WriterRedmon at DailyKOS wrote a rebuttal to my rebuttal of his rebuttal. I found this piece to be much more thoughtful than the last, so I’m going to continue the discussion. I hope that those reading this response will also read WriterRedmon’s article linked above and do so with an open mind.
The first thing I need to address is something that has been brought up a few times in the comments from the “I’m Sick Of…” entry, which was written months ago now. I’m not sick of being an officer. I’m sick of the experiences that have been repeating themselves for weeks on end. For example, danger is an admitted portion of my job but it’s not a regular portion of my job. Along these same lines, I might be able to sprint a six minute mile, but I’m not going to be able to do that twice an hour for an entire day. What’s more, many of the things we do endure are done so under the assumption that through our actions we will be able respond to them, to enforce the law. A boxer might get hit while in the ring but their job isn’t to get hit. Their job is to defend themselves and hit back.
As of late, we have been prevented from enforcing the law because there is a common undertone within the community that we, all of us, deserve to be punished. Some feel that all officers should be punished. Some feel that the white community in Ferguson and across St. Louis county should be punished. However, both punitive allowances at the expense of law and order, at the expense of the civil rights of entire groups because another group feels slighted, is unacceptable.
Service to the community is a concept that is achieved by respecting life, property, and civil rights. Service to the community does not mean standing on a line and allowing ourselves to be threatened with death, assaulted with bottles, bricks, guns, and Molotovs, while being spat upon and slandered. You don’t give up your civil rights because of your skin color. We don’t give up our civil rights because of our badge.
While it is true that you cannot remove your skin, and while it is true that racism against black people does exist, the notion that my persecution ends when I take off my uniform is ill-informed. I cannot so much as carry a badge on me while unarmed in many places east of the airport on the off chance that I become the victim of a robbery because it is understood that if an offender sees the badge, they WILL kill me for it. I can’t so much as travel with anything as minor as a department ID without having to consider the same consequence. What’s more, officers responding to Ferguson have had their homes identified, their families’ names and identifying information put out online, had groups of people show up at their homes, while others attempt to follow them home from work and open fire on them as they drive along I-70 westbound before the airport. Danger doesn’t end with the uniform.
I’ve heard others suggest that my opinion on this is invalid because I don’t have to be an officer and could quit. I get the sense you were making a similar but more tempered argument. Before August this opinion held quite a bit more weight. Now that we’re stuck in the middle of an ongoing crisis, the option to leave is restricted by my moral obligation not to unload on other officers who will be shorthanded by my departure. I’m not arrogant enough to think that my personal contribution is anything more than a drop in the bucket. However, a monsoon starts with a single drop and I refuse to be responsible for putting other good officers in any increased fraction of danger when whatever minute amount of help I can offer is needed.
Furthermore, your assertion that your skin color carries a reasonable fear of death is misplaced because even racist officers don’t simply go out at night looking for a reason to kill black people. Wanting to kill people is something psychopaths do. Racism is still wrong and should not be tolerated but it doesn’t equate to psychopathy. The stats back that up as well.
Police interact with somewhere between 15-20% of the public each year while only around 1.5% of those interactions results in a threat of force or use of force. The percentage of those incidents resulting in a shooting let alone a fatal shooting are even rarer. The percentage of those incidents which result from an unjustified shooting are rarer still. As further evidence let’s take a look at your statistic that one black person is killed by a policeman, security guard, or vigilante every twenty-eight hours. Let’s set aside for a moment that the use of incidents committed by vigilantes biases the stat because a killing by anyone deemed a vigilante is done so illegally and without lawful authority.
So, a black person is shot by police approximately every twenty eight hours. Three people total are shot to death every hour. Three gunshot victims times twenty eight hours is eighty-four. So one person out of eighty-four is shot by the police every twenty eight hours. That accounts for about 1.1% of all shootings in that time period. Assuming that even some of that 1.1% figure is justified, the amount being used to argue a trend is reduced even farther. In other words, the death sentence you imply comes with your skin color doesn’t seem so guaranteed. That’s not to excuse unjustified shootings but to establish a problem with the supposed trend.
To your point, there are also parts of St. Louis where white people cannot travel as well. Neither is right but both should be acknowledged. You reference racism and words directed to you and other protesters by other people on the internet and in the community. As I mentioned in my first rebuttal, nothing I’ve said justifies or has been intended to justify hate speech by officers, by citizens, or by protesters.
My original post was intended to be individual and opinion-laden because it was in reference to things that have happened to me and my emotions while encountering them. My opinions were hardly hyperbolic as I wasn’t making large sweeping generalizations about entire groups unsupported by facts or statistics. You can list unarmed men who have been killed but that doesn’t make them unjustified killings nor does it make me or even St. Louis area officers responsible for what has happened in other regions outside of our control, direct or supervisory, outside of our policies, and outside of our laws.
Furthermore, you’re assuming a bias where there is none on my part. Case in point, if you had read my other posts on this blog you would notice that I discussed the Trayvon Martin case and argued that I thought George Zimmerman was in fact guilty. This is something I have no problem doing because my opinions are based on objective facts and not ideological identity.
You can say that black men have a war being waged against them, but just because an officer shoots a black man, doesn’t make the officer unjustified. Could the fact that these events happen disproportionately, even if they are statistically rare, be due to economic racism at an institutional level which makes advancement more difficult, educational opportunities harder to achieve, and a life of criminality more appealing to young black men who are thus disproportionately more likely to fight an officer or pick up a gun? At the end of this very article you’re writing trying to explain and in a roundabout way justify violent revolution which when executed against officers has no other valid response except for proportional force. Violence directly used against me justifies my use of violence against my attacker, regardless of whatever ideological justification my attacker believes they have. Justified or unjustified, I didn’t shoot Mike Brown, have had zero involvement in the investigation, and if he is used as justification for violence directed at me personally, it’s misplaced, wrong, and probably due to my skin color.
The youth of Ferguson will continue to be unheard if they continue to advocate for violence (even with tacit acceptance) and reject factual information because it runs contrary to their beliefs. I listen to contrary opinions because I’m objective but objectivity doesn’t mean accepting opinions that run contrary to factual or statistical reality. The fact that you believe this is still a two sided issue is an unfortunate reality that you, and not me, have accepted an us vs. them mentality. My reality is not cops vs. protesters, or white vs. black. My reality is cops vs. violent criminality regardless of whomever commits it. Violent crime infringes upon the civil rights of all of us. It’s time to stop holding St. Louis hostage.