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The Future's Cloudy And It's Raining On The Poor Class: What Do You Believe About Ferguson, MO?

By TK | Think Pieces | August 18, 2014 | Comments ()


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He’s big, they said. He’s enormous. 6’5”, almost 300 pounds. He robbed a store. He pushed an employee. He was jaywalking. He smoked weed. He wouldn’t comply. He ran towards the cop.

He’s black and he’s dead.

Sometimes, I feel like those last two are the only things that matter.

In the past few days, many people have tripped over themselves to vilify Michael Brown. They’ve thrown everything at him that they could think of. He’s a thug. Look at his friend, with his tattoos and his hair. Look at how big he is. Look what he did to that poor man behind the counter. He was running towards the police officer!

As if, by throwing out all of this information, they can somehow paint over the image of a dead, unarmed black man, and bring forth one of someone else. A drug-user, a criminal with no regard for the law. A violent beast.

A wild dog, deserving to be put down.

As if any of that could justify what happened.

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He was doing his job, they said. He was upholding the law. He was investigating a crime (except no, not really). He was defending himself. He was protecting himself.

He shot Michael Brown six times.

In the past few days, many people have tripped over themselves to protect Darren Wilson. As if by simple virtue of being a police officer, he is owed more benefit of the doubt than Michael Brown is. Despite the fact that he killed an unarmed man.

I admit it. I do not know exactly what happened that fateful afternoon in Ferguson, MO. I know that a police officer fired six bullets into Michael Brown, and that Brown died. I know that yet another black man is dead at the hands of those who are sworn to protect. I know that the police department has handled this situation, and the events that followed it, about as poorly as possible.

What is most fascinating, and terrifying about this narrative is the why. The authorities in Ferguson, the police, the mayor, the governor — all of them are in some way culpable for the nightmare that has descended upon that city. Yes, looters and rioters. Yes, they are guilty. Yes, they are stupid. Yes, they set fires.

It’s funny, though. I don’t remember SWAT teams being called out, or snipers, or the media being harassed and arrested, or automatic weapons being pointed at Lakers fans when they rioted after the championship in 2010. I don’t remember assault vehicles rolling out and rubber bullets and tear gas being fired on parents and children when Vancouver rioted after losing the Stanley Cup.

I had always assumed that was because the police were trained to be better than that, to not fight chaos with more chaos.

We choose the way the story gets written, regardless of what facts are present. In Ferguson, the powers that be attempted to write the story to cover up their own mistakes. Mistakes made by Darren Wilson, by the Ferguson PD, by politicians. They’ve chosen to claim the role of defenders, protectors, keepers of the peace — only they’ve done it with guns and gas and threats. The best thing I can say about the Ferguson PD at this point is that they didn’t use live ammunition.

They’ve chosen to save themselves by sacrificing their community.

We live in fear of anarchy, of disorder. We are terrified of it. We see it in cities and countries around the world, and we are horrified when it makes its way to our shores. And so we tell a story of order, that America is a bastion of peace and tranquility. It cannot be police brutality, it cannot be racism, it cannot be oppression. We tell ourselves that it cannot be the police, that they are there to protect us, to save us. And that if someone is killed by the police, then there must have been a reason. There must be information we don’t have. There must be more to the story.

Perhaps. But if so, why don’t we have more information? It appears that right now, there is probably more media presence in Ferguson, MO than any other city in the country. If there is more information — evidence of an officer being assaulted, evidence of Brown’s further wrongdoing, witnesses that support Wilson’s story — where is it? There has been a curious silence from the powers that be. Except at night, when they break that silence with guns and grenades.

And yet, we’re asked why we’re so quick to believe that Michael Brown was innocent. Why we’re so quick to condemn the police in Ferguson, MO. As if simply by questioning authority, by expressing our anger and concern and fears, as if by thinking that the police went too far, we are courting chaos. We are supporting anarchy, because we chose to believe a different story, one separate from what they are trying to tell us.

Michael Brown was shot to death by an officer sworn to protect. Ferguson was bombarded by armored vehicles, dogs, SWAT teams, rubber bullets, tear gas, bullhorns. The media was suppressed. People were treated like animals, herded like… like cattle? No, no one would treat cattle so poorly. Cattle could stampede through a town, and they wouldn’t be treated like that.

Because cattle are worth something.

They asked why we don’t believe them. Why we don’t trust them.

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Why should we?




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • OtherthanthatMrsLincoln

    OMFG. I am SO tired of this Obama sanctioned race-baiting. The guy was a thug. The shooting was something no police officer ever wishes to face. I feel wretched for Michael Brown's family.

    ***********************END OF STORY***************************

  • foolsage

    Oh, come on now. "Obama sanctioned race-baiting"? Are you serious?

