Shaun King posted a comment on Twitter a few days ago that has since been removed. It was in reference to Deray McKeeson posting a copy of a statement from the Fraternal Order of Police in Baltimore with the caption, “Sigh.” See that FOP statement below:
Shaun King commented something to the effect, “Why do they think they’re under siege?” This comment is going to be the starting point in my discussion today on the state of policing in America. Obviously, given my background, my comments are grounded in what it’s like to be a police officer in the St. Louis region right now. However, as I watch the criminal justice situation in Baltimore continue to deteriorate, it’s clear that my perspective may have a more general applicability. Before, I start, I think the siege police in general face today is summed up pretty well by the story in the following article:
“Arriving quickly, [Officer] Wood fixed his attention on Foster, lying semiconscious in a pool of blood, and on the open door of the apartment, where a gunman might be lurking. Officers ringed Foster with their cruisers, trying to shield him.
Police ordered neighbors back into their homes. SWAT was summoned. An ambulance idled a block away, as close as was considered safe. Wood knelt beside Foster. There was so much blood that the sergeant couldn’t tell where Foster’s eyes were — or even if they were still there.
“C’mon, buddy, we gotta get out of here,” Wood said. “Can you get up?”
Foster, his jaw broken, could only mumble. With no time to wait, Wood hoisted him over his shoulder and ran toward the SUV, parked about two houses away. He dumped Foster into the back seat and floored the gas pedal. Once Foster was in the ambulance, Wood ran back to the scene, his shirt and vest drenched in the victim’s blood.
Wood didn’t hear a small group of protesters nearby, shouting at the police. Their presence at Ferguson police incidents, even sick calls, had become commonplace. But Foster’s aunt, Deanne Winters, who had rushed to the scene out of concern for the safety of both nephews, heard it and became enraged.
“Go ahead and kill him already, because that’s what you’re going to do anyway,” she recalled one protester yelling.”
By the time I publish this, St. Louis City alone (not including areas like Ferguson which exists within St. Louis County) will have likely exceeded 70 homicides for 2015. Baltimore recently made news when it hit 100 homicides after a particularly violent month, despite having twice the population as St. Louis City. As arrest numbers in both venues continue to dwindle, the importance of proactive policing is on full display.
I should go ahead and define Proactive policing before it’s taken out of context. Proactive policing is a strategy defined by the use of any lawful optional action beyond normal calls for service in the interest of crime control/prevention. Traffic stops on suspicious vehicles or pedestrian checks on suspicious persons would apply to this. In areas where reasonable suspicion is not quite attainable to make such investigative actions mandatory, attempts at gaining voluntary compliance are traditionally utilized. Basically, proactive policing involves attempts at interfering in as of yet unreported crime that is either about to happen, has just occurred, or is in progress. As such, pedestrian checks and traffic stops are essential tools toward crime prevention by finding out who is in an area during a certain time frame and trying to find cause to search those persons/property for items such as drugs, guns, or burglar’s tools.
Sometimes these fishing expeditions turn up nothing. Other times, the results are more fruitful. More often then not, they are hardly random. An individual walking through a neighborhood in the middle of the night in an area that has experienced a rash of car break-ins, without further justification, will not be able to be stopped without voluntarily agreeing to do so. He may just be a random guy walking through a neighborhood or he may be a car thief.
Even if he is guilty of some crime, my contact with him might not result in enough to make an arrest or take some further action. However, in the grand scheme of things, after having written down his information, I may be laying down the ground work for future cases.
On one hand, if cars get broken into later that night, it might be worth going back and speaking to him again. I can also go look into other nights when cars were broken in and see that low and behold, the same individual was stopped and talked to by other officers just a few hours prior to those events. As the investigation progresses, it could also turn out that this person was convicted of thefts from cars numerous times over the years which would tend to add credibility toward my suspicions. Furthermore, even if my contact with this individual appeared to be completely fruitless or unconnected to any overt crime, just by virtue of our conversation, I may have deterred him from crimes he was planning on committing in my area that night because my presence increased his perception of risk beyond what is acceptable.
On the other hand, the same person may be a graveyard shift worker at a factory who frequently takes walks in the same place at the same time of night on his off nights without ever causing any problems. For future reference, I will know that it’s not suspicious to see him out and about on his days off. Furthermore, I now know a member of the community who can advise when specific things are out of the ordinary at night in the neighborhood.
