The current upheaval in Ferguson, Missouri has finally drawn attention to two long-standing problems with law enforcement in the US. Police have been disproportionately arresting and shooting African-American males for decades. Imagine if a member of a predominately black police force shot an unarmed white teenager in a majority white city. How do you think white people would respond? How do you think it would be reported by the media, especially Fox News Channel?
How do you think our white majority would react if a black police officer choked a non-violent unarmed white man to death? How do you think white people would respond to seeing video of a black police officer viciously beating a defenseless white woman alongside the freeway?
The harrassment and mistreatment of African-Americans by white police officers in Ferguson is all too reminiscent of the civil rights movement I witnessed in the Fifties and Sixties. The only real difference is that fire hoses and dogs have been replaced by tear gas, tanks and armored personnel carriers. .38 revolvers have been replaced by 9mm semi-automatics and .223 AR-15s. As one Marine stated, the military’s rules of engagement in policing a real war zone are more restrictive than what he saw in Ferguson.
With every death of an unarmed black man, our media eventually cite statistics of “Black on Black” crime suggesting that violence is uniquely inherent to African-American culture. However, they cite no “White on Whie” crime statistics when troubled young white men who are armed to the teeth empty their extended clips of ammunition into the bodies of school kids or theater-goers.
Ferguson demonstrates that it is long past time that we have a serious discussion about race relations, poverty and policing in the United States. (If that fact was not obvious enough, polls show that public opinion of the situation in Ferguson is split along racial lines.) It’s time for the police to put away their “big boy toys” and return to community policing based on the motto of “to serve and protect.” It’s time they represent the communities they serve. It’s time they are measured by the crimes they prevent as well as the arrests they make. It’s time they show that they are a force to run to instead of a force to run from.
Regardless of the events that led to the nonsensical shooting of an unarmed black teenager, the Ferguson Police Chief should be held accountable for making matters worse. He has clearly demonstrated that he neither represents his community nor understands its citizens. He should not only be fired by the citizens of Ferguson. He should replace Mayberry’s Barney Fife as the poster boy for inept policing.
UPDATE: It is being reported that the convenience store where Michael Brown supposedly stole cigars is saying that he actually paid for them. If proven to be true, the Ferguson Police Chief needs to be charged with character assassination and obstruction of justice.