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Alleged Ferguson Police Shooter is a Nightmare For Police Reform

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Every activist organization in the forefront of the protests over the police killing of Michael Brown quickly issued a statement, or called a press conference, and that included the family of Brown. They roundly condemned the assault on the two Ferguson police officers by alleged gunman, Jeffrey Williams. Some didn't stop there, they went further, much further, and made it clear that they wanted just as badly as police officials to catch the shooter. Almost certainly some of the tips and leads that investigators got that led them to Williams came from some community residents who almost certainly were in sympathy with the protests over the slaying of Brown by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCullough said as much when he thanked the public for its cooperation in the hunt.

The Ferguson police protest groups did not instantly and actively denounce the shooting at police officers solely condolences to damp down the manic misguided and self-serving finger-point by some police groups and conservative talking heads at police violence protestors, Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama, and the Brown family for creating a climate that aided and abetted the alleged shooter.

As in the murder of two New York police officers in December, when the family of Eric Garner, and every protest organization, vehemently condemned the killings, the reasons for their swift denunciation were the same. It was morally the right thing to do because a murder whether of an officer or civilian is still a senseless and appalling act that must be condemned. Despite the ugly glare tossed on Ferguson, and other police department, and some police officers that have killed civilians in dubious circumstances, the overwhelming majority of police officers are dedicated, conscientious public servants who genuinely are committed to protecting communities from crime and violence; black lives matter, but most engaged in civil rights activism know that police lives matter too. There is the recognition that officers do face real dangers.

There is always the real fear among protestors that all it takes is the crazed act of one unhinged individual to derail the growing recognition on the part of a wide body of the public and many public officials that police violence is a major legal and public policy issue that cannot be ignored. Indeed a day before the Ferguson shooting, the Justice Department had issued one of the most scathing indictments of a police department in living memory. That led directly to the resignation of Ferguson's police chief, the Ferguson city manager, and the first step toward a real commitment by Ferguson officials to pledge to make reforms. The Ferguson reform recommendations by the Justice Department simply added to recommendation already on the table for reforms in departments nationwide. They include the full authorization and use of body cameras, a grand jury system overhaul, the systematic tracking of the number of civilians killed by police officers, the appointment of independent investigators and prosecutors in officer involved shootings, and a revamp of policies and procedures on the use of and punishment of excessive force violations by officers.

The great peril danger is that these disconnected, mindless acts of individuals with no involvement in the protests that target police officers could quickly wipe the progress made off the board. Even more, there's the deep fear that lone nut violence could heighten tensions between police, many of whom are already edgy, and minority communities. The killings could harden the attitudes of some police officers, thicken the thin blue line into a siege mentality of us versus them. This could have deadly consequences on the streets and put even more civilians in harm's way if police officers feel that their only recourse in a conflict situation, no matter how innocuous it may seem, is to resort to deadly force. This would escalate the vicious cycle of violence and more violence as the accepted way to handle police-civilian encounters.

The killing of a police officer always stirs anger, outrage and fear among many officers who instantly identify with and feel the pain of a slain officer. In fact, there has been a rise in the number of officers killed in 2014 by gunfire. Despite the reckless effort by some to blame police protests for the rise in on-officer assaults, there is absolutely no evidence to support that. But that won't stop any from still trying to make a fallacious case for that.

The Ferguson police protest groups took the high road when they instantly condemned the shootings and made clear that anyone who takes the law in their hands and targets cops is a sworn enemy of their movement for justice and reform. In other words, the alleged shooter, Williams is not just a nightmare for police. He is a nightmare for those that fight for justice and reform too.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. His new book is: From King to Obama: Witness to a Turbulent History (Middle Passage Press)

He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.

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Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a nationally acclaimed author and political analyst. He has authored ten books; his articles are published in newspapers and magazines nationally in the United States. Three of his books have been published in other (more...)
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