There is a problem in one of the last remaining superpowers on Earth. Nobody trusts the people who are charged with protecting and serving their communities.
For those unfamiliar with this story the facts as we know them are these. Michael Brown was an African American man who lived in Ferguson Missouri and was killed by white police officer Darren Wilson enflaming racial tensions in an area where there have always been issues. Minutes before the fatal shooting a strong arm robbery on was committed by Brown, however this appears to be no more than an attempt by the police force in Ferguson to muddy the waters. Considering that officer Wilson was not responding to the robbery but was insisting that Brown return to the pavement as he was walking in the road.
This is where the events begin to become slightly less clear. According to the police report, during the altercation with Wilson it is contended that the officer commanded Brown to return to the pavement; he refused and when the officer tried to step out of his police vehicle he was met by Brown. A struggle ensued and Brown had allegedly forced Wilson back into the car where the police firearm went off shooting Brown for the first time and causing him to flee. Officer Wilson then leaves his car and fires deliberately upon Brown, hitting him again with this shot Brown falls to his knees and was shot again fatally.
The police account does not appear to match with the eye witness testimony of those who were surrounding the events of the shooting. Dorian Johnson, a friend of Brown, was with him at the time of the shooting; Johnson stated that Wilson drove forward without saying anything further than “get the f*** on the sidewalk.”, only to abruptly back up, positioning his vehicle crosswise in their path, almost hitting the two men. Wilson still in his car proceeded to grab Brown around his neck and attempt to pull him into the car. Brown tried to pull away but Wilson persisted in his attempt Johnson has stated that Brown “did not reach for the officer’s weapon at all”, insisting that Brown was attempting to get free of Wilson rather than attempting to attack him or take his weapon from him. Following this Wilson drew his weapon and allegedly said “I’ll shoot you” or “I’m going to shoot you” and almost instantaneously according to eye witness accounts fired upon Brown. Following being shot Brown freed himself from Wilson and fled up the street however Wilson fired upon him again striking him in the back. The next shot however is what has so enraged the African American community in the area and nationwide. After being shot Brown turns to Wilson with his hands raised in surrender and stated, “I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting!” Wilson then shot Brown several more times, killing him. Johnson’s advocate has stated on his behalf that officer Wilson did not attempt to resuscitate Brown, did not call for an ambulance nor did he call in that there had been a shooting.
This surrender to the will of the police and the subsequent death of one of its sons has led to the African American community to again become outraged at what appears to be a case of racially motivated shooting. Following Browns death the members of his local community took to the streets in protest since the police did not release a report of the incident immediately as is procedure taking over a week to release the events of the shooting and only in the last day having released the autopsy report which shows that Brown was shot six times.
As we stand today two weeks removed from the shooting of Michael Brown the protest still persists in Ferguson Missouri; what started as a peaceful protest has become a representation of everything that is wrong with a police force. It has become far less lenient with its citizenry and far more abrupt in denying the rights of both the protesters and the news media reporting in the area. When the civil unrest emerged in the days following the shooting the mostly peaceful protests were met by 150 armed police officers wearing riot gear. Several of the journalists who were reporting on the events have been arrested without a just cause and on one occasion camera equipment has been destroyed by the police. The fact that police are not allowing themselves to be recorded as in one event an officer saying he will “kill you, if you don’t turn that camera off” or arresting journalists for doing their job is a denial of two constitutional rights, the freedom of the press and the right of the public, provided they are not secretly recording, they have the right to record the police.
The police response to having so many of their constituents in the streets was extreme and could not be considered a proportional response in any regard. On August twelfth a night of a candlelight vigil which turned in some cases to violence and looting. Close to 150 police armed with riot gear, tear gas and dog units, assembled to oppose the protestors and looters. One must ask in a situation where 150 armed police oppose you, would the response not be to fight back against such an egregiously large show of force? Another issue with regard to the protests is that the Missouri state governor Jay Nixon has both attempted to enforce a curfew and also has called in the National Guard. To a group who already feels disenfranchised in the area it must feel as if they are being further degraded when a man who is not even from the area is enforcing when and where they can go. Does this not appear as if segregation has retaken affect in area where more than 70% of the citizens are African American? Also to call in the National Guard and make this appear to be an emergency requiring their expertise appears to paint the protestors as no more than thugs rather than a peaceful protest and a mourning carriage for a boy and a son who was taken from them too soon.
The opening theory of this article stated that the United States of America has an issue which meant that people no longer trust the police who are meant to be serving them. This incident of an African American gunned down by police is not an isolated incident. In a country that has seen so much harm against African Americans why should they as a group trust the police? Following the beating given to Rodney King one would have thought that the issue of violence against African Americans would have become less prevalent, yet still 18 years removed from this incident Oscar Grant III was shot and killed when he was lying prone before the police officer. Yet even after this horrific tragedy three years later another unarmed civilian, Trayvon Martin, this time little more than a child of seventeen was shot and killed by a self-appointed leader of the community watch George Zimmerman. Perhaps even more disturbingly another African American man was shot and killed not even forty miles from Ferguson. Kajieme Powellwas shot and killed whilst carrying a knife however did he truly need to be killed? Would a Taser not have been just as effective? Yet another man lost to the violence that has beset this community.It has become so commonplace for African Americans to be shot and killed by the police, security guards or vigilantes that the outrage of the group no longer registers as quite so important.
A study conducted by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement showed that one African American is killed every twenty-eight hours in the United States by either the police, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes. Almost one man woman or child is lost to those who were supposed to protect and serve them every day. The arguments that they should be trusted with the lives of those in their community seem to become almost invisible in the face of the overwhelming fact that they seem to do more harm than good to the African American community.
This problem can only be fixed by police accountability for their actions against all people whom they meet. The Michael Brown bill which has been suggested in the wake of this tragedy seems to do that. Over 100,000 signatures have already been gathered in support of the bill meaning that the White House will have to respond to it; the bill states that police officials will have to wear a small camera on the lapel of their uniform. This seems to be an idea where the only downside will be the money spent on implementing the policy, however it will eradicate police violence if they know they are being watched and being held accountable for their actions, it will entirely remove the need for cases in court where an officer or a civilian argue over the event of a crime as the police officer will have it readily available to him.
The statement that American citizens have a problem with trusting those tasked with protecting them, no longer is hyperbole it is a fact. Until the police as a whole in the United States of America are held accountable for their actions each day they interact with the public they will continue to go on being mistrusted. What’s more they have every reason to no longer be trusted.