 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police so far this year. That is one every nine days.

These 24 cases “constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police.” Of those killed, most were white or Hispanic and the vast majority of all races were armed.

However, the Post finds that “black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.”

The latest incident is the case of Christian Taylor, 19, a promising defensive back on the Angelo State University football team. “Police said Taylor crashed an SUV through the front window of a car dealership in Arlington, Tex., and was shot in an altercation with responding officers. The case is under investigation.”

The Post writes, “The disproportionate number of unarmed black men in the body count helps explain why outrage continues to simmer a year after Ferguson — and why shootings that might have been ignored in the past are now coming under fresh public and legal scrutiny.”

As we noted last week, this is not just a racial issue, though the disproportionate number of unarmed blacks killed suggests that there is a strong racial component.

Five hundred eighty-five people killed by police since January is a huge number. How big a number? In of March 2014, 111 people died at the hands of police in the U.S., 90 of them by shooting. In contrast, the United Kingdom has seen only 52 people killed by police since 1900.

But all of this comes back to Ferguson.

“Ferguson was a watershed moment in policing. Police understand they are now under the microscope,” said Mark Lomax as quoted by the Washington Post. Mr. Lomax is the executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, which represents police rank-and-file.

“Prior to Ferguson, police were politically untouchable. Ferguson changed that calculus,” said Georgetown University professor Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor whose book, The Chokehold: Policing Black Men, is scheduled to be published next year.

“Five years from now, every major police department in America will have officers who wear body cameras,” Butler said. “That is a change that is happening right now because of Ferguson.”

Now, everyone believes this is a positive trend. As the Post notes, some in law enforcement fear that the emphasis on these incidents will shift public sympathy away from police and toward suspects.

The Post writes, “They are concerned that people will forget that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, was exonerated by Justice Department investigators, who found no evidence to refute Wilson’s contention that he fired in self-defense.”

“We are worried that police officers who should rely on their intuition and training to make a split-second decision — which could mean life or death for them — won’t do it. That their fear of being second-guessed, and maybe even prosecuted, will take over instead,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police.

But, if that is the case, perhaps police have only themselves to blame.

There has been little movement to create a national guideline on the use of force. There has been little update on training in terms of deescalating situations. Several of the incidents caught on film show that refusal by the subject to cooperate leads to escalation and ultimately a disproportionate response by police.

Moreover, police agencies have been slow to adopt new technology that will clarify incidents. Several incidents – South Carolina and Cincinnati – showed the importance of video as a way to determine the veracity of police claims about the incident.

Police have moved toward more militaristic tactics, both in terms of equipment as well as dynamic entries. Practices like “Stop and Frisk” have greatly escalated tensions between minority communities and the police.

This week the ACLU and city of Chicago reached what they are calling a landmark agreement after the ACLU complained that the number of street stops by Chicago police under “stop-and-frisk” was “shocking.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, they agreed to appoint a retired federal magistrate judge to oversee the reforms. This includes instituting heightened training for the department’s 12,000 officers and supervisors. Chicago police will be required to “keep track of all investigatory street stops and protective pat-downs, not just those that don’t result in an arrest,” to make it more possible to assess the impact of the street stops on the public.

The two sides agreed for “former Judge Arlander Keys, an African-American, to use the additional data to determine if the city’s practices are lawful, issue public reports twice a year on his conclusions and make recommendations for changes in department policy and training.”

The ACLU found that “Chicago police made more than a quarter-million stops from May through August 2014, a far higher rate than New York City cops did at the height of their controversial stop-and-frisk policy. The ACLU called the numbers ‘a troubling sign’ of illegal police tactics.” The department denied these charges, claiming “it flatly prohibited racial profiling and cited its improved officer training.”

