by Robert Emmett Murphy Jr.

Nationwide, in the last four months, there have been four police killings of unarmed blacks:

Tamir Rice

Tamir Rice

The youngest victim was 12 years old (Cleveland, Ohio)

Two were not engaged in any criminal behavior (Cleveland, Ohio and New York, New York)

Another one was guilty of only the most trivial of misdemeanors (a second incident in New York, New York).

Only one was engaged in any kind of violent behavior. He was shot at a range of 35 feet and the majority of witnesses stated he was trying to surrender (Ferguson, Missouri).

Also notable, only one of the above involved police investigating what was potentially a felony (that was not the Ferguson case, which initiated with a stop for jaywalking, but the Cleveland case, where a child playing with a toy gun resulted in a 911 call).

In each and every case, none of these men or boys should’ve died.

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

In each and every case, the police engaged in some action or actions that escalated the situation, instead of de-escalated it (this is true in the case of Ferguson even if you accept the officer’s story as an honest accounting of the incident; as it happens, I do not believe the officer’s account). Put another way, all these deaths are more the consequence of the choices made by the person who lived than the person who died.

Death of Eric Garner

Death of Eric Garner

Though, in a longer view, police killings have declined (according to the CDC, police killings of Blacks specifically has declined 70% over the last fifty years, down to about four deaths per one million individuals), the tragedies of the last three months are proof enough that we desperately need to rethink policing, specifically in how it relates to low income communities and citizens of color (even with the drop noted above, the same CDC report demonstrates that Blacks are about four times more likely to be killed by a cop than Whites, and one other ethnic minority group, Native Americans, are even more subject to police killings than Blacks).

Funeral of Eric Garner

Funeral of Eric Garner

Two reforms are obvious: 1) mandatory police body cameras (in cities where they are already in use, Use of Force incidents have dropped significantly, but also worth noting is that complaints about the improper Use of Force have dropped even more precipitously than the incidents themselves); and 2) local prosecutors clearly should not handle the Use of Force cases involving the local police forces that they need to maintain a good working relationship with (in the Ferguson case, during the Grand Jury hearing, Prosecutors had the Officer under Oath, but failed to cross-examine him; the same charge has been leveled against the Prosecutors in the second of the New York cases, but without the transcripts being made public, these claims can’t be confirmed).

kill9Law enforcement is inherently confrontational; the defining element of its daily interactions with strangers is the power of arrest. Moreover, law enforcement has become increasingly confrontational in the last two decades as dropping crime rates have been correlated with the application of the strategies of the “Broken Windows” policing philosophy. (The “Broken Windows” approach to policing is the notion that cracking down heavily on minor crimes will reduce disorder in the community which, in turn, will result in far fewer serious crimes.

Though “Broken Windows” has been given credit by some critics, it is actually difficult to establish a real causative relationship. Criminologist Richard Rosenfeld wrote in “Crime Decline in Context” (2002), “Homicide rates also have decreased kill8sharply in cities that did not noticeably alter their policing policies, such as Los Angeles, or that instituted very different changes from those in New York, such as San Diego.” Now, in response to the two New York deaths, evidence of disproportionate punishments for Blacks for minor crimes which Blacks commit in numbers roughly equal to Whites, and other pressures, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton has promised a series of reforms that seem to re-arrange, if not dismantle, many of the tactics associated with “Broken Windows.” This is especially significant because two decades ago, Bratton was essentially the father of “Broken Windows” being applied in real-world policing.

Rumain Brisbon

Rumain Brisbon

I wrote this Thursday night. I put it aside because I was struggling to compose a concluding paragraph. I woke up Friday morning to see there had been another Police killing of an unarmed black man, this time in Phoenix, Arizona.

That makes it five in four months.



17 Responses to In Case You Didn’t Understand Why Blacks Are Protesting the Police in 32 Different States

  1. Marge says:

    Sorry, but a grand jury found Mike Brown charged a police officer after trying to grab his gun. Don’t try to portray him as little Bo Peep.
    Black witnesses testified in support of Officer Wilson.
    Officer Wilson was at fault for panic shooting. A police officer is supposed to aim, fire, and kill. Not keep firing until he finally kills someone. That does not mean he was not justified in firing in self defense.
    There is no evidence to support the claim Brown had his hands up. But why confuse people with facts?

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      I don’t think anyone is portraying Michael Brown as Little Bo Peep.

      • Marge says:

        I recall hearing about the “gentle giant” who had plans to go to college. That’s assuming of course he didn’t keep knocking over convenience stores and assaulting clerks. That might send you to prison instead…or get you killed.

        • Robert Emmett Murphy, Jr. says:

          I do not believe Officer Wilson’s version, but even if I did, his conduct escalated the situation.

          Pulling your gun in that position puts you at an extreme tactical disadvantage. Brown didn’t go, and more likely than not couldn’t go, for the holstered gun through the car window. Similarly, Wilson, could not draw the gun without giving Brown the opportunity to take it from him. Putting your foot on the gas was the right call.

          Giving foot chase to a suspect you have determined is stronger than you when you have the option of pursuing in the car is similarly tactically flawed.

          Not calling for back up is flat-out stupid.

