EDITORIALS

THE MICHAEL BROWN SHOOTING – Police, Race, Riots & CNN

G8 / G20 Toronto 2010 Riot Police on Yonge St.Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 10.39.21 AM

I have to apologize to my friends and followers on social media for getting on this topic so late in the game.

Yes, that means you Cara @HappyCaraT and several other Facebook friends and Twitter followers who asked me to weigh in on the conversation.  Those inquiring minds included my cousin Laura Lee Mazzocca who lives in the Province of Ontario where a number of controversial Police Involved shootings have taken place recently.

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I appreciate the interest.

I especially appreciate the interest expressed by Laura Lee.

That’s because Laura Lee and I share the same DNA.

DNA that’s been traced back to a remarkable African-American Slave named Henry Dangerfield Lawson who had the courage to shed his chains and flee to Canada via the Underground Railroad.  Henry is our great, great Grandfather.

Does the fact I have African-American ancestry impact the way I view the Michael Brown shooting?

Do I relate more to the Police Culture and the Thin Blue Line than I do to my African-American / African-Canadian culture?

Valid questions.

As a Homicide Supervisor with the Winnipeg Police Service I was often called upon to supervise investigations into fatal and non-fatal Police involved shooting incidents.  The primary goal of the investigations were to determine if the shootings were justified.  Once the investigations were completed I was required to submit my findings in a detailed report with supporting documentation.

I always took pride in my ability to conduct the investigations and complete my analysis with a common-sense, dispassionate and non-biased approach.

That brings me to the shooting of Michael Brown.

I find myself intrigued by certain aspects of the case.  Are there any “black and white” issues or is this case all about, “black and white,” issues.  It’s clear from interviews and contributor analysis that African-Americans view the tragic shooting through a very different lens.

The Police have been highly criticized by the African-American community in almost every aspect of the investigation and in their response to journalists, protestors and rioters.  The Police have also been criticized for the timing and nature of information they’ve released.

The Convenience Store Robbery

Approximately ten (10) minutes before the shooting Police indicate Michael Brown was responsible for a strong-arm robbery at a Ferguson convenience store.  Police subsequently released a video recording of the incident that showed Brown stealing a quantity of cigars and then becoming aggressive with a store clerk who he intimidates and pushes as he leaves the store.  Although people want to minimize the incident, in the eyes of the law a convenience store theft + violence = robbery, a serious crime in the United States.

(Media accounts indicate Brown was 6’6″ and weighed almost three hundred (300) pounds.)

Much to my amazement, a long list of CNN contributors criticized the Police for releasing the robbery information on the same date they released the identity of the Police shooter.

Several contributors suggested the release of the robbery information was a diversionary tactic while others took it a step further by calling it intentional character assassination.  What is shocking to me is several highly intelligent African-American contributors suggest the convenience store robbery is completely irrelevant to the Police shooting.

I say hold on a minute!

How can you dismiss Brown’s criminal conduct, mindset and the aggressive demeanour he exhibited a mere ten (10) minutes before he was shot and killed in a confrontation with Police?

Of course it’s relevant.

I’m not trying to suggest Brown’s participation in the convenience store Robbery makes the shooting more or less justified.  I’m just saying it has to be considered a relevant factor.  Mindset, drug or alcohol consumption, physical stature and pre-shooting behaviour are all relevant factors.

Is the shooting of Michael Brown justified?

The truth is, no one looking in from the outside can really say.

In order to come to any conclusion regarding a Police Officer’s use of deadly force the Officer’s account of the incident must be fully examined.  Police Officers are authorized to use deadly force in protection of themselves or anyone else who may be under threat of suffering death or grievous bodily harm.  The Officers account of the event will be scrutinized against witness accounts, video recordings, forensic evidence and any other forms of evidence secured during the investigation.

(It should be noted that the law in the United States varies from Canada in several aspects including the use of deadly force to apprehend a fleeing felon.)

