August 16, 2014 by JImbo
Or is it four times? Six? Sixty? I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve heard the same story over and over with the names and locations changed.
That’s how history works after all. As an historian I can see that we keep doing the same dumb shit over and over. “History” is just that… stories… about people doing stuff to people. As long as people don’t change, then the events will pretty much keep happening the same way they always did.
That’s why I haven’t said much about the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. What is there to say? Everyone wants to focus on the details.
Does it really matter? It’s a local incident. It’s not really that important in the bigger picture. If you had never seen it on the news, would your life be different today? Now that you have seen the footage on TV, how have you changed your life?
I’m gonna bet you haven’t. It DOESN’T affect you unless you live there. The incident itself is just a spark for a larger issue. Discussing that LARGER issue is in fact important and does affect you.
I think it is a useful to debate to have. If it gets people talking then it turns out it’s a good thing.
The problem is that the instigators involved don’t WANT people to talk to one another rationally and calmly. They WANT riots and violence; intentionally or unintentionally.
Some like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton make a living off this crap. They literally LIVE on the perpetuation of racism. They will in fact create racism where it doesn’t exist if it makes a few bucks.
Is it really any different than a cigarette company advertising their product? Sure it may hurt some people but you have to make a buck right? If there’s no demand for it you CREATE the demand!
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a case to be made here for abusive behavior on the part of the police. Far from it. I’m merely saying that this has become a MAJOR issue because folks are on the sidelines fanning the flames.
When you assign blame based on minimal facts, you’re making it worse. Even the President had to put his two cents in. He won’t comment on a dozen other REAL issues of national concern. However, on this one LOCAL case where the facts aren’t all in yet he feels he MUST jump in?
The actual issue itself I can’t say much about. The details of this one specific incident are still being investigated. Much like the Trayvon Martin fiasco, this will likely turn out to be 180 degrees from what the media originally report.
What I DO know is that it looks like both sides were in the wrong. Unarmed people don’t tend to get shot without (usually) both sides reacting badly to a situation. It’s HIGHLY unlikely.
Consider how YOU would react on either side of that situation. We do know there was a man blocking traffic in the middle of the road. We also know there was a police officer there. If you were either person, how would YOU react?
I’m gonna guess at some point the police officer asked Mr. Brown to get out of the street. Do you think he said “Sir, do you require assistance? Could you please step out of the street for a moment so I can talk to you?”
Somehow I doubt it. I’m gonna bet it involved some rough words and a gun.
Do you think Mr. Brown was strolling down the street whistling the theme to “Green Acres” and waving with a smile to strangers? I doubt that too. Do you think he said “Well sure officer, I’m always willing to help local law enforcement! What can I do for you?”
Again, somehow I’m gonna bet the words “Pig” and some vulgarities came out first.
I wasn’t there, but you have to ask yourself if there is a possible way that two polite men end up with a shooting between them? If you don’t pull up with your hand on your pistol, how do you then end up drawing it? If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you run away from the police?
This is NOT some sort of “New America.” That’s stupid and frankly incorrect to say so. We don’t suddenly have minorities in this country. We don’t suddenly have police, or police with guns. Crime isn’t even new or particularly high. It’s at a record LOW!
So why do we THINK that we’re in some “new” social crisis? Because that’s what we see every day. We are TOLD repeatedly every day how DANGEROUS this NEW CRISIS is.
It’s neither. There is no new crisis. There is no increased danger.
Street crime isn’t new. Gun crime isn’t new. Terrorism isn’t even new. Our first “War on Terror” was started by Thomas Jefferson over 200 years ago vs the Barbary Pirates. Imagine that. We’re still fighting Muslims and Pirates today and saying it’s a “new” phenomenon!
During the 1960s when many cities in the United States were having riots (Wats, Detroit, etc) the Andy Griffith Show was still airing on television. It showed alongside Perry Mason, Columbo and Adam 12.
Those shows dealt with crimes. They had murders, rapes, robberies, etc. They simply handled things differently.
They weren’t as graphic. They weren’t as “edgy.” Most importantly, people were innocent until proven guilty. Bad guys were bad, but only after you PROVED they were bad. In court.
There weren’t murders, rapes and assaults EVERY EPISODE. Even when there were, the cops didn’t shoot someone every time, and never without serious consequences. Now there’s not even a verbal reprimand on most shows. They get AWARDS for shooting people!
I’ve already posted about how if life were like TV we’d soon depopulate the country from the extreme murder rates on TV shows. Quiet little Cabot Cove in “Murder She Wrote” would soar above Detroit as the murder capital of the world, and tiny towns out west would have more murders annually than they have PEOPLE!
