“No good ever came of mass emotion. The audience that’s easily moved to tears is as easily moved to sadistic dementia.” — P.J. O’Rourke
We’d have to be hermits not to know what happened in Ferguson, Missouri when the no-bill from the grand jury came in on Officer Darren Wilson on the 24th. It was what many had predicted. And, as also predicted, the embers from that conflagration flew a good distance, and sparked protests elsewhere, though none yet so violent as at Ground Zero.
This week I attended a large law enforcement training function where a police chief said, “It would be hard to imagine how this could have been handled worse in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.” What he was talking about was law enforcement’s failure to make certain things clear to the public about what the preliminary investigation was already revealing.
Back in 1972, when they first pinned a badge on me, I was told that we were the keepers of the secrets of the community. We owed the suspect/defendant and the victim alike their rights to privacy. We learned to say, “No comment” to reporters. “It will all come out in court.”
What I realized early on and have preached to brother and sister cops in the decades since is that this doesn’t work when the cops themselves become the accused. An accusation of wrongdoing that goes unanswered is seen as a silent plea of nolo contendere, which translates roughly from the Latin as “we do not contest the charge against us.” The general public doesn’t see much difference between that and a plea of Guilty…and “pleading nolo” generally results in a penalty remarkably similar to what would accompany an actual Guilty verdict.
On the evening of the 25th, on CNN, I watched Anderson Cooper speak as an impartial voice of reason alongside Mark O’Mara, who has performed much the same function for that network since he became a resident specialist there on legal issues. The clarity with which Missouri prosecutor Robert McCullogh explained the evidence the grand jury reviewed leading to their decision was ignored by those who came to Ferguson to act out – they started running toward their long-planned violent goal before they could have possibly heard it. Their minds were made up, and they didn’t want to be distracted by facts. But the reporters had to listen – cramming sleeplessly on the long transcript of what the grand jury had heard, or at least, what their research assistants gave them in digest form – and could no longer ignore the reality.
A four-way dialogue included O’Mara, Cooper, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and Sunny Hostin. Toobin, apparently, had been convinced by the conjunction of the fact evidence and the eyewitness testimony of several African-American eyewitnesses with the account of the officer who pulled the trigger, and who spoke publicly last night for the first time on ABC. Only Sunny Hostin, who had been one of the leaders of the CNN “lynch the defendant” mob in both the Zimmerman trial last year and the Wilson hearing this year, disputed the facts that had come into evidence. The other three seemed incredulous, and she looked almost embarrassed to find herself still defending the now-discredited narrative of helpless child gunned down by racist cop. “He was unarmed,” she all but screamed, and seemed oblivious when O’Mara explained that when Brown was killed, he was lunging for the cop’s gun for the second time.
As I watched the prosecutor live, announcing the grand jury’s verdict, I watched the ripple of rage go through the crowd outside, seen on the CNN split-screen. Soon, the rocks and bottles were flying, there were gunshots (apparently not from the police side), a police car wrecked by the riotous, drawing a volley of tear gas. Then buildings were burning, and the looting was underway.
There was fear in the voices of many news folks reporting from the scene. One seemed surprised when he said that some of the “protesters” were trying to restrain some of the “agitators.” What a teachable moment: watching a journalist realize that when the thrown missiles are coming in his direction, protesters turn into agitators.
The agitators were already moving into their long-pre-planned assault on society, before the prosecutor could even begin his explanation of the reasoning behind the decision of the grand jury, who he described as the only people who had seen all the evidence there was to present. They weren’t there for truth. They weren’t there for justice. They were there for a lynching, in my view.
Because we all KNOW there’s going to be more than “one part” to whatever happens when the Grand Jury announces their determination of the facts based on the testimony they’ve spent so long hearing.
As we all wait on tenterhooks for the determination of the Grand Jury, and for what happens next, we have to consider some basic facts.
Intelligence from the field has told Missouri’s Governor Nixon that he needs to call out the National Guard and have them ready.
Agenda-driven outside protesters are already there, and have been poised for quite some time. The protesters’ alliance encompasses many of the usual suspects in the race-baiting-for-money world, and more. In a New Thing, the protesters have issued Rules of Engagement that they, uh, demand that the police follow: No protective gear allowed for cops, more than they’d usually wear, that sort of thing. Uh, yeah…
Here’s a hint: when YOU propose “Rules of Engagement,” YOU are preparing to ENGAGE.
