Tag Archives: Ferguson

Yes, the 'world is watching'

The picture in the link attached to this blog post speaks volumes about modern life.

“The Whole World is Watching.”

So says the crude sign accompanying a New York Times editorial commenting on the shooting death of Walter Scott by former North Charleston, S.C., police officer Michael Slager.


This tragedy is going to stay with us for a long while.

Scott was black. Slager is white. Scott was running away from Slager when the officer fired eight rounds from his revolver, hitting Scott in the back. Scott was unarmed and he apparently died where he fell.

Slager has been charged with murder and was fired from his job.

And through it all, a young man with a camera in his smart phone captured it for the world to see.

There can be no way in the world that Slager will lie his way out of this one. He said something immediately afterward about fearing for his life. He feared an unarmed man who was running away from him? Yep. That’s what he said.

The Times commented: “The case underscores two problems that have become increasingly clear since the civic discord that erupted last year after the police killed black citizens in New York, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo. The first, most pressing problem is that poorly trained and poorly supervised officers often use deadly force unnecessarily, particularly against minority citizens. The second is that the police get away with unjustly maiming or killing people by lying about the circumstances that prompted them to use force.”

There ought to be some serious heart-to-heart talks in police squad rooms all across the nation in the days and weeks to come about this incident.

The world is watching our police officers. Every moment of every day they’re on the job.

The latest video of a clear police atrocity needs to be part of police departments’ training regimen.


Ex-cop won't face federal civil rights charges

I truly don’t know what to think about the Justice Department’s decision against prosecuting a former police officer in the death of a young black man.

Darren Wilson, formerly a Ferguson, Mo., police officer, was no-billed by a local grand jury this past year after he shot Michael Brown to death during an altercation.

The grand jury’s decision to let Wilson go set off a firestorm across the nation.

Then the Justice Department said it would weigh in on whether Wilson violated any federal civil rights laws when he shot Brown to death. The DOJ said today it wouldn’t prosecute him.


Is this a good thing? For Wilson, who quit the department after the grand jury cleared him, it’s certainly good news. Brown’s family no doubt feels differently.

Me? I tend to honor the local criminal justice system’s view on these matters. The locals said they lacked sufficient evidence to bring charges against the officer and the feds have concurred with what the locals decided.

But there’s an interesting political back story here. Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has been criticized — wrongly, in my view — as a “race-baiter.” The calls come from those on the right who contend that Holder, the nation’s first African-American AG, too often relies on race to inform his public policies.

Well, here we have a Justice Department deciding that the white former police officer didn’t commit a crime that needed a federal civil-rights trial to resolve.

Does that mean the criticism of Holder will subside, now that his department — which he is about to leave — has sided with the white guy?

Do not hold your breath waiting for that to happen.


Yep, Lemon's been a lemon

Don Lemon hasn’t had a distinguished year in front of the CNN news camera.

Although I don’t like critiquing media “performances,” Lemon’s string of gaffes in 2014 is worth a brief comment.

Columbia Journalism Review has slung a barb at Lemon, one of CNN’s go-go guys, for his amazing string of terrible interviews. He made CJR’s “worst journalism” list for 2014.


They’ve made news in ways Lemon, or his bosses at CNN, ever would want.

He wondered aloud whether Malaysian Air Flight 370 vanished into a “black hole,” only to be reminded by the expert to whom he asked the question that a black hole would swallow the entire planet.

During the Bill Cosby controversy involving allegations of sexual assault, Lemon said on the air that there are ways to avoid performing oral sex, such as using one’s teeth.

While reporting from Ferguson, Mo., during the rioting in the wake of the grand jury decision to no-bill the officer who shot Michael Brown, Lemon reported he could “smell marijuana in the air,” as if that had any significance.

Good journalism requires an element of trust that must be built between the reporter and his audience, whether they’re readers or TV viewers.

Don Lemon has squandered a good bit of that trust.

Let’s hope the young man repairs it in 2015.


Obama haters go way beyond the pale

Good ever-loving grief. Can’t the Obama haters out there ever cease their incessant rants?

The latest comes from former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, who said — are you ready for this? — that the president of the United States has implied that everyone should “hate the police.” Thus, Barack Obama is responsible for the assassination of two New York City police officers by a gunman who was angry over the disposition of the Eric Garner choking death case at the hands of a Staten Island policeman.


