This week, I'd like to talk a little bit about the Ferguson, Missouri riots/fiasco. I think I can shed a little light on this. The whole thing has left me looking like this dude sans the headgear and lipstick.
I'd like to start with a lack of judgement or what happens when good judgement is not employed in my meandering, make a short story really long, self deprecating, sort of way.
In rural America, bar fights are common. Bar fights are almost always over before the cops can arrive. When seconds count, cops are minutes away. That sort of thing. So it was, I caught this bar fight call many moons ago. By the time I arrived, whatever fight had taken place was over. The fight involved one local smart ass and three very young and buff, Air Force guys. In those days, we couldn't arrest anyone for that type of misdemeanor (battery) unless someone wanted to press charges- which almost never happens.
Just before I left the bar that evening, I did the smart ass a favor. I told him he should probably leave the bar because once I was gone, I had an eery feeling that the fly boys were going to extract some revenge. He refused to go. In fact, he told me it was a free country and he didn't have to do shit. Undoubtedly, this was the same sound judgement that our local hero had employed earlier that evening which led to my being called.
Twenty minutes later, I helped the ambulance crew quiet down our bloody and beat up smart ass and take him to the hospital while he was strapped to the gurney. I noted that he was not proclaiming anything about it being a free country. Worse yet, the bartender told me it was our local smart ass who had first confronted and then taken a swing at one of the airmen after I had left. That didn't work out too well for Chuck Norris- who got his ass kicked. Oddly, the young airmen didn't stick around waiting for me to return.
As a lawman I often said "The only way to get into a bar fight is to do your drinking in a bar." This type of profound and insightful thinking was something I picked up the hard way. In fact, I had a wake up call of my own once and fortunately, I decided that maybe getting into bar fights was not going to help my career along.
I once squared off with a cowboy named "Shellico" in a bar about 50 miles east of Moonbat Valley in the little town of Mackay. Shellico was one of these guys who thought he was tough and he was a big guy- about my size. He was interlocking fingers with other bar patrons and then forcing them to their knees. Loser bought drinks. He had whipped a few people, much smaller than him, before yours truly decided to have a go. Now I'd been lifting weights for years and I was pretty sure old Shellico was about to scrub the floor with his knees but as life would have it- that's not quite how things turned out.
Once we interlocked fingers, Shellico immediately had the upper hand. Very quickly he was trying to drive me to my knees. Unfortunately for him, I was just as big as he was and pretty strong. So Shellico's plan B was to try and drive me out the front door of the bar. This worked for a few seconds, up until the part where I wedged myself up against the door frame and I felt Shellico's strength and grip waning. We were having quite the battle. The next thing that happened was that I began driving Shellico all the way back through the bar and across the dance floor and rather than bring him to his knees- I just sort of threw him through a pile of stacked tables and chairs. He landed on his ass and he came up swinging. He was pissed. About that time, the bartender- a very large woman- got between the two of us with a sawed off pool cue and told Shellico to hit the bricks. She bought me a drink.
My father was in the bar with an old friend of his- watching all of this drama unfold. The old man turned to my father and asked, "Aren't you gonna help your kid?" My father said,"'No, not unless there is trouble." Those were the good ol days.
I wished I could tell you that I was something less than 22, that I wasn't half drunk, that I didn't pick that fight, or that I wasn't a new cop at the time. I plead guilty on all four counts. Nobody ever said ya know Brian- you have excellent judgment when you've been drinking. However, I did learn something that day. I quit doing my drinking in bars, and oddly, I have not been in a bar fight since 1983. Well, unless I was called to one.
The point of my telling you about all of this personal stupidity has to do with judgement. I haven't always employed the best judgement and I can damn sure tell you that drinking never enhanced the judgement I did have. So it was, I was pretty much a late bloomer. Somewhere around my 30th birthday, I finally began to develop what might loosely be called- a trace of intelligence.
Which brings me to the Michael Brown shooting. Here's a good link to give you the chronology of events in case you are unfamiliar with what happened. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/michael-brown-ferguson-missouri-timeline/14051827/
To sum it up- there has been a week long, shit ton of bad judgment going on which stretches all the way up to the head of our executive branch- a guy who can't even string together a couple of useful comments while playing golf at Martha's Vineyard. http://www.bizpacreview.com/2014/07/23/another-16-day-vacation-in-marthas-vineyard-rumors-of-lavish-house-shopping-it-can-only-be-the-obamas-133543
Normally, this is how it works in the world outside of Ferguson, Missouri.
A suspect, armed or unarmed, gets shot or killed. The officer(s) involved are sequestered away or simply placed on paid leave with their families after reports have been filed. Their names are not disclosed for a pre-determined length of time. That type of policy has been developed and is in place well in advance of any incident in most places. That way, once an incident occurs, everyone knows by policy what will take place. Another agency, or perhaps even a team of investigators assembled by a local prosecutor or state attorney general's office, takes over with the hope that an unbiased investigation will take place.
Officer involved shootings are incredibly manpower intensive. Done right, they can easily take twenty to thirty investigators and hundreds of man hours. That's why you must develop the protocol and have it in place prior to an incident because it's going to involve a lot of people under a lot of stress and they are going to need leadership.
After the investigation is complete, evidence is reviewed and eventually submitted for a series of judicial proceedings including inquests, inquiries, and grand juries. The judicial system essentially determines the course of events.
In other words, there is a process for determining guilt or innocence. We call that the rule of law.
The rule of law breaks down when nobody protects the integrity of the process. In other words, once the shooting occurs, the protocol must be followed. The Police Chief or designee, must inform the public how that process works and how you will proceed and you must explain it. You can't simply shoot somebody, armed or otherwise, and then conduct your own investigation or simply neglect to inform the citizens (you work for) that you have a policy or explain how it works.
Without protocol or policy, chaos ensues. There is something small cities should all learn here.
In the Ferguson case- none of this happened. In fact, I am not sure they even have any protocol because nobody ever mentions it. The protocol would have prevented the release of surveillance photos. However, days after the shooting-the police department begins to release pictures of the deceased who apparently was stealing boxes of cigars from a store without ever addressing an officer involved shooting policy or what they were preparing to do. Unbelievable, except that- seeing is believing.
To be honest, I didn't follow any of the Ferguson events in any of our corporate propaganda TV outlets so I might have missed something significant.
Ok, so let's say a complete lack of policy or protocol occurred and the Chief quite frankly didn't know what to do. Maybe the city was simply that unprepared. Then the riots begin. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/15/ferguson-police-shooting/14118187/
Rioters have no excuse for plundering and looting cities. That is simply lawless behavior. Pretty soon, another guy gets shot- this one with a gun by a county police officer and then the state of Missouri steps in and takes over this mess with the state police.
So if all of this bad judgement and poor performance wasn't bad enough- President Obama vacationing in Martha's Vineyard had this to say.
EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP/ABC News) - President Barack Obama said Thursday
that there is no excuse for the use of excessive force by police in the
tense aftermath of the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in
Ferguson, Missouri, and no excuse for violence against the police.