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Anger this time

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Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 7:56 am

Enough.

I think we finally have had enough. Enough sad, weather-tattered teddy bears strapped to lampposts. Enough teary candle lit vigils that fail to touch the heart of those who caused the pain. Enough indifferent police officers leaving the bullet ravaged innocent bodies of our babies lying in the streets uncovered. Enough.

And so this time, this time, when another police officer emptied his gun into the back of a fleeing, unarmed African-American teen, the ground in the St. Louis region began to shake. This time there was fire. This time anger took form.

Some in our region have characterized the moment when the ground shook as a night of vandalism and looting.

They are wrong and don’t be distracted.

The chief of police in Ferguson has also weighed in. According to the chief, the fires that were lit in Ferguson on Sunday can best be understood by separating the folks at the Mike Brown vigil into “good” protesters and the bad “outsiders.”

He is wrong and don’t be distracted.

Fact is we simply can no longer afford to waste time engaged in defense or apology about a fire that burned a building. Because every moment we do so is a moment spent looking away from the tinder that feeds the flame and the match that ignited it.

The St. Louis region has never honestly addressed the issue of race, racism and the demonization of African Americans. And now the region is feeling the impact of this color based neglect.

It has been reported that the Ferguson police department has 53 cops and all but three are white. For a city that is over 70 percent African-American a minuscule 5 percent presence on the police force is beyond outrageous. This statistic reveals how little the chief of police is concerned about African-American contributions and African-American presence.

What the chief should already know is how this awful statistic goes a long way in explaining the results of the State of Missouri’s “Driving While Black” report. According to the findings in the report, African Americans in Ferguson are twice as likely to be searched and twice as likely to be arrested as white drivers – tinder for the flame.

If you want to look at the demonization of African-American people in our region, one only need look at the response of the City of St. Charles to the possible transfer of Normandy’s African-American students.

Well over a thousand white citizens gathered and worried out loud about increased crime and decreased property values if the transfers went through. As if a gapped-toothed 2nd grader smelling of cocoa butter and bubble gum could cause a downward spiral of property values.

And yet there was scant regional discussion about the weight and the impact of this unaddressed bigoted world view. It seemed as if our region was in agreement that the presence of African-American children in a public school classroom has a negative social, educational and financial impact – tinder for the flame.

Monday night the national NAACP came to our region and held a forum to discuss the killing of Mike Brown. The coverage of the event was surreal.

At the same time news reporters were showing viewers live video of police-barricaded highways and blocked streets that prevented access to the event, a representative from the Ferguson Police Department spoke on camera claiming there were no efforts by the police to prevent citizens from attending the meeting – tinder for the flame.

Yes, there was a fire in Ferguson, but don’t get lost looking at that flame. The unjustified police killing of Mike Brown was the match, and the unresolved, generations-old issues of race and racism continue to feed the flame. And until we are brave enough and honest enough to tackle these issues, the fires will continue to burn – one way or another.

Lizz Brown is an attorney, award-winning radio talk show host and political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @lizzzbrown.

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.

2 comments:

  • Kel posted at 9:07 am on Thu, Aug 14, 2014.

    Kel Posts: 22

    Perfect, Liz, just what the situation needs, a little more gasoline thrown on the fire. You must be proud!

     
  • Boom posted at 2:24 pm on Wed, Aug 13, 2014.

    Boom Posts: 2

    As more fact come to the surface we all need to compare those facts to the Missouri Statues for the use of deadly force which will be used to determine whether or not criminal charges will be made. To be justified it must meet the criteria cited in the law.

    My source: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/chapters/chap563.htm

    There is a specific section regarding the use of deadly force by law enforcement.

    I quote:

    "Law enforcement officer's use of force in making an arrest.
    563.046. 1. A law enforcement officer need not retreat or desist from efforts to effect the arrest, or from efforts to prevent the escape from custody, of a person he reasonably believes to have committed an offense because of resistance or threatened resistance of the arrestee. In addition to the use of physical force authorized under other sections of this chapter, he is, subject to the provisions of subsections 2 and 3, justified in the use of such physical force as he reasonably believes is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or to prevent the escape from custody.

    2. The use of any physical force in making an arrest is not justified under this section unless the arrest is lawful or the law enforcement officer reasonably believes the arrest is lawful.

    3. A law enforcement officer in effecting an arrest or in preventing an escape from custody is justified in using deadly force only

    (1) When such is authorized under other sections of this chapter; or

    (2) 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

    (a) Has committed or attempted to commit a felony; or

    (b) Is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon; or

    (c) May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.

    4. The defendant shall have the burden of injecting the issue of justification under this section.

    (L. 1977 S.B. 60)
    Effective 1-1-79
    "
    Was there an arrest in progress? What was he being arrested for? Was the shooting victim informed he was under arrest? If not, was he not resisting arrest? A witness was a few feet away. Reporting what he heard and saw.

    Is it routine for an officer to conduct an arrest through a car door window as reported by a witness?

    Was the alleged 'scuffle' / fight over the weapon inside the car as reported by some outlets. Was the shooting victims arm pulled in by the officer or reached in by the victim?

    When the victim was running away, was the officer still in danger? By all accounts the shooting victim was unarmed and fleeing.

    After the shooting victim allegedly stopped and turned around to face the officer, raise his hands, and began to kneel and verbally surrender was the officer at personal risk. Was the community safety at risk?

    As official reports are made, Witness official statements published, the public and prosecuting attorney will have to match those reports and facts to the Missouri Statutes to determine if a crime was committed by the officer. Until then, we all are obligated to not rush to judgment. Don't forget the last line in the Officer Section

    "4. The defendant shall have the burden of injecting the issue of justification under this section."

    There will be conflicting information. Witness lie and exaggerate. So do the Police. We are all human and flawed. The burden of evidence and its credibility will be the determining factors.

    Another point worthy of discussion. Ferguson is one of a multitude of small cities/towns in the county surrounding St. Louis City. Like many small jurisdictions they do not have the tax base to support many city services including police departments. They do not have the economy of scale that other larger police departments might enjoy. Question? Does the Ferguson Police Department supply each officer with non lethal means? Was the officer involved equipped with non lethal means to affect an arrest. A Tazer or Pepper Spray would have been well within the means to handle this incident. Something for the community and leaders of the city to consider in 20-20 hindsight.