    First, Obama didn't actually sanction or indeed approve of the riots. He didn't actually have anything to do with this, despite conservatives' wishes to blame him for literally everything in the world. Second, you seem to be one of those people (probably white and Republican) who really don't believe that there are any racial issues in America. Therefore, when anyone mentions race, you take it as race-baiting, rather than a sincere effort to discuss a real problem. That's an unrealistic and non-constructive approach that you really ought to reconsider; try reading up on the topic from some third-party sources, rather than getting everything from FOX News. Third, your sympathy for the living man is nice, really, but maybe you might want to consider showing some sympathy for the family of the dead man, and the community who were treated like criminals by a police department that was supposed to serve and protect them. Note that the militarized police action (e.g. officers pointing loaded weapons at unarmed civilians) began BEFORE any riots.

    Finally, declaring "end of story" doesn't actually make it, you know, the end of the story. That's merely the point at which you chose to bury your head in the sand.

  • Jim Slemaker

    So we admit we don't know all the facts.

    But let's face it, the cop was WRONG. I don't care if the kid was threatening to kill him, trying to take his gun, smashing him in the face and breaking his eye-socket, the cop was WRONG to shoot him.

    Do I have that right?

  • Some Guy

    Yes, you do in fact. If someone punches you in the face, walks away, then doubles back at you in time for you to pull a gun, then yes, you are absolutely within your right to shoot the person who just attacked you and might possible be seeking to attack you again. It's called self-defense.

  • Spacerobot

    While I whole heartedly agree that the response of the St. Louis PD has been beyond tone deaf, and in some cases unethical, especially in regards to how they have treated journalists and the way they have militarized and their refusal to come out with concrete details about what happened.

    I feel like too much has been assumed about the incident that sparked all this. Now I will say, that no matter what that person did, if someone is clearly surrendering and is not a threat to anyone there is no excuse a police officer has to kill that person, anyone that has was grossly abusing a sacred power given to them so that they can protect the people. However, we do not know for a fact that Brown was surrendering, we also do not know how the altercation was sparked and what transpired during it.

    When a police officer's life is threatened or the life of an innocent is threatened police have not just the right but the responsibility to end that threat. I agree that non-lethal force must be used whenever it is possible but non-lethal might not have been an option, its also possible that it might have been an option and in the heat of the moment Wilson decided to take a man's life, albeit a man who at the time might have been hitting Wilson in the face so hard that he may end up loosing an eye.

    I'm not arguing that Wilson should or should not have killed or even shot Brown because I wasn't there so I don't know what happened but neither was anyone commenting on this website or anywhere else on the internet for that matter.

  • amberdragonfly

    What strikes me is that the guy who killed my aunt, and mind you this was about 20 years ago, but he was a white college kid with severe mental issues. She had her car for sale in the paper, he went to her house, stabbed her six times and took the car. He drove out of state, robbed a convenience store, and got in a shootout with the police in a hotel parking lot in Aurora, CO. And he is STILL ALIVE. Did I mention he was white?

    Anyone who says this isn't about race isn't paying attention.

  • waaaagh

    This has just gotten insane. I saw this photo this morning and cannot believe this is how you react to this situation (it looks like a damn firing squad). I've been praying for peace in Ferguson every night.

  • mernymerlyn

    What I want to know, is with all their training and tactics, weapons including mace and tasers that will put anyone down,why do they go for the gun first? Why shoot to kill? I will never understand that.

  • mzbitca

    Because they can. The problem is that over the years the courts have shown that they will give large leniency to police actions and defer to their decision on what is "necessary" which means that more and more is allowed and when it is allowed it becomes the default. We need to see a serious correction in what is allowed by law. However, being "soft on crime" is a death sentence to polititican so they won't tighten laws and the courts won't due to. It's also not a coincedence that all of this loosening of police laws came shortly after Jim Crow was overturned during a turbulent time in our country when people were scared. The drug war provided even more opportunity for broad sweeps, random searches, and aggressive behavior.

  • robinvik1 .

    When was it established that he ran towards the cop? I've just listen to a couple of eye witness testimonies and they didn't say anything about that.

  • meadowdancer

    Some woman who called in for the officer said he told her that Michael Brown charged him.

    I honestly don't believe the police narrative. I don't believe that most officers are racist. I don't believe that people who are bigger and taller than an officer should be stopped by gunfire while unarmed. I do believe in basic geometry and realizing that Michae Brown IF charging the officer would had to have done so further back than 30 yards which to me the cop if feeling threatened had time to get in his vehicle and lock the doors and call for assistance. Seeing where the bullets entered and exited his body this looked to be an execution. If the shots had been fired randomly I would believe the narrative the officer was overhelmed and in fear for his life.

  • robinvik1 .