There also wasn’t all this moral relativism. The shows were literally in black and white, and figuratively too. The bad people were bad. The criminals didn’t always say “society made me do it because I’m poor.” The police didn’t point pistols at everyone and assume everyone was “guilty until proven innocent.”
The big difference is in how people were treated. It’s amazing but people are STILL people and will AWAYS be people. I’m sure cavemen who were nice to one another got clubbed upside the head much less than those who were rude to their neighbors.
We didn’t suddenly invent rude and obnoxious. However, we cater to it now. There are whole industries based on how mean you can be to one another for prizes and wealth. Careers and fortunes depend on making fun of people, spreading gossip and slandering character.
Like I said, nothing is really NEW. You should really read some of the interesting graffiti they’ve found from Roman times for example. NSFW (Not Safe For Work) at all! (What you thought your college buddy came up with that whole “paint/carve a penis on your enemy’s gravestone” thing as a sick joke thing?)
People are still people. They have the same emotions, the same reactions, the same motivations. So, the consequences of those actions tend to be the same. The tools may change, but the tools using them don’t.
That should really be a T-shirt. Maybe I’ll make one sometime. Anyway, it’s true.
(update: I did. I’m totally gonna wear this.)
Back to the riots in Missouri. This shit doesn’t happen on its own. No single incident creates these blow-ups.
It’s also never one sided. The kid (much like Trayvon Martin) was a thug. Check out his cool Facebook photo.
Remember how they did a similar “cleaning up” of Trayvon Martin’s image?
Again, not saying he deserved to get shot. Just that the whole story isn’t out there. If this much is known to be biased and obscured by the media, what ELSE partially or totally untrue is being passed as “fact?” Let’s be real and admit that the kid didn’t have the best social graces or habits at this point in his life.
So, let’s just say that this kid didn’t respect authority. The security footage at the convenience store shows he didn’t respect personal space either after throwing the convenience store clerk around.
That does NOT excuse the police officer for shooting him. However, it does show a repetitive picture of past violence and antisocial behavior. So, when the officer says he was acting in such a manner it does fit the profile.
On the OTHER hand, if you aren’t threatened you don’t shoot someone. Period. It should be easy to figure out if the kid was shot in the back or not. The officer did not apparently know Mr. Brown was involved in the previous crime. He didn’t know he was a “criminal.”
If he DID shoot him (in the back) then that shows us that the officer made that judgement based on something. That or he just got jumpy and has BAD instincts. Not necessarily born or racist, but repeated training creates instincts.
If you are told to constantly be suspicious of people as possible criminals then you will SEE them as criminals. They will already be criminals in your head, waiting for a reason to be arrested. You know what they say… when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
If you are trained to arrest/shoot first and ask questions later then that’s what you do. It just kicks in. It becomes second nature.
Trust me. I’ve been there. Not as a cop, but as a soldier in Iraq. If you see threats, you react to them as threats (even if they’re not.)
IF Mr. Brown was running and IF he was unarmed and IF he hadn’t done anything else to threaten the officer, then why did the officer fire? Was it simply to stop a “suspicious character?” That’s not enough. You don’t just shoot people because they “acted funny.”
Well, you don’t unless you’re there without backup and are told that people are “basically all criminals anyway” and you KNOW your chief/budes/union will back you up if you do wrong.
My point is simple. This incident wasn’t inevitable, but the situations behind it make something LIKE it happening virtually a given. You can’t have two communities (minorities and police) disrespecting each other and treating each other like the ENEMY without it eventually becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Anyone remember the last time this rioting happened? The police and community came together and put cops back on the street, coming face to face with the people IN that community. They called it “community policing” and it WORKED.
I remember working in Downtown Rochester and we knew the police by name on the corner. They didn’t DO a lot but they were visible. Every business owner had the business card with name and phone number of the local beat cop on it. Those cops would stop in weekly if not daily and say hello, see how things are going and get a feel for the community.
What happened to community policing? Why is it not happening in Ferguson, Missouri? They say they don’t have money to put cops on the corners, but they sure seem to have lots of money for SWAT teams!
Every guy you put on a SWAT team is taken off the street. That’s extra money into equipment, training, ammo, workshops, vehicles, conferences, etc.
Even just putting your beat cops in cars destroys their rapport with the community. Sitting in a car is NOT the same as going INTO the store and saying hello. It’s not just a matter of walking a few feet. It is symbolic.
When you go into the store, you go on the owner’s turf. You talk to the local people. You are WITH them in the crowd, not separate inside a car with rolled up windows.
Who goes up to a patrol car just to chat? If they did, are they immediately labeled a nuisance or suspicious? C’mon you know the answer to that. Of COURSE they are!
