Quotes of the day

The fear among some local residents and officials trying to maintain peace in Ferguson is that failure to charge the officer could stoke new anger among a community profoundly mistrustful of the legal system. Many say they just hope the grand jury’s decision, whatever it is, has irrefutable facts to back it up…

This officer has to be indicted. I’d hate to see what happens if he isn’t. The rioting, the looting, man …,” said resident Larry Loveless, 29, as he stopped at the memorial for Brown where he was killed…

Considering the racial tensions of the case, even the makeup of the grand jury was being closely scrutinized. Two black women and one black man are on the 12-member panel, along with six white men and three white women, said Paul Fox, director of judicial administration for St. Louis County Circuit Court.


An online fund-raising drive for the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot an unarmed African-American teenager to death on Aug. 9 surpassed $300,000 by Saturday afternoon, as dozens of people gathered at a St. Louis pub to rally on the lawman’s behalf…

Participants in the rally wore T-shirts with a logo in the form of a police shield that said, “Officer Darren Wilson I Stand With You.” They were marked “8.9.14” for the date of the shooting. One attendee paid $200 for the shirt, the organizer said.

Organizers of the rally said the proceeds would help relocate Officer Wilson’s family and support him because he was unlikely to be able to work on the streets of Ferguson again. It would also help him if he were to be indicted or sued, she said.


Williams doesn’t have much confidence.

“Look at the make-up of the grand jury – nine whites and three blacks,” he said. “They don’t intend to do anything about Michael Brown’s death. That’s what’s so poor. That cop, he’ll be back on the streets as a cop again in 60 to 90 days.”…

There’s particular disillusionment over the manner in which a part of St Louis’s white population has rallied to support Wilson, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the police officer.

“It’s like hitting the lottery,” said a man who gave his name as Walter G. “You kill a black and make $200,000. If he had gone to Montana and shot an elk he would have had to pay for it. Here he can [get] paid to shoot a black.”


The police, the courts and experts say some leeway is necessary in situations where officers under crushing stress must make split-second decisions with life-or-death consequences. A large majority of officers never use their weapons. A handful of officers may be rogue killers, researchers say, but laboratory simulations of armed confrontations show that many more officers — much like ordinary civilians — can make honest mistakes in the pressure cooker of an armed encounter…

“It’s a very simple analysis, a threat analysis,” said Geoffrey P. Alpert, a University of South Carolina professor and expert on high-risk police activities. “If a police officer has an objectively reasonable fear of an imminent threat to his life or serious bodily harm, he or she is justified in using deadly force. And not just his life, but any life.”…

“People have to make a decision before there’s enough time to study everything about the situation and what all the possible consequences could be,” he said. “Even if a cop does everything right in a very fast-paced, low-information situation where the risks are very high, the potential consequences of a mistake are very high.”


In a cosmic sense, the facts of the matter are rather unfair. Having been shot dead, Michael Brown will never be able to tell his side of the story; Officer Wilson, by contrast, will be treated to all of the perks of civilization — among them deference to the right of self-defense, due process, presumption of innocence, the right to be tried by one’s peers, and the blessings of reasonable doubt. Through a certain lens, this imbalance looks a little like a recipe for killing with impunity. Because the dead can never speak — and because the system compels our authorities to demonstrate to a high standard that those that they have accused are guilty — it is tempting to wonder whether our institutions favor the aggressors.

And yet, realistically speaking, we really have no choice but to do so. I understand well just how frustrating and unsatisfying it can be to hear people suggest that they believe that George Zimmerman acted stupidly and that they do not know whether his account was true, but that he nonetheless had to walk free. But I cannot see any tolerable alternative. Unless we wish to abolish all that we hold dear — for everyone, remember, not just white cops from Missouri — we cannot summarily convict suspects because the world seems unfair, nor can we somehow exempt the difficult cases. The sad truth is that if you have a system in which innocence is presumed and the state’s burden of proof is high, you are always going to get anomalies. That is the nature of negative rights. Do privacy protections sometimes help criminals? Of course. Have double-jeopardy prohibitions allowed the guilty to walk? Naturally. Does a preference for human liberty in an imperfect world yield unfortunate, even tragic outcomes from time to time? Indeed so. Should we give that preference up in consequence? Absolutely not.

Which is to say that when grieving and angry protesters complain that Officer Wilson will now be treated to all of the benefits of the doubt that he did not give Michael Brown, they are, in a sense, correct.


