By Dave Lindorff
The apparent murder by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, of Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black youth who was shot a number of times while he was allegedly on his knees with his hands up in the air, pleading "Don't shoot, I'm not armed," is exposing everything that is wrong with policing in the US today.
The Ferguson Police Department, reportedly nearly all white, patrols a St. Louis suburban community that is largely African-American, which is already a recipe for disaster in a country that is drenched in racism. The Ferguson PD is also reportedly using the kind of aggressive policing -- arresting people over minor infractions -- that can quickly escalate into violent confrontations. In this case, it appears Brown's offense was jay-walking and perhaps talking back to the police officer -- the first being a citation offense, and the second not even illegal.
When this shooting happened, instead of immediately attempting to calm things down, the Ferguson Police Department went all paramilitary, sending massive numbers of up-armed cops in military gear into the community, backed by armored vehicles. They responded to understandable community protests with tear gas and, later, with solid wooden and rubber bullets designed to hurt and injure but not kill (though clearly at close range there is always that danger). Several more people have already been shot by police, leaving them in critical condition.
Adding to community outrage is the refusal by police to release the name of the officer responsible for killing Brown, or even to release the initial report of his autopsy -- both the kind information that would be readily available were the shooter not a police officer.
What's wrong here? So many things that it's hard to know where to begin.
First of all, unless an officer is under attack, or unless members of the public are threatened, there is simply no justification for a police officer to unholster a service revolver or worse, to fire at, a person who is allegedly committing some minor offense.
Nor, even after having fired shots, is there any justification for an officer to continue to fire at someone who is manifestly unarmed and who is not threatening anyone, as appears to have been the case when this officer continued to fire at the kneeling Brown.