Yep, the one-time “America’s Mayor” has blamed the president for the actions of a lunatic.

Politifact managed to fact-check the ex-mayor’s assertion and has ruled it is a “Pants on Fire” lie. An outright falsehood.

The president has said nothing of the kind, ever, in all the discussion he’s had in public about the Garner case, or about the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Mo., or about the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, Fla. All three incidents involved black individuals being killed by police officers or, in the Martin case, a private neighborhood security officer.

As Politifact reports: “Part of Giuliani’s point is that Obama has been empathetic to the protesters, which he has been — though cautiously so. And he has always discouraged violent protests and excessive police response.”

Indeed, the president has taken great pains to insist that protests remain peaceful and civil.

To suggest he has called on Americans to “hate” the men and women who serve and protect their communities is to tell an egregious lie.


Garner case is not about taxation

Conservative talking heads keep trying to change the subject while discussing the case involving Eric Garner, the black man choked to death in New York by a white police officer.

It’s reprehensible for them to try to turn the argument to something as ridiculous as taxation.


The video link attached here is difficult to watch. It features Fox News commentator Sean Hannity arguing with PBS commentator Tavis Smiley over the grand jury’s decision not to indict the New York police officer who choked Garner to death. It’s difficult because the two of them keep arguing over each other, each trying to outshout the other. Perhaps the funniest part is when Hannity (a white guy) tells Smiley (a black guy) that he needs “to be educated” about how African-Americans should react to the Garner case and the one involving Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

But in the midst of the verbal melee, Hannity — quite predictably — tries to suggest the real villain here is a government that insists on taxing cigarettes in an effort to get as much money as it can.

What the … ?

Garner had been approached by the police for selling “loose cigarettes.” He was selling them individually, I guess to make a few bucks on the side. I presume that’s an illegal act, which is why the cops were hassling Garner in the first place.

Well, he argued back, telling the police he wasn’t doing anything wrong. One of them grabbed Garner in a chokehold, wrestled him to the ground, ignoring Garner’s “I can’t breathe” pleas.

Garner passed out and then died.

And Hannity — along with other right-wingers — wants to say the real villain is a tax policy that prohibits people from selling cigarettes in the manner that Eric Garner sought to sell them?

I cannot believe the crassness of such an argument.


Will hearings solve anything?

House Speaker John Boehner says he’s open to having congressional hearings on the deaths of two black men at the hands of white police officers.

Good. It is fair to wonder, though, whether they’ll lead to anything of substance.


The men at issue are Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both of whom died in confrontations with police officers. The man who shot Brown to death in Ferguson, Mo., was no-billed by a grand jury; the officer who choked Garner to death in New York got the same pass from another grand jury.

Of the two cases, the one involving Garner is proving to be more troublesome. A video shows the officer clamping a chokehold on Garner, who was being arrested for selling “loose” cigarettes. The Brown case involves a lot of contradictions. The Garner case, to my mind — and the minds of millions of others — is much more clear cut: The grand jury blew it.

Congressional hearings will enable a more complete airing of the problems associated with these cases. Perhaps the question ought to be: Are these violent acts by police occurring with more frequency to black men than to white men, and if so, why is that?

Let’s advance this conversation through thoughtful congressional testimony, shall we, Mr. Speaker?


It appears nearly unanimous: grand jury blew it

The chatter all across the country — from the left and the right — appears to be saying the same thing about the death of Eric Garner at the hands of Staten Island, N.Y. police.

The grand jury blew it when it declined to indict a police officer for a crime when he choked Garner to death.

I finally saw the video last night showing Garner being questioned by cops over his alleged selling of “illegal cigarettes.” Garner pleaded with the police to leave him alone, that he wasn’t guilty of any crime. One of the cops then slapped a choke hold on Garner, wrestled him to the ground.

Garner was heard on the video telling the officers 11 times that “I can’t breathe.” He passed out and then died.

And the grand jury couldn’t find probable cause to accuse the officer of a crime?

What in the world has happened here?