          Choosing to shoot an unarmed man at 35′ is hard to square even if you accept Wilson’s every word. It may make it under a legal bar, but displays lack of self-control in a crisis.

          Even if Brown was guilty of every single thing he was accused of, his death was neither deserved nor necessary, and the unnecessary death of a teen is not a tolerable thing.

          • PatrickHMoore says:

            I think the point is that even if Brown was acting like an ass, that’s no excuse to murder him.

    • Rick says:

      While Officer Wilson may have been justified in firing the first set of volleys at Brown, once Brown had began to run away, Wilson no longer was acting in self-defense in continuing to fire. Thus, while Wilson may have been justified in repelling Brown’s alleged attempt to grab his gun inside the police car, once that attack was over, he didn’t have the right to be the judge, jury, and executioner of Brown while he was MANY feet away from the police car. Also, the investigation of this incident was a whitewash from the beginning: Wilson never prepared a police report and instead immediately lawyered up to “get his story straight”; the locals failed to interview witnesses and did not contemporaneously prepare a police report (a one-page pro forma report was prepared two weeks after Brown’s killing, in contrast with the 14-page report of the liquor store robbery which was prepared 1-2 days after the killing); and the “prosecutor” acted like a defense lawyer by not engaging in any vigorous cross-examining of Wilson and by attempting to impeach the credibility of the 11 of 14 black witnesses who testified that Brown had his hands up and was attempting to surrender when he was gunned down by Wilson’s second volley of shots. In short, the good ‘ol boys in Ferguson botched this whole investigation and incident from the inception to the point where it’s very unlikely that Federal civil rights charges will ever be filed against Wilson. This whole affair has been a grave miscarriage of justice.

      • PatrickHMoore says:

        Very strong comment, Rick. You know this case very well and I appreciate your appraisal.

        • Rick says:

          Thanks Patrick. The perversion of the grand jury system in Ferguson was astounding. For starters, Governor Nixon (not tricky Dick) screwed up by not appointing a special prosecutor and instead allowing a St. Louis County prosecutor (DA Robert McCulloch) to handle the case. What many people don’t understand is that a local prosecutor naturally goes WAY TOO EASY on local law enforcement under investigation for an officer-involved shooting. That occurs because the prosecutor must work with local law enforcement on a daily basis in handling and prosecuting run-of-the-mill crimes with which private citizens have been charged and he’ll continue to do so in the future.

          Moreover, the purpose of a grand jury is NOT to determine the ultimate guilt or non-guilt of the target (it is the function of a trial to do that) but rather to determine whether probable cause exists to believe that a crime has been committed (i.e., that standard is simply more likely than not rather than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt). Similarly, in a grand jury proceeding, the prosecutor is SUPPOSED to present to the grand jury only enough evidence to determine whether an indictment should issue; he is not supposed to throw ALL possible evidence at the grand jury as occurred with the St. Louis prosecutor in the Wilson case. Finally, a grand jury proceeding is NOT an adversary proceeding where the prosecutor cross-examines and impeaches witnesses adverse to the officer and leads witnesses testifying for the officer. The fix was in on this “prosecution” from the very beginning and the prosecutor never intended to obtain an indictment against Officer Wilson. As a New York jurist once famously commented, “A determined prosecutor can cause a grand jury to indictment a ham sandwich.” DA McCulloch was apparently on a diet when he feebly “pursued” an indictment of Officer Wilson. :(

          • PatrickHMoore says:


            You should take your comments and collapse them into a single post, and soon, if possible, so that we can post this while it is still “news”.

  2. Scatter says:

    Robbing a convenience store, threatening a clerk, and violently assaulting a cop is more than “acting like an ass”. Sorry, you want to live like a thug, you take the chance of dying like one.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      Opinions certainly vary on this one. Odd that it became the high-profile test case when Brown was so obviously not a good poster child for excessive police violence.

    • Scatter says:

      That said, I think you have to be blind or stupid not to see that cops all over the country are out of control and targeting black citizens. I just don’t think Brown falls into that caregory of being unjustly targeted.

      • PatrickHMoore says:

        You are right although Brown almost certainly should not have been killed.

        • Scatter says:

          I agree that Brown should be alive to stand trial…..and rot away in s prison cell. Those are the marvelous options which remained to him because of the choices he made; die in a hail of gunfire after robbing a store and attacking a cop, or rot away in prison.

  3. Nj says:

    It’s all about ‘respecting’ the law. A lot of people, mostly the younger ones, have none when it comes to authority. They’re quick to mouth off, claim innocence, be on the defensive and not pay attention. If the only job left on this planet was to be a cop, I would have to decline and go homeless.

  4. Cindy says:

    All races of people are protesting police brutality. Im outraged at the grand juries not indicting any of them.

  5. Nicole says:

    Ummm there are countless beatings, stabbings, shootings and robberies here in the French Quarter by blacks targeting white folks on vacation, not to mention the residents who are as well. Nobody says anything about how it’s obviously a ‘race thing’. Let’s stop beating around the bush and fess up to reality. White people didn’t riot violently after OJ Simpson was acquitted and they also didn’t call that racism in action. Why does it always have to be about race anyway. You resist you get resistance back 10 fold from law enforcement.

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