Get rid of the SWAT teams. Get rid of the tanks. (Yes, the SAME armored vehicles we had in Iraq and Afghanistan!) You don’t need all that crap.
What you NEED to do is what worked for us overseas. The only way to defeat the criminal (terrorist) is to get to know the PEOPLE. If they know you and trust you, they will TELL you things. You can stop crimes before they start and get leads on crimes after they do happen.
In fact the “new” method of law enforcement is actually the “old” way of doing things!
None of that happens if you are an outside occupation force. It doesn’t matter what color you are. If you put on that blue uniform, you are different. You segregate yourself and need to make that effort to be approachable.
Sure, Mr. Brown was a thug. Sure, the cop was wrong to shoot. This is so much bigger than that though. We need to stop seeing the cops as the enemy, or some uniform. We need to see them as people.
Likewise, police officers need to stop seeing citizens as just potential criminals. They are your NEIGHBORS for Christ’s sake. (Or they would be if there was a law requiring you to live in the precinct/district you work in.)
I see the same bad signs in the SWAT teams in Ferguson that we saw overseas. Over there we NEVER hid our faces. We WANTED them to see who we were. We had our names on our chests boldly.
Your plumber wears his name on his chest. Your mechanic. Even your doctor.
Why is it the SWAT team doesn’t? Why do they wear masks? No it’s not required for security or tactical concerns. That’s BULLSHIT.
It is to keep them anonymous. It is to keep them secretive and threatening. Stop being pussies and drop the SWAT teams. Drop the camo. Drop the assault rifles.
Put on a blue uniform. Walk the goddamn beat. TALK to people. Stop playing “soldier” and avoiding the real work of dealing with real life humans in real life situations.
A retired cop described it best for me a few years ago. He said “I’m not out there to fight crime or shoot people. That’s TV. I solve problems. I never drew my gun in 28 years on the force. Never had to. People WANT problems solved. They don’t want to go to jail. I don’t want to put them in jail. I talk to them. They talk to me. We solve the problem.”
No, talking doesn’t ALWAYS work, but you’d be surprised how many times it does. You can be “firm” without being “soft” or “hard.”
Special forces don’t wear helmets when working with locals. They often don’t wear body armor. They’re super soldiers, but they’re not bullet proof.
Why do they take that risk? Trust. They are building trust with their allies.
Wearing body armor says to other people “I think one of you is going to try to shoot me today.”
Not wearing body armor says “I trust you. Now you trust me.”
They’re not totally defenseless. They are still armed. However, they don’t go around “armed for bear.”
Again, it doesn’t ALWAYS work, but trust is worth more than body armor any day. That’s especially true on the streets of an American city. What are the odds that you will be shot, cop or not? And yet you still feel the need to wear body armor all day long?
We were in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town and we had locals telling us about weapons caches and what the bad guys were up to. Not a perfect system. We still took our fair share of attacks.
However, the locals were beginning to trust us after months of working with them. We went to visit them. Had tea with them. Discussed security concerns, tribal negotiations and other issues. We treated them like human beings.
The 101st division showed up. They were high-speed “AIR ASSAULT HOOAH!” They rode around heavily armed in wildly painted “RAKKASAN DRAGONS” Humvees and treated the locals like shit.
They didn’t trust anyone. No one trusted them. They refused all the contacts and notes we had on the locals and their problems. They were “professional soldiers” and not all “soft” like us National Guardsmen.
We treated the locals like civilians because they were. WE are civilians 90% of the year. So, we simply treated them like neighbors (who have a few insane criminal cousins around town.)
The “full timers” kicked doors down. They ran cars off the road. They basically made life hell for the locals trying to get to work and the market. They terrorized and harassed the population to “intimidate them into submission.”
It backfired. They were attacked more in the 2 weeks before we left than we had in the two MONTHS before that. Word got out to stick it to “Those guys with the dragons on their trucks.”
I think that’s what’s happening on our own streets now. People are seeing our own law enforcement officials as the ENEMY because they’re starting to act like it. You reap what you sow.
And yes, the opposite is also true. If you treat the police rudely, they will return the favor. As Dave Chapelle used to say, white people don’t get along with one another because they’re white. It’s because they’re polite to one another. Black folks just haven’t caught on to the secret!
I won’t go that far. Plenty of rude white people too… or Asian, Latino… whatever. I see them every day.
It’s not about race. It’s not about “culture.” It’s about human decency.
That’s not new. It’s not old fashioned. It just IS or IS NOT.
In case anyone can’t quite remember how to be polite, here’s a reminder:
Check out Chris Rock’s How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police video.