Some of the “protesters” are on the internet requesting donations of things like gas masks and, I’m told, even bullet-proof vests. Huh. Wonder what they’re planning to draw upon themselves…
I am hearing, “Don’t worry. It will be a peaceful demonstration.” This from the same people who are talking about blocking highways (in bitterly cold winter weather) and keeping people from getting to and from work, ambulances from getting to hospitals, fire trucks from getting to fires, people from arriving at or departing from the St. Louis International Airport, etc. Keeping parents from picking up kids at school, and causing parents and kids alike who can’t make that connection, to panic.
I’m sorry, but that sounds to me very much like “disturbing the peace.” Can anyone tell me how disturbing the peace of people who are not involved in the thing you are protesting is NOT a crime? Can anyone tell me how, by definition, disturbing the peace is PEACEFUL?
Both sides seem to expect a verdict exonerating the officer who pulled the trigger. If it goes that way, I sincerely hope that people who have invested themselves heavily in potential violence protesting that verdict experience a sudden attack of massive self-control, and don’t do it.
But, a long cynicism-producing life tells me that this is not the most likely outcome.
If things “go south,” I can think of at least one cop (not me) who has suggested flamethrowers.
Many more observers, looking at the frigid weather in the Ferguson/St. Louis area – which many of us “in the business” believe may be a factor in the announcement being delayed this long – are of the opinion that fire hoses could come into play if extreme mob violence has to be contained.
I’m not recommending fire hoses, mind you, but given that the police in Ferguson have been shot at repeatedly since this whole thing began, and to the best of my knowledge the cops haven’t thrown anything but gas and rubber back, if things go violent a Night of the Frozen Ice Protesters might be preferable to another Kent State.
It is significant that both of those potential mass murders was cut short by swift action. In New York, two of the blindsided cops went down badly hurt, and then the other two ended the “ax attack” with a hail of 9mm Gold Dot +P bullets from their service pistols. In Oklahoma, the carnage was terminated when the guy in charge of the workplace shot the jihadist down. The businessman who performed the heroic rescue happened to be a reserve law enforcement officer who had his patrol rifle accessible. Was he an armed citizen, or a cop? In my view, he was both, and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is, a good guy with a gun was there to stop a bad guy obviously bent on mass murder.
This morning, I saw a talking head on national TV news ask the incredibly stupid question, “Should we take this threat seriously?”
On the first weekend of November, I shot my last major “run-and-gun” match of the year, the Citrus Challenge IDPA tournament (www.idpa.com) mentioned earlier in this blog. This past weekend, I shot what I expect to be my last major “stand in one place and shoot the damn gun” match, a Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (www.gssfonline.com) event in St. Augustine, Florida.
Had a great time at both, learned lessons at both. At Citrus Challenge, it was reinforced for me that when you get old, the “running” slows down before the “gunning.”
At St. Augustine, I was reminded – not for the first time this year, or ever – that if you want to perform well at a tournament, you really ought to train for it. Entered in five “gun categories” at the Glock Shoot, each of which consists of three shooting stages, I shot my average on the cardboard targets but was sloppy and off-pace on the steel plate stage. I haven’t shot the “Bianchi Plates” all year except at four matches, and it showed. Pace is particularly critical on reaction targets. I had come back from a deposition in a fatal shooting case on the opposite coast barely in time to get caught up on work mail, and put the guns into the car before the match.
Another lesson: my job requires me to do some shooting almost every week, and that at least keeps you consistent. In this case, the consistent performance gave me a “gentleman’s C” overall grade that kept me from having to go into therapy or anything, but also showed that consistency can be the key to mediocrity.
On the plus side, my Significant Other is on a roll. The preliminary results show that she was high female in the Civilian event.
My final lesson: I should model on Frank Butler. He was the 19th Century marksman who challenged Annie Oakley to a shooting match. She kicked his butt; he saw his future; and he devoted the rest of his life to being her manager.
Of course, Ms. Oakley may have been more manageable than my Significant Other…