    I agree. I'm generally not inclined to take the killers word for it.

  • Miss Kate

    Beautifully said.

  • Did the white, right-wing anti-government groups terrified of a militarized government police state show up to help these poor black people yet? No? Ok, well, I'll just sit right here in this chair and wait until they do.

    /dies 70 years from now in chair

  • mzbitca

    No but there have been reports that anarchists from out of state have been coming down to rile up the crowds. Peaceful protesters actually shoved them out of the crown and into the police to be arrested last night. Some community leaders are also concerned that they are "advising" the younger men who want to fight back on how to do so

  • colpetty

    The world is bigoted, if it isn't race, it's religion, gender, sexual orientation, height, weight, just take your pick. The difference is that the majority of the world doesn't have your obsession, and more importantly your access, to lethal weapons.

    Coming from a country where brutal violence was all I knew growing up, I am acutely aware that when unarmed, violence is always the last resort because of the fear of harm to oneself), put a gun in my hand and it becomes the first move. Its really not that difficult to understand.

    Also, why in the US is murder ok when it's a cop who pulled the trigger*?

    *I know it isn't but it sure as hell seems that way

  • Aaron Schulz

    Everything points to this kid not deserving to be put down like a dog, its fucked up and clearly happened because he was black, not because he was dangerous. The only thing i take issue with, and its silly, is the "shot 6 times" people say that to make it sound excessive i think, but cops are trained to fire until they think the threat is dead. Its excessive because he killed a guy for no reason, not because he fired 6 times.

  • mzbitca

    I think it can be important because it could indicate the cop was out of control and just unloaded his weapon as opposed to firing once or twice.

  • Maddy

    Anti abortion activists harassing women at clinics = fine

    Westboro Baptist Church picketing funerals: fine

    People wanting to mourn and (mostly) peacefully protest the death of a teenage boy in their community: tear gas the fuck out of them

  • Last I checked, the vast majority of people are not 'fine' with WBC picketing funerals.

  • emmelemm

    But the Supreme Court said it was fine, and the Supreme Court, well, reigns supreme.

    (Ditto with abortion protesters.)

  • Maddy

    Last time I checked the police weren't tear gassing them either.

  • Aaron Schulz

    They actually get approval from the city before hand, well they tell them they are coming and they set up a little area for them to stand in most of the time. Also theres usually like 10 people from WBC at most for a lot of these protests.

    Tear gassing the people in MO is insane, dont get me wrong, but the situations are different.

  • Maddy

    Yeah fair enough,

    POLICE JUST DONT TEAR GAS OR SHOOT RUBBER BULLETS AT PEOPLE

  • Maddy

    Also worth noting: first and only homicide (or whatever term you want to use) in Ferguson this year. Tell me who are the criminals here again?

  • cinekat

    Granted, I'm an expat living in Europe so I may view things differently as we have gun control here - and that's a factor that comes into play as well: Vienna police have a horrific track record for racism and abuse of power, often involving batons. But, as a short blonde caucasian woman, I'm fairly certain that had I been walking down the middle of that Ferguson street in broad daylight, police officers might have slowed down to see if I was ok and to tell me I was endangering myself and others. Had I then become aggressive for any reason in any way, be it physically or verbally, I'm equally certain my only potential injuries would be a twisted arm, sore wrists and perhaps a bump on the head incurred while being placed in the back seat. And this is what concerns me.

  • Maddy

    Also that whole thing where Darren Wilson fired more bullets than THE ENTIRE BRITISH POLICE DEPARTMENT. John Oliver is right TAKE THEIR TOYS AWAY

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Well, most British cops don't carry firearms, so that doesn't compare.

    Then again, most British cops don't carry firearms.

    Here is a better collection of examples from Europe.

  • Maddy

    Fair enough.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    I know that the circumstances aren't really the same at all, but a big black guy was choked to death by a smaller cop. I'm not saying that makes all things equal but cops aren't helpless, they don't HAVE to turn to the gun as a first resort, you know? The creepiest part is that in the week following that choking (there wasn't a lot of news coverage about it), there was a rash of cops using that same illegal choke hold on blacks. One of those times it was used on a pregnant woman in front of her daughter. Then when her husband and brother saw her being choked and ran out to find out what was happening (there was no mention of whether either man accosted the cops physically, I guess they didn't) they were freaked out, so the cops arrested the three of them and she's been charged with resisting arrest. That makes little sense as the only time she was struggling was when she was in the hold, not after they cuffed her. They did all of this because she was grilling on the sidewalk--which is totally illegal, no dispute there, but couldn't a citation and an order to move her grill suffice? Doesn't an illegal choke hold present as a much more serious act of criminality than sidewalk grilling? Just give her a ticket and be done.

