In Policing Debate, Ferguson Is a Bad Example
I like Mike Missanelli. I could listen to him talk sports and pop culture for hours on end, and have. Mike is the afternoon host on 97.5 The Fanatic radio station and a fellow contributor to PhillyMag.com. But he is wrong in continuing to use the police shooting in Ferguson as an example of a pervasive racial bias in police departments across America.
Missanelli made his case on this site last week when he chastised sports commentator and Hall of Fame basketball player Charles Barkley because he “didn’t express outrage at the non-indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the confrontational shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.” And because Barkley said “the grand jury was righteous in its weighing of the evidence, and defended police officers as deterrents to even worse things that can happen in the ’hood.”
All of that is true and based in fact. Barkley is right.
But instead of dealing with the facts of the Ferguson case or the statistics of violent crime in black neighborhoods, Missanelli quoted police statistics about police shooting of black youth. His statistics ignored the fact that over 50 percent of the murder victims in 2013 were black, even though African Americans only make up 13 percent of the population. Over 90 percent of those murders were committed by a another black person.
We expect the police to get in the middle of these shoot outs in neighborhoods plagued by drugs and violent crime, and yet the percentage of blacks shot and killed by police is infinitesimal. In the decade from 1999 and 2008, 163, 991 people were murdered in this country, 82,451 were black. 1,130 of those black victims were killed by police officers, or .01%.
In every case, it is important to take a honest look at the facts and not be swayed by the emotions of the case. The continued outrage by some about what happened on August 9th, just after noon on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri, is fueled by the emotion borne of an outright lie first concocted by Brown’s friend and accomplice Dorian Johnson, co-opted by others, and accelerated by national race baiters and a tag-along media more than willing to report the false narrative for ratings and profit.
We were told that Darren Wilson, a racist cop, harassed Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson for no good reason, attempted to drag Brown into his car and then ran after him and fired several shots into his body as Brown stood helplessly with his hands raised in surrender.
It was an outrageous story, but little of it is supported by forensic evidence or by more credible witnesses who didn’t run to the TV cameras, witnesses whose accounts are supported by forensic evidence.
The outrageous story turned out to be an outrageous lie.
The truth is that Michael Brown stole a box of cigarillos from a convenience store and threatened the clerk who tried to stop him. That was caught on surveillance camera.
The truth is that there was an APB out on the suspect with a description down to his green socks. Officer Darren Wilson stopped Brown because he matched that description. That is supported by police audio recordings.
The truth is that Michael Brown cursed at, assaulted, and tried to take Officer Wilson’s gun. That’s when Wilson fired the first shot and hit Brown in the hand. That is supported by witnesses and forensic evidence, including Brown’s blood and DNA in the car. When Brown fled, Wilson gave chase, which he is mandated to do by police procedure, for Brown is now a fleeing suspected violent felon who is considered a danger. Brown then turned and charged at Wilson, who opened fire with two volleys of shots. The last one hit Brown in the top of the head and killed him, supporting the officer and other eyewitness accounts that Brown lowered his head, as he got within 10 feet, to tackle Wilson. Again, all supported by eyewitnesses and forensic evidence. That all happened in 90 seconds.
The truth, as supported by eyewitnesses, who did not recant their stories, and by forensic evidence, is that Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown because the Officer’s life was in danger.
And still there are those who won’t let go of the original false narrative. Protestors still hold their hands in the air in surrender. Talking heads on TV still speak of the lessons of Ferguson, ignoring the irony that their belief in a lie is the real lesson. And Mike Missanelli still claims Ferguson is the catalyst for a national debate on police shootings of black youth.
There should be such a debate, but Ferguson is a horrid example.
Still, there is a national debate to have on the policing of black communities. For one thing, there are too many police departments, like Ferguson, where the makeup of the department does not match the population it serves and protects. Also, local DA’s should recuse themselves in high profile police shootings and a special prosecutor should be brought in, as the District Attorneys have a close relationship with police departments; they depend on the officers to build their cases.
There should also be a debate on crime and the economic disparity in this country. Statistics show the crime rate and the problems with police are equal among poor blacks and poor whites. It is desperation that feeds crime, not race.
All of that is important to talk about, but to use Ferguson as the battle cry is to stubbornly hold on to a lie that weakens and cheapens the cause.
So, Missanelli was right in pointing out that Barkley went too far in his defense of all police, when there clearly are problems, and there needs to be a debate, But Barkley is right specifically on Ferguson and Missanelli is wrong.
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