The continued problems in Ferguson, Missouri, will have little to do with the lack of a Darren Wilson indictment. The ongoing tensions won't be as a result of the US Justice Department’s possible inability to prove civil rights violations. Rather, the real problem in Ferguson is the fact that the residents are stuck with a police department that seemingly lacks diversity and appears racially insensitive.
As a retired, 20-year veteran police sergeant, I reject the notion that a professional, tactically trained, gun-toting police officer would create a circumstance, as in the encounter Darren Wilson initiated with Mike Brown, and then suddenly ‘fear' for his or her life. Unarmed Mike Brown, 18-year-old Mike Brown -- running and trying to get away Mike Brown, wounded and bleeding Mike Brown -- so frightened Officer Darren Wilson that Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown.
While we hold our collective breath awaiting a possible grand jury indictment, it occurred to me, the residents of Ferguson are faced with more far-reaching problems; a police department that seems unwilling or unable to admit there is a problem within that organization. Clearly, the problems within the Ferguson Police Department are cultural, systemic, and therefore intolerable.
As a black woman first and a retired Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant second, I believe unless and until there are real changes on that department, as in personnel, training and civilian oversight, there could be a repeat of the senseless murder of Mike Brown.
I am disappointed by an unrepentant and unapologetic police department that will never admit wrong-doing. I am saddened that this black life [Mike Brown] does not seem to matter.
As a mother first and a black woman second, I am bothered by disparaging comments made by Project 21’s Joe Hicks referencing Mike Brown as “a small-time local thug”. I am bothered that anyone who does not side with the police department’s version of events is labeled a “race-hustler” who is “undeserving” of justice. These statements were just a few of the comments attributed to Project 21; described as a black leadership network. As if to infer, that “a small-time local thug” somehow ‘deserved’ to be gunned down in the middle of the street. I am disappointed by an unrepentant and unapologetic police department that will never admit wrong-doing. I am saddened that this black life [Mike Brown] does not seem to matter.
So now it would seem that all trained, professional police officers need to report is that they “feared” for their safety and everything else that follows that ‘fear’ is justified. Well, I say, officer, if you are “scared” when dealing with the black community that you swore to protect and serve, then maybe you should holster your gun, remain in your car, and call the police. I just don’t see or hear police officers expressing that same kind of “fear” when dealing with the white community.
The U.S. Justice Department, to prosecute local police for criminal civil rights violations, even when a death results, has a high bar of proving an officer's intent to violate civil rights. Having said that, it would appear that the Justice Department may not meet the high legal threshold for a successful civil rights prosecution. How does one prove that Officer Wilson was possibly dishonest when he testified before the grand jury that he was in fear for his safe?
Maybe it’s time to change the “prosecution’s proof requirement”. Maybe we should require police officers to prove ‘fear’. Maybe prosecutors should require police officers who murder pedestrians in the roadway to prove the urgency of initiating the encounter in the first place. Maybe prosecutors should require a police officer to prove how an unarmed teenager having been shot twice already continued to “frighten” you.
Please officer, 'prove' the need to create and then escalate a minor traffic infraction [alleged jay-walking] to a deadly force situation. Please officer, 'prove' why you 'fear' jay-walkers. And then officer, explain why after you escalated the situation you would ‘drive- up’ on the scary Mike Brown.
Officer, if you were scared, please explain why you could not have called for back-up, waited for back-up to arrive, and then tell back-up that you were afraid of this 18-year-old jay-walker and request back-up to get you out of that scary situation? Please officer, why did you murder Mike Brown? If it wasn't because of his race -- than what?
And finally sir, would your please return to the police station, turn in your badge and gun and seek employment somewhere else; because, officer, you’re scaring me.
Black & Blue