  • _Alexander_

    Ok can someone explain one thing to me? What's the point of the police coming to town every night? I mean I can understand the police dispersing the protestors if they came and try to besiged the police station. But what's the point of dispersing them when they are in their own neighbourhood?

    I mean just from practical point of view. If the police are not there and the protests turn to riots and looting this is a pr victory for the police. If the police are there and it's just a peacful meeting the media begins to lose interest and it's again a win for the police

    But going on in full gear after protestors every night seems like literally the dumbest move possible. So why? is the extra pay?

  • general rhubarb

    I am so enraged. I'm yelling at my computer "American, you just went and Americaed all over your friggin' self!".

    Then I look around our media. Australia is definitely Australiaing all over its stupid sorry ass too.

    Sweden. I want to live there.

  • Maddy

    Yeah pretty much. But um ,,,, team Australia?

  • Sweden would be too cold. Plus, it seems like it would be real difficult to get decent Mexican food there.

  • What do I believe?

    - I believe that when you have both the left AND the right agreeing with each other that you fucked up, then you have definitely fucked up somewhere along the way.

    - I believe that militarized police departments make me nervous. There is no reason a PD needs an APC. If we could strike a balance between Andy Taylor and Judge Dredd, that'd be great.

    - I believe that people have the right to peacefully protest, but not to riot. I believe both have happened over the last week or so. A handy tip I've found useful in the past: As a general rule of thumb, peaceful protests rarely involve burning shit down.

    - I think anyone who is not just indulging in over-emotive social media hyperbole and who seriously believes that America is a horribly oppressive, broken society needs to spend a couple weeks visiting some of the actual horribly oppressive broken societies that exist around the globe to gain some perspective.

    - I believe that unless you're facing the Terminator or someone whacked out of their mind on PCP, shooting someone six times is both a tetch excessive and poor fire discipline.

    Lastly, I believe that the ratio of people who think they know what happened /what's going on to people who actually know what happened/what's going on is roughly 100:1.

  • Liroo

    I dunno, man. I live in an East African dictatorship and I am a journalist. I have never, never seen a show of force like this during riots here. Never once. There's been tear gas, and there's been confusion and stampeding. But I've never had my camera equipment dismantled and taken from me, I've never been arrested for reporting, and I've never seen this sort of spectacular show of power and violence.

    You need to realize America is getting as bad as the horribly oppressive broken societies that exist around the globe. I've covered riots in multiple countries. This is bad, man. Really properly bad. 3rd world bad. Make no mistake about that.

  • foolsage

    I wish I could disagree.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    It's hard to stay stoic when it's happening to people like you and has for a long time. I don't think people are in the mood for hearing that their problems don't qualify as much as deserving because of...something. I guess you have to live it to get it because what I personally, and a lot of people in general get from cops is shit for existing. It's not fun and it never, ever ends.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Damn.

  • Coolg82

    There is one thing in this situation I haven't heard anyone bring up, and that is the issue of lethal force. For the hell of the argument, I will grant that sure, he knocked over the inconvenience store. Sure, he resisted arrest. Sure, he charged the cop. I do not necessarily believe these things, but I don't know, I wasn't there, but for the sake of the argument, sure, he did those things. With that said, why was lethal force used. Cops are trained, expertly trained, to take down subjects non-lethally. The whole point is the catch them alive, so that justice can be served. Lethal force only happens when it is the last refuge, when there is no other choice and the life of the cop or innocents are threatened. Why did Wilson put six bullets into him? Brown was unarmed and if he attacked, he did it unarmed. Cops are trained to fight, to take down subjects non-lethally. I once saw a cop, he was about 5 foot 2 inches, race across a parking lot to a dude about 6 feet tall. The cop gained on him, jump into the air, and took him down and the only thing the cop took off his belt was the handcuffs. Weeks ago, we saw a cop, armed but holstered, take down a big black dude twice his size in girth and height with a choke hold and literally choked him to death. He never even had to pull his gun to kill him. How could Brown had been such a threat that it required instantly pulling his gun and emptying half his clip into him. He went for his gun when he could have gone for his taser. He went for his gun when he could have gone for his mace. He went for his gun when he could have gone for his baton. He deliberately went for his gun and blew the kid away. Despite all the training that went into keeping him from doing just that. All the options available, he went lethal. You can say the cop freaked, but as Wilson is a six year vet, he should not have. Especially if he is the shining example the police have claimed him to be. Even if Brown is the criminal the cops claim him to have been, lethal force should have never been used. It was deliberate. If it was not deliberate, then it was the actions of a shitty cop who shouldn't hold the job to begin with, as good cops supposedly do not immediately resort to lethal force when non-lethal would have been just as easy.

