Amblin' Alameda: Ferguson and beyond

Amblin' Alameda: Ferguson and beyond

Morton Chalfy

There have been riots in Ferguson, Mo. over the past week, and it's not clear when they will end. After three months of waiting for a grand jury to deliver its findings, the nation heard that these 12 people found no reason to charge the police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man with any sort of wrongdoing. The reaction was both predictable and understandable: A young man had lost his life at the hands of another and no consequences ensued.

At worst, this young man was guilty of shoplifting a handful of cigarillos and jaywalking. There is no jurisdiction in the United States in which these misdemeanors are punishable by death, yet death resulted from this confrontation. The officer relates that the young man punched him in the face while the officer was still in his car. At that point the officer pulled his gun and shot at the suspect, who then began walking away.

The next six shots into the young man's body were at a distance. The officer was armed and the young man was not. This series of events and the numerous other killings of young black and brown men and boys by white officers begs the question: Are our police forces indoctrinated with fear of black and brown people to the extent that they draw their weapons at just the sight of black juveniles?

Is it not possible to train our police in nonviolent methods of apprehending people who are not even suspected of having committed crimes which involve harming others? Can't we take fear out of this equation? Certainly there are times when the police are called upon to deal with violent, dangerous criminals and no one questions the police's right to defend themselves and the citizenry with violence. That being clearly agreed upon, the police would do a better job of protecting us if they could tell the difference between an angry young man with no weapon and a robbery suspect brandishing an Uzi.

Two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are African American, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and the town's police force is reportedly almost totally white. The officer's response to being met with disregard of his orders could have been remedied by the arrival of backup. The protests have been met by officers in riot gear, tanks and military personnel - an occupying army.

According to news reports, the lead-up to this tragedy is typical of life for African Americans in Ferguson, who face racism and disrespect in their hometown. This and the other tragedies of its kind should serve as a prod to our peace officers to study these events and learn how to conduct similar interactions without an unnecessary loss of life.

Comments

Submitted by Carol Fairweather (not verified) on Wed, Dec 3, 2014

Thank you, Mort. The more positive interactions we have between the police and ALL members of our communities, the better for all of us. I love the pic in the link below of the policeman and the young protester in Seattle. We can do it here.
Police officer and protester share tearful hug:
http://usat.ly/1rFnr2V