Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Until Evidence Proves Otherwise, I just see a Cop and a Citizen

Following my CNN appearance discussing the Walter Scott case, I have been accused of racism, supporting racist cops, and acting as though black lives don't matter. I guess part of this reaction to my analysis of the case is a result of an underlying problem in our country; that racism still exists and affects the lives of many and also that many of our population see race first before thinking of any of the other issues that might be behind whatever behaviors they see. For example, Michael Slager's killing of Walter Scott is seen by many as a racist act, if not overtly, than a result of some deep-seated hidden racism, some dislike of African-Americans that came out at that moment. Some also see my discussion on CNN as an example of some racist mentality rather than a criminal profiler trying to point out the evidenciary and legal issues of the case.

I can't speak to Michael Slager's mindset (which is what has to been proven in court) because I don't know the guy. But I know myself, so I can speak to my own thinking. When I saw the video, I saw a cop shooting a citizen. The video was concerning which is certainly why Slager was arrested and charged. There was enough of a distance between him and Scott to question whether he pulled the trigger our of fear for his life. But, at the moment I saw the video, I did not say, "Oh my god, a white man has shot down a black man." Why? Because that white cop could have been my son-in-law a white man who has been a deputy for a local Sheriff's department.

"Aha!" you say, "See? you can identify that white cop with one of your family!" Yes, I can, but I can also identify that black citizen with one of my family because I also have an African-American son. For that matter, I can furthermore identify that cop with my daughter who is a police officer and is bi-racial.

I care about cops and citizens of all races becaue I have a family that represents both law enforcement and non-law enforcement, black and white, bi-racial, and multi-racial, American and non-American. In fact, I have relatives that represent law-abiding citizens (my children) and not-so-law-abiding citizens (a few in-laws - some of which I like and some not so much). I see individuals before I see race or employment or status or even criminality. What I look for is evidence that tells me what happened. And each crime stands alone until and unless there is proof of some connected set of crimes - a serial killer, organized crime, or a politically protected governmental organization. Certainly, in history - past and present - there has been police misconduct by individual officers and by law enforcement agencies - but we shouldn't claim immediately a single case is representative of systemic racism within a particular police department or the entire police system until there is evidence that this is so.

Sadly, the media has been all too willing to fan the flames of anger and discontent that exist within the population into a bonfire, ratcheting up certain issues in specific incidents without concern for whether those incidents are true examples of a particular problem  or not. Not every unfortunate incident is an example of racism or sexism or terrorism or corruption or whatever ism that can make a news story go from a local concern or an isolated one-off crime to a national disaster that must fill the airwaves 24/7 with self-righteous pundits and protests and angry tweets.

What we need in our country is to return media to be an unbiased reporting of news and in proportion to the actual severity of the event. We need to reestablish the ability for all of us to have an intelligent conversation without hositility and name-calling. If we cannot learn to be civil and save our venom for times when it is truly called for, we just become not a melting pot but a vile muck that has lost all of its fine flavor.

We need strong leadership in politics and in media and in the community, leadership that isn't about stirring up trouble but moderating the problems in our country and working together to find solutions in a cooperative and calm manner. I hope we see this kind of positive change in the very near future.

Crimial Profiler Pat Brown

April 16, 2015

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