Regular readers will understand why I’ve waited until now to talk about the recent police-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, the resultant cop-killing atrocity in Dallas, and the other deadly ripples we’re seeing spread from it all. That’s because regular readers know one tenet here is to wait until information is in from both sides before we judge and condemn.
Our President, whom we are told once taught Constitutional Law, implied to the nation and the world that the two officer-involved shootings were bad acts, yet as details slowly emerge we find that in both cases the cops apparently shot armed men who appeared to be reaching for guns…men who, the cops had reason to believe even before each contact was made, might well be armed and dangerous.
We are seeing marchers turning violent. We are seeing them block highways, not just keeping decent working people from getting to work and home from work, but potentially blocking ambulances from saving innocent lives. All so those marchers can “make a point” and feel good about themselves for doing something they think is positive.
At the Denver airport today, I read in the Denver Post of a 14-year-old black youth who said he would run if he saw police, for fear they would murder him, because he had been led to believe that cops were epidemically murdering innocent black people for no reason. When you run from police, you arouse their suspicion and, in the Supreme Court’s guiding Illinois v. Wardlow decision, give them Reasonable Articulable Suspicion that warrants their pursuit of the fleeing person. Things have now escalated. Being chased by the police will seem to confirm the false fear that police want to kill that young boy, and if he panics and does something stupid and things get violent…the cycle of tragedy will continue. Whoever told that kid to react that way should be ashamed.
For decades, I’ve spoken against the old paradigm of law enforcement that says, “We don’t discuss our cases in the press, it will all come out in court.” It’s a paradigm born in the responsibility of the officers to remember that those we arrest are innocent until proven guilty, and we can’t defame them and bring heartbreak to their loved ones until they have been adjudicated in a court of law. But when it is the police who are the accused, their silence and reticence to tell their side of what happened is seen by the public as a plea of no contest and, sadly, as an admission of guilt. Within 24 hours of a shooting like the ones in Louisiana and Minnesota, the investigators generally have a damn good idea of what happened. If the police had “gotten ahead of the meme” by publicly stating what the investigation showed thus far had actually occurred, might these ripples of tragedy have been prevented?
There is still much to be revealed. “The truth is out there” … but not “out there” to the public and in the media. Much of the “breaking news” that people acted upon was “broken news.” And, I fear, those ripples of violence have not yet settled in the troubled waters in which our nation is now swimming.
Your discussion here is welcome.