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August 16, 2014

Contemplating Missouri.

Police at War in Ferguson.preview

Do the police always “get their man” or even the “right man”?

They clearly do not. Is the approach to policing, investigation and arrest as balanced and fair as possible?

The fatal shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown, an unarmed black male in the Ferguson suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, by an unidentified police officer, raises many questions. According to a witness, Michael was shot with his hands held up in the air.

This is shocking, but shines a light on deeper issues known but not addressed for decades. Violent crime, and crime in general, is most often determined by poverty and in areas where there is either a poor black neighborhood or a Spanish speaking one—individuals within those “hoods” more often than not are perceived indiscriminately as criminals by police.

It has also been known for decades that the most effective solutions to crime are education, job training and targeted social programs promoting greater social inclusion.

The over-representation of black Americans in the criminal justice system is an indication that such education, job-training and inclusive social programs are not happening. 

Police dispatched to solve noise problems, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, theft, robbery, marital violence, rape and other social and economic problems are ill-equipped themselves to deal with such things, lacking the skill sets that an unbiased education could afford.

Furthermore, many of these problems would have been better served earlier in the game by improved, more active social services. Thus police often have poor results, considering the chronic potential for the above problems and their tendency to stereotype and target young black men.

It is also true that police are caught between the safety and decency expectations of civilians, and the messy, unpleasant core functions of their job. But would their job be so messy if, in black neighborhoods, their ranks included a significant number of black men and women? Would it be so challenging if they were taught and trained to communicate respect for the dignity of all people?

These questions are worth contemplating while listening to the weeklong news of protests and riots coming out of Missouri.

Another question for America as a whole: Are municipal, county, state and the federal governments making genuine efforts to promote innovative and inclusive social and economic programs?

Until these representative governments do, we will be contemplating not just Missouri, but misery and how unnecessary racial injustice is!

Armed with assault rifles and gas masks, rubber bullets and tear gas, military police with sniper rifles atop armored vehicles send a message of mistrust, harassment and intimidation. A black woman pastor has already been shot in the stomach while trying to keep protestors peaceful. Even journalists have been hit by rubber bullets and a TV crew has been tear-gassed. 

This has been the unskillful police response to Michael’s murder. Yes, African-Americans were outraged and some looted the evening after his death. But for the most part the police response has been over-kill. Do not these citizens have the right to free speech, peaceful protest and demonstrations?

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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Google Images Labeled for Reuse, Google Images Labeled for Reuse (Stepfather of Michael Brown)

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