The Washington Post has convicted Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown, of guilt by association with a former troubled police force in a different town in a prior job than the one he held in Ferguson, MO, and of having parents who were in trouble with the law…

There is nothing, zero, nada, in the WaPo story linked below that shows Darren Wilson ever did anything wrong himself. In fact, to the extent his own conduct is even mentioned, it’s in the context of staying out of trouble…

Why would WaPo focus its story on racial problems with the police department in a different town in a prior job when Wilson himself is not accused by WaPo of participating or doing anything wrong?


“The delay [in removing Michael Brown’s body from the crime scene] helped fuel the outrage,” said Patricia Bynes, a committeewoman in Ferguson. “It was very disrespectful to the community and the people who live there. It also sent the message from law enforcement that ‘we can do this to you any day, any time, in broad daylight, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ ”

Two weeks after Mr. Brown’s death, interviews with law enforcement officials and a review of police logs make clear that a combination of factors, some under police control and some not, contributed to the time lapse in removing his body…

And officials were contending with what they described as “sheer chaos” on Canfield Drive, where bystanders, including at least one of Mr. Brown’s relatives, frequently stepped inside the yellow tape, hindering investigators. Gunshots were heard at the scene, further disrupting the officers’ work…

Experts in policing said there was no standard for how long a body should remain at a scene, but they expressed surprise at how Mr. Brown’s body had been allowed to remain in public view.


[W]hen there’s a black victim involved, the information takes a different and predictable turn: The victim becomes thuggified. This is an easy leap for many minds, given the widespread expectation of black criminality. If you become nervous when you see a young black male approaching on the street, it is not hard to convince you that a kid who was shot was not one of the “good ones,” that he was scary and maybe did something to deserve it. Information wars thrive on America’s empathy gap — the way some people struggle to see any kinship or shared humanity with strangers who don’t look like them…

Most of us have something in our pasts we would not want revealed. And for black Americans, those facts too often are used to suggest that victims of injustice don’t deserve justice, because they weren’t some sort of credit to their race. In a nation where police often approach black communities with a dragnet, stopping and frisking everyone, marking as many black men as possible with a record, it would be hard to find a black male who looks like an angel.

But it doesn’t matter whether Brown was an angel. He was young and growing and human, and he made mistakes. That’s okay. The real question is not: Was Brown a good kid? The real question is: How are police officers supposed to treat citizens? California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, has put it well: “Our penal code was not created just to protect Snow White.”


Simply stated, it is impermissible for federal investigations to be commenced in the absence of colorable suspicion based on solid evidence. Yet, despite the absence of any suggestion that Darren Wilson is a racist, we know he has been made the subject of a civil-rights investigation. Obama-administration officials may not yet suspect that Nidal Hasan’s 2009 jihadist mass murder of 13 American soldiers was a terrorist attack, or that the Muslim Brotherhood is anything but a “largely secular” organization. They may have given the benefit of the doubt to Assad (the “reformer”), Iran (our good faith negotiating partner), Al Sharpton (Holder’s civil-rights adviser), and the IRS (not a “smidgeon” of corruption). But not to Darren Wilson. No sooner had the looting followed the shooting than Holder ceremoniously announced a Justice Department civil-rights murder probe.

Based solely on Wilson’s race.

It is ironic at first blush. Holder, after all, is the self-proclaimed scourge of racial profiling. Over the years, he has been a prominent Lawyer Left voice for the idea that institutional racism explains the lopsided representation of black men in the population of American convicts (with strangely less concern for the lopsided representation of black communities among crime victims). The CAIR-driven Muslim grievance sector also has the attorney general’s ear: It has become verboten to make the commonsense observation that Islamic doctrine just might have something to do with terrorism plotted against the United States throughout the past quarter-century by Muslims — that all those “smite their necks” verses just might shed some light on the decapitation of American journalists.

So how could Holder be what he purports to abhor, a racial profiler? It is because his selectively zealous anti-racism is the necessary flipside of his race obsession.


For very good reasons, a conviction is unlikely either in state or federal criminal court. As any television viewer knows, American justice requires that all elements of charges be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a person of a crime. Suppose Missouri prosecutors charge Wilson with the crime of reckless manslaughter. Given the facts as we know them at this moment, would you be willing to say beyond a reasonable doubt that they add up to the conclusion that Wilson drew his gun with reckless disregard for consequences, and not because he had a justifiable reason to do so? Perhaps, but actually it is not for you to say—unless you are on the jury. In the past, juries in such cases usually have been unable to decide unanimously, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether an officer reasonably believed his or her life to be in danger and thus was shooting in self-defense. So they rarely convict…

Nevertheless, the federal court that sits in St. Louis will surely be the forum for a civil lawsuit, as opposed to a criminal prosecution. The Brown family will sue for monetary compensation as hundreds do every year in federal courthouses across the nation. The Browns will claim that their son’s death was the result of unconstitutional “custom, policy, or practice” by the Ferguson Police Department in permitting racial discrimination to flourish in its official activity. This lawsuit will be decided under a lower and more easily met standard of proof: “preponderance of the evidence.”

