Michael Brown Murder Uncovers Deeply Flawed Local Policing

Michael Brown Protesters - Hands in the Air - Don't Shoot

I have worked very hard to avoid dealing with the Michael Brown murder in Missouri. I feel helpless. This kind of thing happens all the time. Last year, in my hometown, Andy Lopez was killed by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for real. The officer shot Lopez seven times in six seconds. The authorities looked into it and decided that the office acted appropriately. And if you check the internet about the killing, most of what you will see is that Lopez was high on cannabis, as though that has anything to do with the situation.

At this point, it seems that the police can kill anyone who isn’t white, and somehow it will be decided that the murder was proper. There is apparently an unwritten law against living in the United States with a dark skin color. And the maximum penalty is death. So when I heard about the murder of Michael Brown, I just turned away. Yet another example of what probably happens all the time. It is just that most of the cases get no coverage.

In the case of Brown’s murder, I suspect that the officer will get at least some punishment. He might even go to jail. But this won’t work as any kind of deterrent. Police officers will just see that whether their bad behavior is punished or not is just a question of bad luck; most of the time nothing at all happens. So what does it matter? Will anything change? I don’t really think so. As a nation we have decided that the police have a job that is so dangerous (it isn’t) that they can do anything they want. It’s actually funny in a way, because all their violence and body armor and tanks just show that they are a bunch of wimps. Does a real man panic and put seven bullets in a boy because he doesn’t immediate respond to the officer’s command? Of course not.

I’ve been very pleased to hear how people are protesting by putting their hands in the air and saying, “Don’t shoot!” Of course, the reaction of the local police to the protests have shown that the entire force is made up of a bunch of fearful white people who are afraid of the scary blacks. Is that too much? Of Ferguson’s 53 police officers, 48 are white, and only three are black. According to The Los Angeles Times:

Blacks make up 65% of Ferguson’s population, yet they accounted for 86% of traffic stops, 93% of arrests after stops and 92% of searches after stops in the city last year, according to a racial profiling report by the Missouri attorney general.

When stopped by police, blacks in Ferguson were twice as likely as whites to be arrested—even though police found contraband for 34% of whites they stopped and searched, versus 22% of blacks—said Scott Decker, a criminologist on a team contracted by the attorney general’s office to compile the data.

So Ferguson’s police department has major problems and the murder of Michael Brown is just the event that made it widely known. But as the protests go on and the police continue to act as scared bullies, I am reminded of the Bruce Cockburn song “Nicaragua.” In that, he sings, “In the flash of this moment, you’re the best of what we are. Don’t let them stop you now…” Here’s hoping things get worked out soon:

Las personas vive en la lucha por la paz!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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