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A grand jury is Ferguson’s match

After deliberating since August 20, a grand jury has failed to indict a police officer who shot an unarmed, black teenager, who witnesses claim had his arms raised in submission to the law. Other accounts suggest that Michael Brown may have struggled for Officer Darren Wilson’s gun. Wilson has said or intimated that he was shot once or twice in this struggle, if there was one. The fact remains that Brown was shot dead and no gun was recovered that belonged to him. The fact remains that Wilson sustained no gunshot wounds while Brown took six and died, his corpse left in the street for hours after his death. Though a struggle over a single gun could lead to a justifiable shooting in self defense, why has Officer Wilson apparently lied about the wounds he allegedly sustained? As the lawyers say, it goes to credibility, or lack of same in Wilson’s case.

in 2010, the last year when statistics were available, approximately 162,000 grand juries were convened and out of that staggering number, they failed to hand down an indictment only 11 times, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. It has been said that a grand jury could indict a ham sandwich. Once again, black men, women and children have had their collective lunches eaten by an American system of justice that can’t even imagine that they are human beings with Constitutional, civil and personal rights. Ferguson is burning now with at least 12 buildings torched and many places of business looted.

Anecdotally, I have spoken with friends and acquaintances who have expressed no sympathy for Michael Brown, especially after a video, purportedly Brown, was released showing a large, black teenager muscling a store owner for a box of cheap cigars. Too many of us are content with our private, dismissive judgements, which cram people into tight,  prejudged boxes to save us any actual contemplation. Brown may have broken the law but there is supposed to be due process for that and wasn’t there once something called the presumption of innocence pending a jury’s verdict?

I am left with more proof for a long held suspicion. Police are above the law. Cops have an internal system of protections and controls which benefit them and not the public they are supposed to serve. 14 states have “The Police Officers Bill of Rights”. This insulting policy shields police from public accountability and keeps their names and pictures out of newspapers when they are accused of misconduct. I wouldn’t mind so much if the rest of us had these protections too but we don’t. The sacred cow status that police enjoy feeds the abuse that too many rain down on citizens across this country. As the federal government hands out military surplus for free to departments far and wide, the police are being told that they really are an occupying army keeping the proles at bay. “Serving the Public” will only be found on the doors of their cruisers.

White cops and black victims seems to be a law of nature in a country obsessed with guns and seething with a permanent underclass of Americans who are doomed to fight the same battles for basic civil rights again and again. As more of the testimony from the grand jury transcripts dribbles out, most have forgotten that killing an unarmed person is generally not necessary. Police throw out the excuse that they “feared for their lives” when they use deadly force. This has become a catch all excuse for killing suspects and it’s not enough. Police have training, they have arsenals of weapons and they have backup available to them if they will stop insisting on armed confrontations with suspects when they are not truly warranted. In a November 26th article by David A. Lieb and Holbrook Mohr of the Associated Press, it paraphrases a witness named, Dorian Johnson. The article said that Johnson claimed, after Wilson told Brown and a friend to move;

..Wilson had pulled his vehicle so close to them that when the officer tried to open the door, it hit Brown hard and bounced back. Then, Wilson’s arm came out the window and that’s the first initial contact that they had.”

The AP had reviewed thousands of pages of grand jury testimony and the above quote is reprinted here. Restraint is what keeps people alive and if cops fear for their lives to the extent that shooting first is the best policy, then it’s time to turn in the badge and gun to find less fearful work. If the witness I quoted was correct, then Wilson could have called for backup instead of approaching Brown and provoking him needlessly. I agree that police work is dangerous and weapons must be used at times. However, it is apparent that the siege mentality in many squad rooms means  that those guns see action too often while the police unions run interference. I don’t claim to hang my whole argument on a single quote but if Wilson started a physical confrontation needlessly, a death may have resulted from it.

The grand jury system only serves one side of any issue and they indict in overwhelming numbers. That being the case, why not treat a grand jury indictment as a given, just like the Miranda rights advisory? It’s either that or get rid of the entire thing. Grand juries meet in secret, they do not allow cross examination and they deny rights and resources available in a regular trial. Who do they serve? What good are they? As to the people of Ferguson, they have vented their spleens with arson, robbery and general mayhem. Blacks in America know that they are valued less in the eyes of the law and having a black skin seems to set off a lizard brained, violent response in the minds of the police. Marching, singing, burning and looting won’t touch that essential fact and grand juries simply don’t indict cops. When justice is far from blind, it sets off blind fury.

If Martin Luther King Jr. appeared out of the ether, he would be stunned at the lack of progress he fought for and his devotion to non violence would be a hard sell in a land where the law and the police are specifically designed to ignore the most basic human rights. To offer the faintest silver lining, people are protesting across the country at the bitter frequency of  the deaths of black Americans at the hands of the police.

How dare police say they fear for their lives when they are, too often, the ones taking them.

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