Such a lawsuit will point the finger where it belongs—not at an individual officer, but at the department that employed him and the city government that staffs that department. Even more broadly and appropriately, it would shine a spotlight on a political system that creates neighborhoods like those of Ferguson where black residents lack any meaningful political participation locally, creating animosity between whites and blacks. There is a chance that deep soul-searching among these different populations after the civil disturbances of the past week will prompt them to search for common ground in reforming their police department and government.


It is difficult not to see a political strategy in the combination of Holder’s activism and, until recently, President Obama’s distance. A tricky electoral landscape awaits the Democratic party this fall. Avoiding losses will require a black vote running at maximum level, as it seldom does in midterm elections. The evenings of unrest are not riots, even if they have violent elements in them. They are protests. The protesters have a number of highly specific demands—and those who back them will be watching carefully to see if the administration helps the protesters realize them. First, they want Darren Wilson arrested. “Arrest Wilson and we can all go home!” people yell after night falls. Whatever the facts of the case—facts no one can yet make any pretense to know—this is a demand for “mob justice,” to use the mildest applicable expression…

[Gov. Jay] Nixon’s trepidation is striking. It is a sign that Missourians are looking at this episode differently than they have other racial explosions over the years. They are right to. Although there have been protests, riots, demonstrations, and uprisings throughout the half-century since Civil Rights legislation was passed, there has been one constant. The government has always been at the side of those seeking to restore public order. Now Obama and Holder have placed the government on the side of the uprising—or, to put it more neutrally, on the side of those who would restore order on the terms demanded by the uprising.

That changes the calculation of moderate and conservative voters. When people are assured the authorities will act to protect them from unrest, they can be extraordinarily generous. If they lose that assurance, they may respond differently. A recent Pew poll asks simply whether the unrest in Ferguson “raises important issues about race.” Eighty percent of blacks say it does, but only 37 percent of whites. That is extraordinary. To say something “raises important issues” is mush. Almost anything involving race “raises important issues.” To deny, as 63 percent of whites did, that a slaying that causes weeks of demonstrations tells us anything is evidence of truculence. The administration is pursuing a reckless strategy, hoping that it can present the barn-burning Holder as its face to the black community and the conciliatory Obama as its face to the white community, exploiting the very divisions it promises to heal.


The mathematics of civil disobedience has always been pretty straightforward: As Mohandas Gandhi pointed out to the raj, 100,000 government officials cannot control 350 million citizens if the citizens do not cooperate. There are not enough police in St. Louis County to control the people who do not wish to be controlled by the police in St. Louis County, as least as currently constituted. There are two ways to govern: By consent or by terror. In the United States, we govern by consent…

From the practice of slavery to the ideology of black nationalism, there always has been a strong current in black–white relations that is fundamentally adversarial, and the two races interact in some ways as though each were foreign to the other. To some extent, each defines itself in opposition to the other. Maybe there is no real reason why a black man in Ferguson should feel alienated by having a white mayor, any more than white Americans should feel alienated by having a black president. But the fact is that people do often feel that way, and that it is not limited to malignant racists. Even among people of good will, race often is an extra wrinkle that complicates relationships. And when one party in the relationship has guns, badges, and a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, that tension is intensified.

To consider Gandhi’s thinking again, he argued that any people would be more contented under a bad government of its own than under the good government of an alien people. (I have heard older Indians, in despair at their government, contest that sentiment.) One cannot help but detect a trace of that thinking in, for instance, the black-power politics of Detroit: The city’s government may be feckless and corrupt, but it is black, and that matters. (Though Detroit currently has a white mayor.) Ferguson’s government and police are overwhelmingly white in a town that isn’t. Maybe that should not matter, but it does. Though I should emphasize here that even if Gandhi’s notion applies and that the blacks and whites of Ferguson think of themselves as essentially alien peoples, the comparison fails in an important way: The black residents of Ferguson are not wondering what to do about a good white-dominated government, but what to do about a bad one…

If a town of 21,000 cannot be governed without consent, what of a country of 300 million?



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David Strom 12:31 PM on December 08, 2022