It would be wrong not to comment on this sad story, wouldn't it? So here goes.
Here is what I don’t know. I don’t know if Michael Brown assaulted police officer Darrell Wilson. I don’t know if Michael Brown ever had his hands up in surrender or if he ran away. I don’t know if Officer Wilson’s life was threatened or if he had reasonable cause to believe it was. I don’t know a lot of things.
Here is what I do know. I know that Officer Wilson did not know anything about a robbery or Michael Brown’s role in it, as the police chief made clear weeks before the Grand Jury was impaneled. I know that Michael Brown was unarmed and that officer Wilson knew it. I know that Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Wilson and that he was shot several times. I do know that Officer Wilson is alive and that he will not stand trial for anything, not even involuntary manslaughter (the penalty for which is typically a year in prison). I do know that a) a Grand Jury is not supposed to hear argument or testimony from both sides, it is supposed to hear only the prosecution’s side; and b) a Grand Jury is not supposed to rule on guilt or innocence as that is the job of the Trial Jury. I do know that the prosecutor's team did not attempt to win an indictment – which is its sole job – but rather that it acted as a defense team; and I know this out of the prosecutor’s own mouth. I do know justice was not done because it never got that far, and it never got that far because the prosecutor was determined that justice not run its course. What I do know is that we will never know what really happened, because out of a court of law anyone can say anything with impunity; it is only in a courtroom that someone is bound by laws against perjury. And, sadly, I do know that cops sometimes get away with murder, literally murder, and that nearly always it is a white cop murdering a black person.
Our Civil War took some 600,000 or 700,000 lives. It ended with the Union intact and slavery ended. But it seems that we are not done fighting it yet. The old Confederacy is alive and well and living in the United States of America.
This is my country and I am sad for her.
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There are solutions to this problem.
When a police officer has to stand before a Grand Jury, a prosecutor has a built-in conflict of interest, as he is on the same payroll as the police, the same side of the crime and punishment divide. Get an independent prosecutor, not one who works for or with the police or the state in general. This is simple: conflict of interest problems cannot be swept under the rug, they are ALWAYS problems.
In a municipality with its own police force, when a majority of the population served is black or red or brown or yellow, the chief of police should be from that ethnic community, and that police force should never be majority white. I realize that this suggestion flies in the face of a color-blind nation, but anyone who thinks that we are color-blind is – blind.
These two ideas are surely not original with me but they are on target.
In today's news, George W Bush said: Garner ("New York City's Michael Brown") decision "hard to understand." Rush Limbaugh blamed President Obama for the consequent outrage if not for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. One of these men was a President who could have done better (but who is leading an exemplary life post-Presidency); the other is a super-successful first-class moron with a large following (and I do not begrudge Limbaugh his success, he only has a platform because enough Americans listen to him and "follow" him; God help us).
Those who conclude from my words that I am in any way "anti-cop" lack imagination and bring their own biases to my blog. I am fully aware of the dangers to life and limb that attend on deciding to become a police officer; none of us needs a daily reminder of the deadly risks policemen take every day of the year. If the news reported each and every time a cop was shot in cold blood – for doing his job – it would be a daily assault on our sensibilities. And things that happen every day, no matter how dreadful, cease to become news after a while. And they stop being reported. But I surely never forget the debt that we all owe our police forces, our police men and police women. But when a cop shoots an unarmed man, that is news. And it should be. And heaven forbid that that becomes a daily occurrence that stops being news.