The Michael Brown case remains before a Grand Jury who will ultimately make the decision whether charges will be laid against the Officer in question.  It’s my hope their decision will be based on the facts of the case and the Law and not emotion, conjecture, political interference or bias fuelled by inflammatory media accounts.

That’s correct.

Inflammatory media accounts.

When it comes to inflammatory media accounts the absolute worst offenders were a number of CNN hosts and news correspondents.  I won’t soon forget Jake Tapper’s ridiculous rants as he called out front line Police Officers accusing them of essentially being “over-prepared” or “excessively militarized” as they faced protestors staging on the streets of Ferguson.

“The protestors have moved all the way down there.  There about half a block down here, they’re all the way down there, okay.  Nobodies threatening anybody, nobodies doing anything, none of the stores that I can see are being looted, there’s no violence. Now I want you to look at what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri in Downtown America, okay.  These are armed Police with machine guns, not machine guns, with semi automatic rifles, with batons, with shields, many of them dressed for combat.  Now why they’re doing this I don’t know, because there’s no threat going on here, none that merits this.  There is none, okay.  Absolutely there have been looters, absolutely over the last nine days there’s been violence, but there’s nothing going on on this street right now that merits this scene out of Bagram. Nothing. So if people wonder why the people of Ferguson Missouri are so upset, this is part of the reason, what is this, this doesn’t make any sense,” Tapper said as he grandstands in front of protestors and Police during a CNN newscast.

Who exactly does Jake Tapper think he is?

Does Jake Tapper have any experience in public safety, riot suppression or Police tactics?

Does Jake Tapper know that protests involving Law Enforcement frequently attract anarchists, Police haters, anti Police groups, anti Government entities, antagonists and criminal opportunists hoping for a chance to participate in window smashing and looting?

Tapper clearly has no idea just how fast a crowd of protestors can turn from a peace-loving group to an outraged mob attacking Police Officers, smashing windows and looting tax payers business establishments.  But worst of all, Tapper was so busy running his mouth he was seemingly unaware of his own surroundings.

Example;

CNN VIDEO (Screen Shot)
CNN VIDEO (Screen Shot)

If you watch the video closely you’ll see a menacing looking protestor with a bandanna covering his face enter the frame at the very moment Tapper criticizes Police for being over prepared for the non-violent, peaceful protestors.  Last I heard, peaceful demonstrators don’t use bandannas pulled over their faces to secret their identities, however, criminals, looters, rioters and gangsters often do.

Another great contradiction can be seen in a screen shot taken during Tapper’s egocentric tirade.

Jake Tapper (CNN Video Screen Shot)
Jake Tapper (CNN Video Screen Shot)

That’s correct, that’s a gas mask draped over Tapper’s forearm as he criticizes Police for being over-prepared and over-militarized in contrast to the “peaceful” demonstrators.  I’d like to ask Mr Tapper why he’s carrying a gas mask if the streets of Ferguson were so calm and peaceful?

Exactly what were you so worried about?

If the shit hit the fan Mr Tapper always had the convenient option of running for cover like the frightened little lamb I’d assume he’d be.

Unfortunately, the Police Officers on the front lines of Ferguson didn’t have that option.

To say I was disappointed by CNN’s coverage of Michael Brown’s shooting would be a major understatement.  In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever witnessed more irresponsible, biased or inflammatory reporting.  I once believed CNN was a responsible, reputable news agency.  I no longer have that belief.

It wasn’t just Tapper.

CNN news anchors Don Lemon, Michaela Pereira and John Berman were all shamelessly biased in their jaded anti-police reporting of the Ferguson crisis.

Thankfully, there was one improbable voice of reason through all of this.

Danny Cevallos (CNN Screen Shot)
Danny Cevallos (CNN Screen Shot)

I’m grateful for the temperate, logical, non-biased commentary provided by Mr Danny Cevallos, criminal defense attorney and CNN Legal Analyst.

Cevallos was relentless during his intelligent and articulate responses to other CNN contributors who were hell-bent on screaming racism, accusing cops of assassinating young black men and rushing to judgement before all the facts are known.

