Thursday, November 27, 2014

Failure in Ferguson

While everyone else is spouting off about whether or not the prosecutor in Ferguson Missouri should have forwarded the case of Officer Wilson shooting Michael Brown to the Grand jury, and how idiotic it is to riot and burn your fellow neighbors out because “the man” is putting you down, I’d like to take a second and think for a second about what failed in Ferguson.

I’m not going to second guess the instance of the shooting or say in any way that Officer Wilson committed a crime when he shot the young man. The evidence is pretty conclusive that Michael Brown was charging him, and in that moment, Officer Wilson has a reasonable fear of harm, and took appropriate action.

The question I have is what led up to this crux that left a young man dead in the street and arguably ruined the life of the man who shot him? Could things have been done differently to have avoided this tragedy? From the little bit I’ve put together, my distinct impression is that neither of these two were the sharpest knives in the drawer. What could have happened when these two idiots crossed paths to have prevented this?

By the accounts and Officer Wilson encountered the young thug in the middle of the street, and then received word that suspects matching his description had just robbed a convenience store. This is when the encounter turned violent, when Brown reached into the car, slugged Wilson a couple of times and was shot in the hand. Up to this point, Wilson had done nothing wrong. One does not reasonably expect an eighteen year old – no matter how big – to assault an officer of the law, especially in his car. Brown then took off, and Wilson made his first mistake: he got out of the car.

Look dude, you just got your lights punched out and you had a car door protecting you. What makes you think you have a chance with this guy in the middle of the street? Oh, yeah, you have a gun.

This is a fundamental problem with the culture of many law enforcement agencies. That piece of iron on your hip makes you feel like you’re ten feet tall and covered with hair, and gives you the power to enforce your authority whenever, wherever and however you please. It gives you the confidence to enter into situations that no sane, unarmed person would even consider. And that confidence is misplaced, because guns aren’t as effective as Hollywood would have us believe, and often when a Police officer’s confidence and ego oversteps his common sense, it’s the public he’s sworn to serve that suffers for it.

A word about firearms: handguns are a marginally effective weapon. They’re difficult to aim, and they often don’t immediately stop people from doing what they’re doing. The fact is that many people don’t even realize they’ve been shot at first. Someone who’s intent on closing to assault you may not stop doing so immediately just because they’ve been shot, unless the bullet makes them physically incapable of continuing, which is a pretty low probability shot. Humans can absorb an amazing amount of punishment and continue functioning for short periods of time. The US Army discovered this in the early twentieth century during the Philippine campaigns. One of the reasons the US army adopted the Colt .45 1911 as its standard sidearm is because the .38’s they had been using weren’t stopping the Moro tribesmen. As least the big, heavy, slow-moving .45 slug would throw them back a little, giving more time to aim for a kill shot.

Officer Wilson discovered this the hard way when a barrage of fire failed to stop Brown’s charge, and he ended up having to aim for a kill shot to protect himself. Almost immediately afterward, backup arrived.

Did Wilson have an alternate way of subduing Brown without using a firearm? I doubt it. A taser would have worked well in this situation, but it’s unreliable. If the barbs don’t seat properly, nothing is going to happen. It’s a sad fact that few US law enforcement officers have adequate martial arts training to be effective in unarmed hand to hand combat. Unions have seen to it that Agencies cannot require minimum levels of martial arts training for their officers unless they provide resources and pay them to participate. Few law enforcement agencies have the budgetary resources to support such an effort. Infrequent weekend seminars are inadequate to adequately train officers to any level of proficiency in martial arts. As a black belt in Aikido, I trained four or five times a week for many year before I felt proficient enough to be confident in my skills. Martial arts are something that need to be practiced continuously to be effective. In Japan, many law enforcement agencies make the acquisition of a black belt in Aikido a requirement to be promoted beyond a certain level. This gives the officers the confidence to enter into many situations calmly, something that American law enforcement lacks.

What should Wilson have done? What would the downside have been to just staying in the car, keeping Brown in sight and waiting for backup to arrive? Sometimes the very best thing to do is to back away. It runs against human nature, it’s not what your ego calls for you to do. But that’s why we train police officers: to be effective. Not to be the walking personification of law and order. Wilson’s all to human reaction to having been assaulted while in a position of authority put him in an untenable situation that ended with a dead kid in the middle of the street.

The other question I don’t hear anyone asking is what the hell the state of mind was of Michael Brown? This kid was not a hardened criminal. He wasn’t old enough to have any realistic life experience or to have formed any opinions of his own. Where the hell did he get the idea that assaulting a police officer was an appropriate thing to do?

Well, we don’t have to look any further than Louis Head, Michael Brown’s step-father, who will go down with his famous “Burn this bitch to the ground!” cry. What kind of advice must Michael have heard from this man concerning interactions with the police when he was growing up? What kind of attitude must he have learned concerning race? Certainly Michael’s actions in the last moments of his life were based on information he must have learned from somewhere.

Sadly, this is the price of rampant liberalism, where fathers and families have abdicated their parental responsibilities to the state, and what little parenting they do is to teach their children to despise the very state to which they turn for sustenance. We are nation of laws because our citizens have agreed by majority that certain laws are necessary to preserve prosperity and keep the peace. The respect that Americans generally have for the law is based on the understanding that the law protects their interests. Developing a whole underclass of citizen who have no skin in the game, whose interests are at odds with the people upon whom this nation was founded is a recipe for disaster. Before anyone passes a law to assist a minority group in some way, they need to examine the motivations that will result from such assistance. People are not inherently altruistic, and it’s a fact of life that subsidizing bad behavior just encourages more bad behavior.

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