Under the new agreement, however, “the department agreed to heightened training to ensure its officers made stops only when they had ‘reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.’ They are also to carry out protective pat-downs only if they are reasonably suspicious the citizen is armed and dangerous.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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27 thoughts on “Monday Morning Comments II: Here We Go Again in Ferguson”

  1. Tia Will

    David

    Late Sunday in Ferguson, a man fired multiple shots at four plainclothes detectives in an SUV. When the detectives fired back, the shooter was struck and critically wounded.”

    I am confused. I am unclear how an incident that starts with a man shooting at plain clothes detectives can be considered as in any way relevant to the situation in which an unarmed individual is shot and killed by the police. I honestly cannot see what I am missing here. Can you clarify your intent in using this episode as a lead in to a discussion of the issue of disparate treatment of black men by police ?

     

    1. Barack Palin

      I am confused. I am unclear how an incident that starts with a man shooting at plain clothes detectives can be considered as in any way relevant to the situation in which an unarmed individual is shot and killed by the police. 

      What, you don’t like it because an armed black shooter was shot and it doesn’t fit the narrative?

      Once again, only because the Vanguard keeps bringing him up, Michael Brown is not a hero, he’s was a thug who caused the whole situation and his actions brought on his own death for which the officer was exonerated.

       

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        It doesn’t matter if he’s a hero or not, it matters that he put a focal point on an issue that has become bigger than him and the specifics of his incident.

      1. Tia Will

        David

        Thanks for the clarification. In retrospect, I think that should have been clear to me from the statement that the shooter was someone close to Michael Brown.

  2. Tia Will

    BP

    What, you don’t like it because an armed black shooter was shot and it doesn’t fit the narrative?”

    I pose a question about relevance since this was clearly an armed individual shooting at the police, and you claim I have a vested interest in a “narrative” !  What is it that makes you decide that your version of what is in my head is of more value than even your own thoughts on the subject ?  Do you have any original thoughts on the subject ?  Or is partisan trolling using what you have made up about my position really the most cogent thought that you can muster ?

     

    1. Barack Palin

       pose a question about relevance since this was clearly an armed individual shooting at the police, and you claim I have a vested interest in a “narrative” ! 

      No, if you read my words I did not say your narrative, I said “the” narrative.  The narrative of the article and the narrative of the protesters pushing the shooting incidents.

      What is it that makes you decide that your version of what is in my head is of more value than even your own thoughts on the subject ? 

      Never said that either.

        Or is partisan trolling using what you have made up about my position really the most cogent thought that you can muster ?

      You quite often don’t agree with my posts and try and rebuke them, is that considered partisan trolling on your part?  Funny thing about trolling, if one doesn’t agree with someone else they might feel the other poster is trolling and vice versa.

      1. Tia Will

        BP

        There is a difference between rebutting and rebuking. I have been very consistent in rebutting those ideas of yours with which I am not in agreement. The phrase “you don’t like it” was clearly a referent to me which you are now attempting to side step. Fine. But let’s not pretend that rebutting by providing evidence to the contrary is not the same as implying what “narrative” one adheres to.

  3. Tia Will

    And yes, to hpierce, or anyone else who may see my comment as “beneath me”, I too get irritated just like anyone else, so please excuse the fact that I had my chain most effectively jerked by BP.

  4. Michael Suhany RHU REBC ChHC

    Three paragraphs introducing the events last night in Ferguson and twenty-five paragraphs discussing other events going back over the last year.  I would suggest that you have not made a case for what happened in Ferguson last night and certainly have no basis for assertions such as “Here We Go Again” and calling the events “continued hostilities”.

    It is certainly horrible that a young man made the terrible choice to fire a handgun at police offers and others on the street and was killed.

    The real news is that there were over 1000 protesters demonstrating peacefully for most of the day and no conflicts with the police and not what happened late at night when trouble usually happens and the media outnumber the protesters waiting for something to bleed so it can lead.

    http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/man-shot-by-police-in-ferguson-after-he-fired-at/article_baaf86fd-2de0-53a7-b840-1941159aa5c7.html

    1. Davis Progressive

      the real news is 1000 protesters were demonstrating period for most of the day.  whether you think it’s more important to peaceful/ violent, the fact is that people are angry and the numbers reflect that.

