No one knows whether the shooting of Michael Brown was justified. Forensic evidence should give us a better idea of what happened on that fateful afternoon. But we can pass judgment already on the negligent response of local officials to the young teenager’s death.
The first ingredient in this toxic brew was a police force that was radically different from the people they are paid to serve and protect. It’s hard to practice what experts call community policing when your force looks nothing like the community they patrol.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has been a champion of community policing. It is a strategy designed to get the community invested in keeping city streets safe. The chokehold death of Eric Gardner shows that New York cops aren’t perfect but the bank of trust that Bratton’s approach has built up keep NYC protests over the killing peaceful. As Al Sharpton said while calling for peace at the New York rally, “We are not against the police.” That’s because many come from the same communities they are policing.