This past weekend, in St. Louis County, Missouri, another unarmed black young man was shot by a police officer, which through witness and agency statements send confusion and conflicting stories through the media. Obviously, there are holes in this story that have not been filled yet, but nonetheless holes remain. Could this be another Trevon Martin situation where a young black man goes down in the midst of gun violence with no justification due? As a fellow law enforcement officer, and a black American, I see situations like this and it does raise eyebrows, but I like to know the full scale details on both sides before coming to a conclusion of any civil rights violation and any wrongful doing by police. Shooting anyone, unarmed or armed, is not a decision that majority of police officers want to take, but in some cases it is necessary and, unfortunately, it becomes deadly.
In this case, in Missouri, we don’t know the officer’s name and race of who did the shooting. In California any officer that is involved in a police shooting, his or her name and race is announced to the public and the media. I understand fully that the agency is trying to protect the officer and his or her family from any retribution he or her may receive being involved in the shooting. However, the public, at the same time, has the right to know which officer was involved in the incident. I am in no way leaning towards the public in knowing the officer’s name and race involved, but at the same time what can we do as a law enforcement community battle that? If the officer was shot in the line of duty, the public and media would be very quick to release the offender’s name and race, and probably even name the area he or she is from. With that argument I can see and understand why the public would want to know the officer’s name and race involved in shooting, but what does that really prove and what kind of conversation does that generate through the communities?
Policing the streets in our communities and towns is not as easy as some of the public may think, and don’t understand the split second decisions that we face nearly on a daily basis. It would appear though that police shootings in black neighborhoods are more reported and create an outrage higher than those that occur in another communities, unless that person was unjustly confronted and dealt with by law enforcement. While on the job I’ve been yelled at by other black Americans, when they are being dealt with by my fellow white officer, that I should understand what they are going through as a black man and actually request me to help them out of the situation they are in. When I don’t step in and block any punishment or restrain the white officer from talking to them, they actually get mad and start yelling at me as if I did them an injustice. That kind of mentality bothers me to a point and it helps me understand even more that the public doesn’t realize when most of us are in uniform, our race, religion and other opinions are put to the side.
Although I understand the frustration and emotions of the community in St. Louis County, Missouri reacting to this incident, creating mass disruption, rioting and vandalizing buildings and property does not make your point. If anything this seems to make things worse for you and your community and possibly make police thing carefully about how to patrol your neighborhood and how to deal with you on whole. I can definitely feel for the family of the slain teen, 18 year old Michael Brown, and that they want answers as to what happen, but any rush through this investigation will not bring out honest and truth of the events that occurred. This is sad for both the families of Michael Brown and the officer involved in the shooting, however, if the officer did shoot Michael Brown for other reasons, outside of the law and police policy, then this hang over the Ferguson Police Department for weeks, months and years to come.
For the people that are not aware of certain police tactics and training, when you are reaching or grabbing for an officer’s service weapon, we are trained to treat that as a deadly force situation. Many police officers each year are killed with their own service weapon, and to prevent or to minimize this situation from getting out of control we are trained in retaining our weapon as we fight for our lives. This whole situation is a sensitive issue and can be debated in numerous ways on both sides of the fence. In due time, hopefully, we will know the truth as to what happened and who is responsible for what occurred. Situations like this is why some police departments have cameras in their vehicles and on their persons, to help record the incidents that happen and to close the gap in holes that come with conflicting information.
(Author) D. Franklin