    I truly feel that that is the reason the cops have been so secret about the details. Even if Brown was a hardened criminal, they don't have enough to justify lethal force without throwing Wilson under the bus by saying he freaked when he shouldn't have. The delay was an attempt to deflect blame and concoct a reason to justify lethal force.

  • birdgal

    The first shot? Possibly justified (though I still seriously question the need for lethal force, use a taser dumbass). The next five shots? Pretty much murder, as far as I can tell.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I can't help but associate this with the kind of behavior we have come to expect from people on the far right. I just can't.

  • _Alexander_

    That's extremely discriminatory of you. Left leaning people are just as capable of shooting unarmed black man and to utterly mishandle the aftermath. Democrats can!

  • lowercase_ryan

    Oh we're capable of it. We just tend to not.

  • abell

    Missouri's governor who's running this shitshow now is a Democrat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J...

    Can't say about the officers involved, but, current state and national leadership are both Blue. So, they clearly are capable of it.

  • Maddy

    Stop oppressing right wing people!

  • Which one is Pink?

    They are opressed by imaginary leftist commie demons.

  • The Grand Leaf

    Only three things matter:

    1) Was the officer's life TRULY under threat at the time of the shooting? We don't know. Yet. Hopefully we will someday. Black, white, orange, yellow... doesn't matter, threat is the ONLY thing that justifies or condemns this shooting. The rest is noise and or people hijacking this death to push an agenda that may or may not be righteous.

    2) How do we restore peace in Ferguson so that the violence stops, children can return to school, and people can feel like they're being heard? Let's hear some freaking suggestions instead of second-guessing.

    3) What lessons can be learned from what has happened? This is a discussion for a time when cooler heads will prevail. No enraged person has ever contributed a damn thing to society. "Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that (MLK)." "Hatred does not does cease by hatred, but only by love. This is the eternal law (The Buddha 2500BC - at least MLK borrowed from the best)." The true test for whether anything good will come out of this will be in the weeks and months that follow. Will the angry protesters just go back to their business now that the heat of it is expelled? Or will somebody actually come up with some smart solutions and effect them?

    People who claim they give two shits about Michael Brown need to care about the specifics of the case and stop applying STEREOTYPES to the situation. So many of you think you know Darren Wilson - he's just this black-hating cop who just wants to pump those animals full of lead, right? Life is just a movie where you can boil his life experiences and view points down into a single sentence, right? There are dirty cops in the world who have done dirty things, so f*** the police and f*** Darren Wilson who's just another dirty cop, right? Hell, why wait for an investigation and a trial... we're all civilized people here who don't need due process... we've got the media, and we know exactly what happened -- except he'd never get convicted, by the way, because we're pretty much split down the middle on what happened. Shit.

    If Michael Brown's skin had been white, would be still be alive? YOU DON'T KNOW. Is it relevant (specifically to his shooting) that he was black? YOU DON'T KNOW. But that doesn't keep people from firing off their mouths. Maybe we'll never know, but instead of rushing to conclusion, wait for the facts to be revealed. But the facts can't be revealed until these god damn riots stop, because no matter what facts are released, people who are already angry are just going to get angrier. There is no winning scenario here for authorities. If you release facts that support the officer, some people will scream cover-up, lies, bullshit and they will rage. If you release facts that support Michael, people will become just that much more incensed and call for blood.

    Is the video tape relevant? Maybe. Assuming it's him (is that being debated still at this point?), it tells you a few things about him. A) he's not a gentle giant, at least not at the time of the incident. He'll grab a smaller man by the throat over a box of $50 cigars. That's pretty screwed up. B) he may have felt threatened when the cop rolled up, since he knew he had just committed a crime. These things speak directly to his state of mind at the time of the incident, and they are facts to be ***considered*** in the big picture. People keep trying to characterize it as "who cares if he stole something, that's not death penalty worthy." WELL OF COURSE IT ISN'T AND WHAT MORON WOULD SAY THAT. Straw man. The fact is, the tape, gives some credibility to any claim that Michael would've started a physical confrontation, because less than an hour prior, he had started one. It is not a guarantee, but it is a PIECE of the puzzle.

    Maybe the timing of the release of the tape was calculated or even petty, but that's actually the irrelevant thing, the timing of it. The fact remains the fact. Michael Smith committed a crime that day and he did it using his physicality. He stands accused by an officer of using that physicality to put him in fear for his life.

    If they released a video of Darren Wilson, beating some black kid with his baton an hour earlier, would that be viewed by some of you an irrelevant smear campaign? I think not. You would say, "holy shit... this guy is a racist abusive pig just like I thought and thank god that fact has been confirmed to the world."

