There are few more fraught issues in American public life than the question of police shootings — especially police shootings of black men. I’ve written about the issue time and time again and have come to believe not only that too many American police officers resort to deadly force too quickly but also that there is an unacceptable pro-police bias in our criminal-justice system. There is also evidence that race plays a more malignant role in policing than many of us hoped.
Indeed, while we must of course remember the DOJ’s report exonerating Darren Wilson, we should also remember that there was a second DOJ report in 2015 that found systematic misconduct at the Ferguson Police Department, misconduct that disproportionately affected Ferguson’s black citizens. I urge you to read both reports, and if you read the second report with an open mind, you’ll almost certainly come to believe that Ferguson’s black residents possessed legitimate grievances against their police department.
That’s the complicated nation we inhabit, but the complexity does not mean there aren’t simple obligations that attach to every politician, activist, and member of the media. And the simplest of those obligations is a commitment to the truth. We know that lies and falsehoods can cause riots. They can cause city blocks to burn. They can destroy a man’s life. At the very least, they can further embitter an already toxic public discourse. When issues are most fraught, the obligation of courageous, honest leadership is most imperative.