We must break the pattern of police brutality and return to the culture and philosophy of “to protect and to serve.”
Michael Brown, black, 18 and unarmed was killed by Officer Darren Wilson, white and well armed police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Officer Wilson, who is yet to be arrested, has already raised over $365,000 on the crowd-funding platform GoFundMe.com. This amount is greater than the a$233,000 raised for the “Michael Brown Memorial Fund,” in the last 11 days since Michael Brown’s death, using the same platform.
What is clear is that Michael Brown was unarmed. What is also clear (several eye witnesses) is that Officer Wilson shot him 6 times including several times after he was trying to get away and then attempted to surrender raising his arms (Piaget Crenshaw and Dorian Johnson accounts). On the other side, a woman names Josie (will not give her last name) claims that Brown “all of a sudden just started to bum-rush him [officer Wilson]; he started to run at him full speed.” (Since Brown was already shot, it is not clear how he managed to “bum-rush” the officer).
The concerns here are grave and clear. Why did Officer Wilson use deadly force? Why did he pursue Michael Brown after injuring him instead of calling for backup? Why did he fire 5 additional shots at Michael Brown and killed him when it appeared clear Brown was unarmed and wounded?
It is easy to blame race for this tragedy and there is no doubt that race plays a big part here. The Bureau of Justice Statistics report in 2008 found that black people were 3 times more likely than white people to be subjected to force or threatened with it by police. In Ferguson the disparity is even greater. As the 2014 Missouri crime statistics report indicates, black people are arrested 4 times the rate of white people.
It is up to the legal system to determine whether the killing of Michael Brown was “justified” or murder of TBD degree (an investigation and hopefully a trial will take place). What is clear is that there is a pattern of police prejudice and brutality in the US that impacts minorities (black and brown) more that whites, and poor people substantially more than those well off. It is time to support the majority of police officers that are well meaning and properly functioning and purge the bad apples. It is also time to make sure the mentality and culture of all police departments is focused on “to protect and to serve” the entire community, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, gender, economic status or sexual orientation. We pay for the police and we deserve nothing less than their best in keeping all of us safe while protecting our rights, our dignity and our lives.
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