Politics and the Ferguson Situation

ferguson

The Politics Surrounding the Michael Brown and Darren Wilson Case

Let’s take politics out of the picture for a moment, shall we? That’s exactly how the Ferguson issue has been presented to the public – from essentially only only TWO very politically driven points of view.

Two Crowds of Political Followers

Supporters of Officer Darren Wilson’s innocence are comprised largely of one crowd of followers. This group of followers unquestioningly and dutifully rallies around a political position which consistently backs the actions of police under every circumstance. Staunch party-line Republicans tend to root for Wilson’s innocence because he is a trained police officer, and in the broad GOP view, the decisions of trained police officers are to be unquestionably respected. Their bravery and willingness to act in the capacity of enforcing the law are viewed as justification for their every action.

On the other hand, a sizable portion of the supporters of Michael Brown are among an opposing group of sheeple. Many from this crowd follow cries of “racism!”, whether those cries are really valid or not. Playing up racism is high on the Democratic Party’s agenda. Although racism probably played absolutely no role in the unfolding of this tragic incident, it is also difficult to deny that those who listen to the politics of race-baiting do tend to have favored the indictment of Officer Wilson.

This is not a criticism of either political ideology. However, following party line positions without developing one’s own independent individual analysis, whether one’s chosen party line is Republican or Democrat, is not at all objective. People tend to behave like sheep, blindly following the leading of their chosen political party. Staunch party-line followers are likely to form their opinions by the influence of their party’s agenda. As a result, true objectivity gets buried in politics.

An Objective Analysis of the Shooting

How about we remove political influences from this analysis? It was a touchy situation for Officer Wilson and for Michael Brown, but neither party line GOP followers nor party line race-baiting Democrats have truthfully really examined this case without bias.

Let’s begin with a decision to think for ourselves. Let’s stop thinking emotionally, stop unthinkingly following the opinions of the crowd whose political opinions we tend to favor, stop rallying behind biased emotions, and begin instead to apply logic and compassion for every individual who was involved in this tragedy.

One Likely Reason the Grand Jury did not Indict Wilson

American police officers are consistently excused from guilt in incidents involving the use of deadly force against civilians in the line of duty.  According to accepted guidelines for professional police behavior clearly defined and taught in police training programs, officers are justified in using deadly force in two instances. One condition is when the officer believes that “the subject poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officer, or others” [1]. The other condition is when the officer believes the subject “ is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” [1]. A 1989 Supreme Court decision defined these two conditions using exactly the terminology quoted.

The wording on that decision presents the question as to whether the officer believed that the subject was a threat. It actually does not matter whether the subject was a threat or not. The question is whether or not the officer’s state of mind at the time of the incident was reasonable.  The officer must have been in a clear state of mind in order to have been capable of making a sound decision to open fire. Officers involved in cases of having used deadly force consistently justify their actions by claiming that when a split second decision was required, they did the right thing when they decided to open fire.

That’s always an effective and foolproof defense for police! Shouldn’t there be room to allow for the very likely possibility that an officer really could make a bad decision? Why does the decision consistently fall in the favor of the defense of the officer? It is because the people have been educated to trust the testimony of a police officer over that of a civilian. We are taught never to question the honorable intentions of a police officer.

But are not police officers also human beings, also capable of making erroneous decisions, and like the rest of us, capable of occasionally being in the wrong state of mind when on duty? We all have bad days. Is it not reasonable to assume that police officers might sometimes be capable of having been in the wrong state of mind when a shooting incident took place?

Because this point of view (that police officers can do no wrong at any time) is so prevalent, whenever police do use deadly force, the responsibility of the officer is assumed to be unimpeachable. Police officers are seldom considered to even be remotely capable of acting out of line. Is that a reasonable expectation of average human beings, or should we expect that every police officer is super-human?

The problem continues to grow. Shouldn’t it be addressed?

There is not enough room to list the ever increasing number of controversial police shootings that have occurred in the past couple of decades. Each case is proof that being a truly responsible police officer is quite a tall order for a human being. The stress and difficulty of the job, both of which come with the territory of the decision to be in law enforcement, must never be used to unquestionably excuse or justify the use of deadly force.

In light of the growing number of deadly police shooting incidents, wouldn’t it be reasonable to at least re-evaluate the conditions of the acceptability of the use of deadly force by police? Would it not be reasonable to also consider the re-evaluation of police training standards in cases of the use of deadly force?

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[1]  1989 Supreme Court case, Graham v. Connor.

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