Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reflections on Ferguson, Missouri Police Shooting

A writer writes.

On August 9th I was in St. Louis, Missouri to attend the college graduation ceremony of a college student I hired to work in Human Resources three years ago.  The ceremony was at 10 a.m. at UMSL, (the University of Missouri Saint Louis).  The college campus is several miles south of Ferguson, Missouri.  I did not watch the local Saint Louis news anytime that evening.  So, it was not until I returned home to Indianapolis, Indiana did I hear about the deadly events in Ferguson.

I've waited to hear all of the facts, but that information may not come out for weeks.  Some information of course has been revealed or leaked on purpose.  Apparently the young man was shot at least six times, with two of those shots being to his head.  Apparently the young man was also unarmed.  There has been some mention of a struggle having occurred in or near the policeman's car.  My thoughts were did this policeman call for backup after any alleged struggle?  What would warrant the policeman to shoot an unarmed person six times?  Who instigated and elevated the encounter into a deadly encounter?  At this point I'm thinking that when the facts are revealed, a series of errors will be revealed to have occurred on both sides.  The incident and death of the young man likely could have been avoided if better on the spot decisions were made on both sides.  Lessons learned the hard way.

I do expect adult police to make decisions that will prevent a loss of life.  I do believe the burden falls on the police, who are carrying weapons that can kill someone, to make decisions that result in peaceful outcomes, not quick decisions to end someone's life because it is the easiest answer and less time consuming.

What this event does do is bring on more lack of trust in police by the African American community.  I for one have never had trust in the police.  That is based on images I saw on television over the past 50 some years of police misconduct against African Americans.  The antics of the Los Angeles, California police force in the 1990s are a prime example.  The misbehavior of police in the southern states of these United States of America in the 1960s is a secondary example.  I still recall on national television news in the 1970s the video of an African American man on a rooftop building being killed by a barrage of gunfire, in an obvious overkill method that seemed to be trying to make a point.

So, I have no trust in local law enforcement to protect me. On the other hand, I believe they would be more inclined to violate my rights as a human being if given the opportunity.  I see any encounter with a a member of the police as being a survival event.  One thing I know is that I will not let someone shoot me just because they think they have the right or authority to do so.  Peaceful resolution is the first recourse, then comes self survival.

We wait for the facts to come out regarding the deadly force killing in Ferguson, Missouri.  We can only hope that the events can clearly be explained.  The errors made.  The lessons learned.  From this event must come a change.  A change in police tactics and techniques.  A change in how "suspects" respond to accusers.  Now we wait.

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