Some random thoughts on last night in Ferguson.
"Burn this sh*t down." That's what Louis Head, Michael Brown's stepfather said, after the decision of the grand jury was announced.
After going to sleep with the city of Ferguson in flames, with looting and police cars melting, I thought of the history of the Occupy movement, how we now know that the Obama-directed department of Homeland Security coordinated with police and fusion centers to make things worse.
I suspect that some of the people wearing masks, doing damage and instigating trouble at Occupy locales, were police, FBI, or assets they recruited. And I suspect similar things were being set in place as preparations for the announcement of the grand jury decision in Ferguson was were happening, that making the announcement after dark was partially based on this plan. Why? To justify the past and future actions of the police, for starters. To marginalize the actions and responses of the protesters, to solidify the attitudes and beliefs of the white Americans who already felt that Officer Wilson did no wrong because of the danger he was in.
"...I join Michael's parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully. Let me repeat Michael's father's words: "Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son's death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone."
"We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen."
"Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera. We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction. Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference."
"You are too much of a p*ssy to shoot me."
"What I take away from the Prosecutor's lengthy report is that the interactions between Brown and Wilson resemble something out of a grade D movie. It suggests that the officer knew the victim, perhaps from previous incidents, and that he had a score to settle, see in particular the description of the cop driving alongside the victim and having a running dialogue.
Later the cop is sitting in his car where he is 'assaulted' by the victim whois standing outside the door. He then fires his gun, hitting the victim in the thumb - and leaving a trace in the door. Subsequently, the two face each other on foot.
This does not sound like a cop responding to a police message about 'a suspect' in a robbery of a few cigarillos!"
"Fatal Encounters is intended to help create a database of all deaths through police interaction in the United States since Jan. 1, 2000. A large piece will be based on public information requests, but the bulk of it--the part that will make it sustain after the structure is built--will use crowdsourcing to update the database.
That's a great, bottom-up approach. But they're doing a job that the government should be doing, just like the government should be tracking deaths and injuries caused by guns-- but which they don't do because of NRA lobbying.
The Washington Post has a great article by Jenny Durkan, As a federal prosecutor, I know how hard it is to charge officers like Darren Wilson, which describes a similar situation in Seattle, where a deaf Native American wood carver holding a knife was shot dead in 2010. A jury decided the cop who shot the man was innocent, even though it was proven there was no threat. But Durkan tells how things didn't end there:
But broad and enduring change was still possible. Even where individual criminal cases cannot be brought against an officer, a system that fosters unconstitutional policing can be corrected.
We reviewed voluminous documents and data, conducted dozens of interviews and meetings with both community members and law enforcement. Eventually, our other investigation concluded the Seattle Police Department had a pattern of using unconstitutional force and found troubling evidence that it acted with racial bias.
Eventually changes were instituted and are still being implemented and tweaked. There ought to be a way to identify problems with police policies and cultures BEFORE innocent people are killed.
Let's not forget about the growing awareness of the problem of systematic, policy-based police thievery, called "asset seizure," as Vice reports in this article, The Police Can Take Your Cash Without Charging You with a Crime. This outrageous behavior, which consultants actually train police departments in how to do, is another example of police gone wild, another reason why there is so much pent-up rage about police.
I'd like to see some signs that there are still good cops-- cops who don't keep silent when other police commit crimes, when police departments engage in gross theft. I know they are out there. They should be protected as whistleblowers and rewarded and honored.
Then there are the media flacks who pontificate that justice was served. Really? if it had, then, just for starters, prosecutor McCulloch, with so many police ties, would have recused himself and the jury would have had the same percentage of blacks as represent the community.
Last night was horrible. But good can come from it.