        1. Matt Williams

          Given that the satisfaction rating for Congress is currently less than 13%, I would say that the people are angry about a whole lot of different things … and that that anger applies to both political parties.

      1. Barack Palin

        No, imo you and others want to push the concept/agenda and some of us aren’t buying into it because most of us believe all lives matter.  If you look at the comment section of the link I provided, America isn’t buying into it either.

  5. Frankly

    And apparently back at the Freddie Gray story…

    police detectives who investigated the death of Freddie Gray were told that he had a history of participating in “crash-for-cash” schemes — injuring himself in law enforcement settings to collect settlements

  6. tribeUSA

    It’s too bad the ‘black lives matter’ movement has centered itself around the Ferguson incident–I think most americans see this as an example of where a bad actor (Brown), who had just shoved around and robbed a storekeeper, and wrestled a cop for his gun (2 violent felonies within an hour of each other) then winds up shot dead; and we are asked to believe an unsubstantiated (and contradicted) story that this same ‘gentle giant’ had his hands up in the act of surrender when he was ‘executed’ by the cop–my guess is that many, if not most americans, see this as an example of the unsubstantiated complaints of the black community, and thus that the larger issue of excessive use of force by police is, by association, also unsubstantiated.

    It seems to me that there is some evidence that there are indeed some issues of unwarranted excessive use of force by some policemen; I haven’t seen any evidence whatsoever that there is systemic racial bias (just anecdotes of blacks getting shot by police, leaving out any mention of the larger numbers of whites and hispanics who also get shot by police). The black community would be much better served by making a clear-cut incident of excessive use of force a focal point of their protests–the most unambiguous example that I can think of in the last year was the police shooting in the back of the man in South Carolina when he was indeed running away from the cop (caught on video), and the cop has been charged with murder. I, and many other white americans I suspect, could support a movement to address excessive use of force by police officers that had clear incidents like this as the rallying points; not rallying around an event concerning a man who had exhibited thuggish behavior, including attacking a police officer prior to getting shot. This confuses/distracts/diffuses the entire issue with regard to police use of excessive force.

  7. Frankly

    Here is the problem with this “Black Lives Matter” advertising campaign.

    First, it sets up an absurd opposition to any other “lives matter” or “all lives matter.”  This just wrecks the positive impact that a well-thought-out slogan might otherwise have.

    Second, it focuses and limits the problem only being that cops are racist (otherwise why not “all lives matter”?)

    It is frankly a sign of mass lemming stupidity that will lead to absolutley nothing good.

    I had previously denied and argued against the new left crusade against police militarization.  While I still consider this label to be largely hyperbole and political, after reading a lot more on the topic, I am now willing to agree that police mission and procedure have evolved too far using force and vilolence, and not enough de-escalation techniques are taught and used.

    Ironically, the US military is in a good position to start training cops to be more effective in de-escalation.  These techniques had been developed fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan… basically as the residents of the war-torn areas grew hostile over the military actions and resulting collateral damage.

    Also, there is a big deficit problem in the black urban areas with community organization and community-to-agency collaboration.  Basically, the well-educated, for good reasons, run from these low income urban areas as soon as they can.  What is left, other than the lawless thugs, are the largely under-developed and insecure…. people not in any good position to lead a community connection with law enforcement to partner in achieving neighborhood policing goals.  The capable people leave and set up shop in their gated community where they join in the ascinine “Black Lives Matter” chant as if this will help a damn thing.  They won’t.

    You would think a black President with experience as a community organizer could help here.  But then that would take actually doing something to solve the problems instead of continually exploiting them for political gain.

    1. Barack Palin

      You would think a black President with experience as a community organizer could help here.  But then that would take actually doing something to solve the problems instead of continually exploiting them for political gain.

      Yes Obama could help here, but instead he uses events like Ferguson as a wedge issue to divide this country even more.

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