The difference between this incident and the Ferguson Mo., case involving the shooting death of Michael Brown, a young black man, by Darren Wilson, a white former police officer, is crystal clear. The Ferguson case had too many conflicting accounts of what happened, whether Brown was surrendering or attacking Wilson. The Garner case is cut, dried and laid out there for everyone to see: The police officer — aided by several of his colleagues — slapped a killer chokehold on Garner.

Could he have lessened the pressure enough to allow Garner to breathe? I believe he could have done exactly that.

Whatever in the world the grand jury was thinking needs to be revealed. As Ricky told Lucy: You got some ‘splainin’ to do.


Cop brings pride in hometown

Bret Barnum makes me proud of my roots in one of America’s most beautiful cities.

He’s a police officer for the Portland Police Bureau and he did something the other day that has been seen around he world. He hugged a boy.


The boy was Devante Hart, 12 years of age. Devante was taking part in a peaceful protest in Portland in the wake of the grand jury’s decision against indicting former Ferguson (Mo.) policeman Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. We all know the story by now.

Devante was carrying a sign advertising “Free Hugs.” Sgt. Barnum saw the youngster and the sign.

He shook the boy’s hand and asked him why he was crying. Devante said the protest saddened him.

With that, Barnum embraced Devante — with tears streaming down the boy’s face — and the image was snapped by a freelance photographer and flashed around the world.

Barnum has been a Portland police officer for two decades. He seems like an unassuming fellow. He works in the traffic division of the Portland Police Bureau.

“If it helps other people out, fantastic,” he said of the hug he gave Devante. “It just shows how great our city is.”

It also shows that human beings really can be kind to each other in the midst of strife and turmoil.

A simple embrace stands in stark and glaring contrast to the hideous rioting and looting that took place in Ferguson.

Well done, Sgt. Barnum — and young Devante Hart. You made this Portland native mighty proud.



'Sir Charles' speaks truthfully about looters

Charles Barkley never has enjoyed a reputation as a profound social commentator.

He’s a basketball hall of famer known more for his dunks than his verbal decorum.

However, he spoke with blunt truth about a group of people who have emerged as the universal bad guys in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision against indicting a white police officer who shot a young black man to death in Ferguson, Mo., this past summer.


He spoke about the looters who protested the grand jury’s findings, telling the New York Daily News:

“Those aren’t black people, those are scumbags,” the NBA Hall of Famer and TNT basketball analyst said of the rioters, who targeted mostly minority-owned businesses. “There is no excuse for people to be out there burning down people’s businesses, burning down police cars.”

At issue is the aftermath of the case involving the shooting death of Michael Brown by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The investigation produced a lot of contradictory evidence about whether Brown was surrendering, whether he was fighting with Wilson, whether Wilson was threatened physically or whether the officer profiled the young man only because of the color of his skin.

Agree or not with the decision, the response by many in the community went far beyond what is decent.

Barkley happens to agree with what the grand jury decided.

His larger point, though, is in condemning the irrational and idiotic reaction by the looters.

He’s right. They’re scumbags.


Severance package for Officer Wilson? No

Darren Wilson’s departure from the Ferguson (Mo.) Police Department well could provoke a protest among those who believe he deserves a severance package.

Allow me to argue that he doesn’t deserve it.

Wilson was cleared by a local grand jury of criminal charges in the August shooting death of a young black man, Michael Brown. The incident produced a firestorm of protest and the grand jury no-bill has reignited community — and indeed national — anger over the white officer’s role in Brown’s death.

He quit his job. Resigned voluntarily. What he’ll do next is anyone’s guess. I wish him well.

Wilson doesn’t deserve a severance package; the police department has said it won’t offer him one.

I have a bit of personal knowledge about this kind of issue.

I left my last job in daily journalism under duress. The company reorganized its newsroom operation, rolled my once-autonomous department into the newsroom, asked everyone to apply for jobs; I applied for mine, but it went to someone else.

“Well,” I thought, “I think I’ll just quit.”

During my final visit the next day with my soon-to-be former employer, I inquired about a severance. He all but laughed in my face before telling me “No. You resigned.” We talked a few more moments. Then I left, never to return as an employee of that operation.

Wilson’s departure from the Ferguson came totally of his own volition.

Severance package for quitting? Not a chance.