    Regarding the riots... point of fact: no rubber bullets, tear gas, or other "police brutality" were used the first night. 30 arrests, 2 injured officers, looting, rioting -- what a freaking mess. So like the other riots mentioned, the police did not break out the super powerful crowd control. That was done on subsequent nights and guess what, the looting stopped.

    The media was suppressed? Give me a freaking break - that's all I see 24/7 right now on the news channels. SO MUCH footage and eye witness accounts. This is not Soviet Russia where you don't control the news the news control you. Maybe a couple officers got stupid with a few members of the media (not disputing that, although subsequent facts revealed that the circumstances weren't quite what they sounded at first when people screamed freedom of press). But to label it media suppression? You're just inciting anger. Call a flee a flee and an elephant an elephant. This is flee-sized media interference, not elephant sized.

    The image of the "14 officers approaching a single woman with her hands in the air?" OK, first of all, it's ONE officer pointing a weapon at her - rubber bullets. The rest are minding their business, having already been standing there. Who knows what is behind her? Do you know the circumstances? Was she already told to stay away? Are they worried what's in her bag? Notice the writing on the mailbox beside her "Fuck the police." Friendly neighborhood. Maybe they should be a little worried, what with freaking riots, molotov cocktails, protestors shooting each other, and all...

    The "Black Day" tweets by a St. Louis County officer? That was from six months ago. He was turned in by one of his own officers, investigated, and fired. Talk about irrelevant. Yes, racist people do exist. imagine that. Glad somebody blew the whistle on him and got him fired.

    I don't know why I bother with all this... no one is listening. You either agree with me on my major points and nod your head, or you don't and you shake your head. I live in St. Louis, and all of this has touched a nerve, and it's cathartic to spill it out in text.

    Personally, I think it's more likely that the shooting was justified than it was not. Common sense tells me that police officers don't just "execute" unarmed, surrendering men in the middle of the street in broad daylight with witnesses. But if more facts come out and the investigation says it was a bad shooting, then I will roll with that. I'm not married to my opinion. It just really bothers me to see people so sure of what happened, sure enough to rage about it in person or on the internet... and incite others to anger or violence.

    I am not surprised that the riots and looting continue. Property crime in Ferguson is almost double the national average and has been for a long, long time. There is a subset of people there who like to steal stuff. I believe in freedom of speech and freedom to congregate peacefully, but I don't see the point of protesting after dark. It invites trouble and doesn't accomplish anything that can't be accomplished in the daylight. So forcing groups to disperse or calling a curfew seems perfectly reasonable to me at night. The upstanding citizens of Ferguson who and surrounding areas who just want to peacefully protest are getting as pissed as anyone about the people who bring violence and robbery. I watch them complain about it on my Facebook feeds.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    I'm going to join foolsage and cherry pick here. I'm also going to note that I thought there was quite a bit of well thought through commentary there. SO don't worry that we only choose to agree with you are not; I might even alter my opinion based on your insights. I'm weird like that.

    Ok, to the cherry picking - it's the below paragraph that creates the problem, specifically the sentence I've bolded:

    Personally, I think it's more likely that the shooting was justified than it was not. Common sense tells me that police officers don't just "execute" unarmed, surrendering men in the middle of the street in broad daylight with witnesses. But if more facts come out and the investigation says it was a bad shooting, then I will roll with that. I'm not married to my opinion. It just really bothers me to see people so sure of what happened, sure enough to rage about it in person or on the internet... and incite others to anger or violence.

    Police officers do seem to execute, or at least physically assault people in the middle of the street if they feel insulted, disrespected or somehow at risk. While it's obviously not an every day occurrence, we continue to see evidence of police doing exactly that.

    Here's yet another example of a policeman who felt "disrespected" going violent. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01...

  • The Grand Leaf

    Point taken that there are some whack jobs out there (which is why I'm allowing for the possibility that it might turn out he was a bad apple).

    BUT... can't help but point at that your example took place in the privacy of someone's apartment ;) Apparently I'm predisposed toward believing the cop, because my gut instinct when reading the article was "the guy who was abused isn't telling the whole story." ha

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    huh, that one seems pretty clearcut. Wife calls ambulance for husband having heart problems, she begins to describe the heart surgery to the police officer who arrives, dog sneaks out, she jumps to grab the dog (there are EMTs on the scene as well, so it's not like the guy isn't being helped.

    She comes back to find them handcuffing her husband.

    I'll stipulate to the fact that the guy with the heart condition may have been delusional and therefore needed restraint. but when the wife comes back and tugs on the officer's arm, and then is subsequently arrested, something's off.

    Let's play it out in a rational world. Woman runs to get dog, man needs restraint to help the EMT, woman comes back, is unaware, tugs on police officer because she's distraught.

