A Brief Story About Ferguson

I'm still a long way from gathering my scattered thoughts on Ferguson, MO, into anything coherent, and with faculty meetings beginning a little over an hour from now, I kinda doubt I'm going to get to it in the immediate future, but I think there's at least one thing I can say with confidence: what bothers me about Ferguson isn't so much the single incident of Michael Brown's shooting, but the police response TO that shooting. The Ferguson PD (and the assisting police from the St. Louis area and the greater Missouri area) has shown, often very pointedly, that it is in no way interested in determining the truth behind this shooting, let alone sharing that truth with the public.

No incident report was ever filed by the FPD about the shooting.

No witnesses were interviewed by the police.

When journalists arrived in Ferguson to cover the story, some were harassed, some were arrested, some were threatened WHILE CAMERAS WERE ROLLING and some were even targeted for tear-gassing.

Just those basic facts make it hard to trust that the FPD was trying to ensure that the truth came out. Add to them the marked contrast in the way the FPD dealt with the two main figures in the drama. There was nearly a week's delay in so much as mentioning the name of the officer involved in the shooting--Darren Wilson, who has been out of sight in an undisclosed location for nearly a month now--yet the FPD somehow found time to release a video (against the advice of the Justice Department) showing Michael Brown shoving a convenience store clerk, an incident that even the police have admitted had nothing to do with his being stopped by police on the fatal day.

You can make your own judgments about the paramilitary response to the protests, the reports of looting, the establishing of a no-fly zone over Ferguson by the FAA, and so on, but when we narrow the focus to the actual shooting incident, it becomes harder and harder to give the police the benefit of the doubt. Consider the two main possible narratives:

1) Could Michael Brown have been the dangerous, threatening thug that the Wilson supporters claim he was? Sure. But if that were the case, wouldn't a police force interested in shedding a light on the incident have done a bit of, y'know, police work? Wouldn't it have written up some reports? Questioned some people? Wouldn't it have encouraged journalists in to see the truth, or even invited them in and demonstrated how Officer Wilson had no choice but to fire on Brown?

2) Could Darren Wilson have fired shots in anger at an unarmed man? Sure. And if he had, what exactly would a police force interested in covering up the truth have done?

I have an uncomfortable feeling that the second police force would have done exactly what the FPD has done: keep information from the public whenever possible, unless it makes the shooting victim look bad, and work hard to keep journalists from digging up information on their own.

And if you're concerned that this police behavior is systemic, rather than limited to a single officer or even a single PD, some things are starting to come out about how politics tie into the way the police handled this incident--and indeed, how the police handle their jobs throughout Missouri. I can't vouch for all of the information provided by Shaun King in this series of Tweets, but I have to admit that it would explain a lot.

I just hope someone is digging deeper into the story. I don't like what I've seen so far--not one bit.

UPDATE: And only about fifteen hours after I made this post, I note that the Department of Justice apparently doesn't like what it's seen so far, either.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on September 3, 2014 7:35 AM.

End of an Era was the previous entry in this blog.

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