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Above the Law: Ferguson and Eric Garner

Eric Garner Grand Jury

Above the Law: Ferguson and Eric Garner

Today it’s back to one of my least favorite topics: the police. And I don’t say that out of disrespect, because I always stand by my refrain that a good officer of the law is one of the most honorable people you will ever meet.

I say it’s my least favorite because we should never encounter these issues, especially the one I’ve spoken to before with police and racial profiling. People should behave better, especially people put in a position of authority.

Now police, just like the rest of us non-cop folks, are going to make mistakes. When they do however, they need to be held accountable. Yes, they work under a different state of duress than most people, and they are granted a little more leeway because of it, but when the final result is an unnecessary killing, that’s unacceptable.

Holding police accountable, just like holding anyone accountable for something they should not do, will lessen the instances of abuse.  In contrast, not holding them accountable will increase the instances and foster an “above the law” mentality, which we see way too much of right now (especially since we need ZERO of that mentality).

This is common sense, nothing crazy. Parents use the same technique when raising their children. Companies do it all the time with their employees. Nothing new here.

Before I go into the police conundrum, and how I think we need to address it, let me touch on the Grand Jury briefly. There are different arguments to be made in both the Michael Brown case and the Eric Garner case, with the Eric Garner case actually being pretty cut and dry — that the officer should have been held much more accountable than he was. You can, too a fair degree, argue race out of the equation in relation to the incidents themselves.

I’ve heard lots of white people going into a tizzy over race baiting, especially in the Eric Garner situation where the supervisor on scene was black. I understand that, I’ll even gladly give you that… but then you need to wake up to the fact that when it comes to a Grand Jury, color blatantly becomes a factor. In our justice system in general, color blatantly becomes a factor.

Even with just the Eric Garner case, the white cop gets a slap on the wrist, while the video camera operator gets the book thrown at him. Not sure if the accusations against him were true or not, but it looks pretty damn sketchy when something like that all of a sudden pops up right when the guy goes viral for taping an involuntary manslaughter.

Just saying – that case is all there for you to see, right on video with all the horrific details (it makes me physically ill to watch it), and yet still… no indictment. That’s not justice.  And it’s also more than color – it’s the Grand Jury always feeling reluctant to prosecute police officers, which it has to stop, or else that “above the law” mentality will just continue to grow.

Can we fix it? Damn skippy we can fix it!  We can fix anything if we all get behind doing the right thing, and here are the 4 keys I think can make a huge difference.

#1 – Cameras. We need the truth told every time, and for the police, that requires on-body cameras. It needs to be made a federal law, ASAP, both to protect the citizens from bad cops, and to protect the good cops from bad citizens. Open, shut, move on. Get cameras – NOW!

#2 – Situational Training.  The kind that teaches an officer how to act under duress, how to stay focused under adrenaline so that both the officer, and the person in question, are safer. Oh, and how to incapacitate someone that is 20 feet away from you without shooting them in the head. Twice. That’s a really good place to start.

#3 – Police/Community Crossover.  I’m putting together a program for this via Change The World Films, because it needs to start yesterday. Police need contact with all the good citizens who are NOT the enemy, and the citizens need to learn respect and a comfort zone for the good police in their neighborhood.

It’s a two-way street that’s been barricaded from traffic for way too long.

#4 – Refining Police Laws.  It cannot be acceptable for police to have this above-the-law carte blanche when it comes to protecting and serving the populace. If you read the grand jury depositions, you likely noticed that Officer Wilson was backed up by his own declaration that he felt his life threatened by the unarmed teenager still many feet away from him.

With cameras and better training in the mix to better protect everyone, police can no longer be given that level of protection, cameras or no cameras. If a police officer drinks way too many Red Bulls one day and suddenly mistakes the a 6 foot 4 man running at him brandishing a copy of The Watchtower as “a threat to his life”, the law can’t protect that kind of insanity.

I’m not saying don’t protect police, because they deal with a level of danger that most of the citizens they protect do NOT, but we can’t keep letting stone cold killing sneak by with a slap of the wrist.

If you put those 4 things together ASAP, we won’t likely ever see another Ferguson and Eric Garner.

Center aligned image An Eric Garner protester speaks without words

Finally, back to Ferguson and all of the chaos that ensued afterward – where I think there was much more racism in the events that followed than there was in the actual exchange between Wilson and Brown. I don’t normally tread here because I’m white, and just because I have a deeper perspective than many white people I know, that doesn’t mean a whole lot when trying to talk from a place I can never truly be.

I can’t walk a mile in the shoes of a black man. I walked maybe 1/10 of a block back in high school, and it was enough to open my eyes, but to walk much longer requires a true perspective I can’t attain. So when I say this, understand that I DO recognize. That I am not pretending to be something I am not.

Instead, all I’m saying below is what I think I would say if I were the parent of a black son. It may be of little worth, but where things are right now, I’m willing to put this out there.

First, I’d say don’t you dare get discouraged. Too much has changed for the better in the past 60+ years to ever get discouraged. Then, I’d say if you ever know anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to riot, you better set them straight or go get someone else who can.

We don’t need that kind of “progress” in this country or anywhere else. And then, I’d say be careful around the law. There are good police, yes, but there are bad police and there are under-trained police as well who may be good or bad, but still make terrible mistakes. And you can’t ever let yourself be one of those mistakes.

Right now, the truth in this country is that blacks are targeted by the law more than whites, and until we balance things out, it’s your duty to me, your mama, your family and friends to NOT make any trouble with police. And, in reality, it’s your burden, for now, to be 110% extra careful around police even though you are NOT making any trouble, because they may think you are making trouble even when you aren’t!

But don’t be scared… be calm. Be confident. And recognize that many people before you carried much bigger burdens vs. authority than you will carry today.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s an American story of racism that we, in the 21st century, need to end in the United States of America together – and not just for America’s sake, but for the sake of the one TRUE race… the human race.

We need to stop letting this insidious and nonsensical idea of a person’s skin color even enter the conversation as a point of power or lack thereof. Heritage, yes. Cultural pride, of course. A point of power, intimidation, or privilege? Hell no. Never.

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