    Maaaaybe you cuff her if she's really freaking, but in no world do you write either of them up. You get the husband to the hospital, then you take the cuffs off her, let her know that you understand her concern for her husband, apologize that you didn't have time to communicate what was going on, and let her know that you hope her husband is ok.

    You sit with her at eye level, as equals, you give her your full attention, and she will almost certainly calm down, or at least redirect her emotions.

    Everything in that case suggests he was a major league asshole, and wanted her to "respect" him.

  • The Grand Leaf

    Once I read all the facts, my opinion changed. Just found it interesting that my gut instinct was the trust the cop.

  • foolsage

    Yeah, we all have a preconceived bias here, which can shape our opinions without our awareness if we're not careful. I've seen police brutality and neglect and harassment, and so have grown distrustful of the bad side of law enforcement. I've also known and encountered quite a few really nice, sane, reasonable cops, but it's the bad ones who are more salient for me. I try not to let that affect my judgment but it's difficult. I suspect you're wrestling with a similar issue, as are most or perhaps all of us.

    Before the facts are in, how does this situation appear to you?

    1) Is it a police mistake and cover-up? Was the use of force unjustified, and is the populace upset for good cause?

    2) Was the shooting justified, and are people trying to recast it in terms of racial issues that weren't involved?

    I grant both are possible. I really don't yet know the truth.

    What I do know is that this police department has acted poorly and has reinforced the idea that they're deliberately hiding the truth. They failed to disclose Officer Wilson's identity as they were required by law to do within 3 days, and they reacted to civic unrest like an occupying force trying to subdue an enemy militia. None of this makes me trust their judgment or professionalism. Nothing they've done makes me feel their first priority is to serve and protect the people of Ferguson.

    But I could be wrong.

  • foolsage

    I'm just going to cherry-pick a few things to reply to, as your post was quite long. ;)

    1) The accusations about Brown robbing a story matter for several reasons. You're right; they can inform us about Brown's possible state of mind. But more importantly, they advance a narrative that the police desperately want advanced: the shooting was justified because Brown was a dangerous criminal. However, as many others have noted, and you've agreed, we don't have a death penalty for robbery. That's not a straw man, insofar as the Ferguson PD are hiding behind the narrative that Brown was dangerous and a criminal and so even if we don't see the facts we should assume Officer Wilson was in the right.

    Officer Wilson apparently didn't know about Brown's possible involvement in the robbery, and it's Officer Wilson's state of mind that concerns many of us. Put aside for a moment what Michael Brown was thinking and feeling, and focus only on the use of deadly force against an unarmed man. How is this justified? That's a damned high bar to reach, and the Ferguson PD has made no effort to reach it. They haven't provided us with any of the relevant details needed to understand how the shooting happened, and more important WHY. A statement by the police officer contradicts some statements by witnesses (and is corroborated by others it seems, though this is murky). The public is left in the dark about the events, and instead the PD just shares this narrative with us about what MIGHT have influenced the state of mind of one of the two men involved. That's not only not enough, but is simply and deliberately in service to a narrative, as above.

    2) Yes, the media have been suppressed and oppressed. Did you not see or read about e.g. the Al Jazeera crew being tear gassed and their equipment "confiscated"? Did you happen to miss the accounts of three other journalists who were arrested without cause, and were later released with no explanation? The Ferguson PD were scared and acted like fascist thugs, plain and simple. Now, there's room to discuss whether their fear was justified, but not much room to pretend that they didn't violate the First Amendment.

    3) ONE officer pointing a loaded weapon at an unarmed civilian is one too many. I don't care if the rifle has rubber bullets; do you think the woman knew that? Soldiers have universally pointed out that this is escalation of force, and that they're explicitly trained not to point their weapon at anyone, EVER, unless they're about to pull the trigger. There is no excuse and no justification for this. You also need to place it in the context of other pictures showing officers advancing with weapons trained on civilians in Ferguson, as well as a sniper (!!) training his roof-mounted weapon at civilians. Let's please not pretend that the police efforts were anything but draconian and excessive.

    4) The "Black Day" tweet is evidence of a social pattern among local law enforcement in the area. As long as it was in the recent past (and it was) it still pertains. It needn't have happened yesterday to show that among law enforcement in that area, there's a problem with racism. Sure, the officer was fired, but why did he feel it was ok to tweet that in the first place? Was he fired because everyone agreed what he said was wrong, or was he fired because he made public something they only said in private, and he could get them in trouble?

  • JustOP

    I linked it above, but it's pretty interesting to see into the mind of a police officer in this situation.
    http://np.reddit.com/r/AskLEO/...

    Investigations take a long time, and rushing out the details isn't really going to help the investigation or to quell public interest - especially if those details are then shown to be false as a result of mishandling.