“The problem is everyone becomes an expert on human emotion during times of crisis, why don’t we stick with the facts we know and those will be the autopsy records.  Watching an Officer walking around after a shooting, I don’t know if that’s as compelling or that gives us as valuable information as hard science and that’s the autopsy,” Cevallos said in response to a CNN contributor engaging in wild speculation regarding the contact Officer’s post incident demeanour.

Cevallos was brilliant and unapologetic during his commentary.

Tapper on the other hand, should be sporting a set of shiny handcuffs for doing his best to incite a riot.

The timing of a long overdue family vacation prevented me from providing a prompt response to the disgusting spectacles I saw on CNN.  With no time to write a story to call out the CNN hacks, I had to rely on Twitter to voice my disgust….

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That’s black and white to me.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Ferguson comes to Winnipeg:

I recently received a Facebook message from a friend informing me of an interesting event scheduled on Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 7:00 pm in the Atrium at the McNally Robinson Booksellers location at the Grant Park Mall, 1120 Grant Ave.

Winnipeg Police Staff Sergeant Robert “Bob” Chrismas, author of Canadian Policing in the 21st Century, will be joined by Aimee Craft, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba, to discuss Race and Policing in Winnipeg in the wake of the Ferguson shooting.

It’s sure to be an interesting evening.

Look for The Police Insider in the crowd!

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2 Comments

  1. David,

    Thank you for sharing your comments and concerns…

    Allow me to respond;

    I never rendered a position regarding the justification for the use of force because anyone who does would be engaging in innapropriate speculation, a position supported by Criminal Defense Attorney & CNN Legal Analyst Mr Danny Cevallos, who as I indicated in my story, provided the most temperate, logical, common-sense analysis of the case.

    My position is not “pro-police” as you suggest, it’s neutral on the issue of justification pending judgement from an informed Grand Jury, the voice of the people.

    The story was less about the shooting than it was about the biased, inflammatory CNN reporting.

    The Tapper rant in front of protestors and Police was highly inappropriate and could have easily incited protestors to turn on the Police.

    It is Tapper who is attacking Police for being over-prepared with their batons and shields when, “their was nothing going on on this street right now that merits this scene out of Bagram,” yet he reserves the right to protect himself by carrying a gas mask.

    I suspected someone might try and defend him by suggesting he’s carrying the gas mask out of his fear of the Police. Does that argument really make any sense? In reality, he’s carrying the gas mask because its prudent to be prepared for unpredictable, potentially volatile situations. The very conditions that existed at the time he was criticizing the Police. The very Police who were taking the same appropriate precautions that he was. But he didn’t spin it that way did he?

    I don’t believe I was making this a police vs anti-police situation.

    I was calling out CNN for their wild speculation, media manipulation, conjecture and inflammatory reporting.

    You raise valid points about race issues and the need for the conversation.

    I agree, but that was not the focus of my story.

    The race issue is a topic that merits deeper contemplation and a specific conversation that’s not convoluted with other issues like inflammatory media reporting.

    I appreciate your feedback.

    Thanks again for commenting.

  2. Here’s the problem. You claim that you have a balanced perspective, but you take the police side at every turn. First, the fact that he robbed the store doesn’t have any impact on the multiple witness accounts that say he had his hands up and was backing away when the officer fatally shot him. Then, you slam CNN. Could they have been more objective? Certainly. But what you’re ignoring is that Jake Tapper has a gas mask because OF THE POLICE. The police were firing tear gas, not the protesters. Also, the comment that Jake Tapper should be arrested is ridiculous. While you highlight the “jaded anti-police” sentiment on CNN, you ignore the touching pieces they did spotlighting the people trying to keep the peace and picking up the trash that SOME of the protesters left. Finally, you are making this a police vs. anti-police situation, not mentioning the fact that this also relates to race. Talking about race is not racist or “playing the race card”. It’s an important discussion we need to have whether people like you want to talk about it or not. Blacks are killed in this country more often by police then whites. I hope that you can read this comment and make the necessary revisions and additions to your article.

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