Proactive policing is NOT unlawful, unconstitutional, or unnecessarily violent behavior. People within the Ferguson Twitter Brigade (FTB) and the media tend to equate the two concepts as one but they’re demonstratively wrong. It is entirely possible and regularly the case that proactive policing can be conducted without illegal behavior and without a punitive, rude, or condescending attitude. Like anything else, it happens, but in the black and white world that the FTB lives in (pun intended) any anecdote is evidence of a universal trend, the likes of which is apparently not a matter for debate or conversation but a preordained conclusion. Indignation is all that remains for those that dispute their claims.
Humorously, their basic premise of punishing officers who murder people or commit crimes is an almost universally accepted perspective. The problem lies, not in the philosophy itself, but the execution thereof. The officer in S. Carolina who shot the fleeing suspect in the back and then planted a Taser next to him, should have been and was charged. However, for every Ofc. Slager from S. Carolina we have a Darren Wilson who’s life was destroyed based upon a series of compounding and criminal lies.
The foundation of the “I Am Darren Wilson” movement in the early days of the Ferguson Riots had less to do with Wilson’s personal guilt or innocence but was based upon the philosophy that he deserved a fair shake, deserved due process, just like anyone else. It was also patently clear to anyone interacting with the protesters that the truth didn’t matter because these people had shown themselves willing to immediately result to violence and afterwards threats of future violence without having all the facts. As evidence of this reality, Michael Brown has still been the focus of protests even after the most comprehensive Grand Jury process in recent history and followed by a report prepared by the FBI which stated that the only materially consistent witnesses were eight men and women who corroborated Wilson’s account, seven of which expressed fear of reprisal from their own community if they dared to tell the truth.
And what remains of Darren Wilson, after the FBI deemed him to be a credible witness whose account was materially consistent with the forensic evidence and that it was objectively reasonable for him to use deadly force to defend himself from Michael Brown?
-He has had his name slandered and libeled across the world as a “Racist” and a “Murderer”
-He has been forced to go into hiding due to death threats and bounties placed on him and his family members.
-He has been forced to leave a career despite there being no evidence that he did anything wrong. He has no future prospects of a career in law enforcement because hiring him would place him and other officers at his new agency at risk.
-He has had his personal address and family members’ addresses spread across the internet. Even his mother’s burial site was posted online.
-While he received lots of money in donations, most of that money will probably be spent defending himself from the frivolous lawsuits that are already following him funded by outside influences with an agenda not the least of which includes justice.
-He gets to watch a person who assaulted him and others be ordained into sainthood, plaques put up in their honor.
This is the world in which we work. This is the world in which we live. Watching what happened to Darren Wilson, every officer in the St. Louis region and abroad has had to ask themselves the following question: If I lawfully shoot a suspect in self-defense, kill someone in self-defense, is it possible that my life will be ruined? Today that answer is “most likely.”
From this perspective, it is a natural defense mechanism to stop engaging in any proactive policing. The correlation between a decline in arrests, of which most are apparently proactively based, and the homicide rate is intriguingly telling. A causal link appears when considering the timeline of events. Darren Wilson is railroaded into losing almost everything based upon a justified shooting. Officers across the region stop engaging in proactive policing in order to limit exposure to a similar situation. Homicide rates increase dramatically.
However, the climate goes beyond Darren Wilson. Now, any officer involved killing involving a black suspect and white officer are now the subject of vitriolic prejudgment. The two questionable shootings in March by black Welston officers proved that the protests weren’t about the act of the shooting but only about the race of the participants. Along these lines, the riots in Baltimore set off before the race of the accused officers was revealed.
In Ferguson, I, along with numerous others, was exposed to violence and hatred accusing me of perspectives and actions the likes of which I don’t possess and have never committed. Simply wearing a badge while in Ferguson was enough to have bottles and bricks thrown at my head, watch officers and citizens get shot, significant others of mine threatened with rape, all over racist accusations that have nothing to do with me and I wasn’t alone. Lots of good officers (and admittedly a few bad ones too) were exposed to despicable conditions from the protesters, all while ironically committed to an ideal that we collectively, protester and police, share.
Bad people should be lawfully punished for doing bad things. However, only one of us is objective enough to want that truly applied universally. With that said, I no longer feel the need to prove my objectivity.