    I'm also with you that the officer didn't know Brown had committed a crime - but the consensus is that Brown was stopped for walking down the centre of the street.

    edit: Also, the picture of the person in blue is a man, not a woman.

  • foolsage

    I thought it was a man, but the person to whom I was replying said woman. I meant no offense or disparagement.

    And I agree; rushing an investigation is the wrong thing to do in every sense. However, the police can (and should, and indeed are required by law to) provide the essential information about what happened pretty quickly. That's of course not what they did.

  • The Grand Leaf

    1) I actually agree with you on this for the most part - that the information was likely released because the Ferguson PD believed it was advantageous at the time, and I wish that as many facts as possible would be released, instead of this blackhole of information that leads to speculation. But just because they don't release other information, doesn't make the fact of this videotape any less a fact. It's relevant to the case and would be shown in a court of law.

    2) My point with this is that the level of interference has not skewed or hidden the story from us. Any cops that illegally interfered with the press should be punished, but we can't generalize the actions of a few to the whole police force and we can't honestly say that there is no free press right now in Ferguson.

    3) I see what you're saying, but it's hard for me to sympathize, because I don't fear the police. I find them irritating, but I don't fear them (I wouldn't be able to say that if I lived in many other countries). But again, this is the action of one cop. Not an entire force.

    4) It doesn't really show any pattern other than some people are racist and they use whatever power is in their hands to be racist. It doesn't say anything about the people in charge in Ferguson or anything about Darren Wilson. For all we know, Darren might be the type of person who would turn in somebody like this racist Sergeant.

  • Wigamer

    One question--let's say that Brown did physically assault the store clerk. Do you think that establishes the likelihood that he would've assaulted an armed law enforcement officer? How are you so certain that one followed the other?

  • The Grand Leaf

    I'm not certain, but it's something to be considered. Personally, the tape makes me think that he was high on something that day. It just seems strange to rob a store like that in your own hometown, balls out, with your face for the world.

    Again, just applying common sense to it and thinking, "it doesn't make sense. there must be more to the story here." So I'm interested to see what the toxicology report says. They should release it. Surely it's done by now?

  • Wigamer

    If reports are to be believed, he tested positive for weed--well-known for making people aggressive, right?

    "Common sense" thinking would lead you to believe that the store owners would've called the police when Brown stole the cigars, but they didn't. "Common sense" thinking would lead you to assume that the police department would release pertinent information about the shooting immediately afterward instead of a video of an unrelated incident. None of that makes sense, either.

  • If this were a TV series, we'd destroy the Ferguson PD for being utterly unrealistic cartoon villains:

    "Yeah, right, like a suburban police force in a town that's 70 percent black will only have five black officers, and not release the shooter's name, and not have the shooter give a statement, and try to smear the victim, and dress in military gear, and fire tear gas at protesters, and mismanage the situation so badly that the governor has to call in the NG. That would never happen in real life."

  • lowercase_ryan

    I really hate saying this, because I know/love/respect a few police officers that are wonderful people. Exactly the kind of people that you want to be police officers.

    But lets face it, the cops I know aren't the one's who make headlines. There is nothing noteworthy about doing your job and doing it well. And when your job is this damn important, when you carry this much responsibility every day, you're not allowed to fuck up. You can't fuck up. By the very nature of your position you are supposed to be better. Better trained, mentally, physically, and emotionally to serve your community. So when a cop fucks up, it should make headlines, because we can't allow it to go unaddressed. The position is too important to the well being of our society.

    I fear that much like the priesthood might have once been an attractive life path for a pedophile, a career in law enforcement may similarly appeal to bigoted white males in search of the power that society has stripped from them over the past 50 years.

    *I'm not implying a cop can't make a mistake, everyone makes a mistake. But you can't fuck things up this badly. You just can't.

  • Nimue

    Your second paragraph is perfect. And it's something I completely agree with. I just really wanted to say that. I have been trying to articulate how I feel and that is perfect.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Thanks

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    I've seen several commenters suggesting that the officer "feared for his life". Another said that he shouldn't "wait to become a tackling dummy"; all of this made me wonder, how many officers are actually killed each year by acts of violence? How realistic was this line of reasoning?

    Turns out that the total number of officers shot, stabbed, strangled or beaten to death in 2013 was:

    33

    http://www.nleomf.org/facts/of...

    That's right, 33. There are approximately 700,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the US today, and they have a .004% risk of dying at the hands of an assailant. Admittedly, that's slightly higher than dying of a job related illness (13), but lower than auto accident/struck by car (39).

    [EDIT] But let's get to this specific incident - the total number killed in 2013 by UNARMED assailants??? That number was ZERO. In previous years where they had statistics, the highest in any given year was 2.

    Sorry, but those numbers just do not support the sense that we should empathize with the fear felt by the armed, trained officer when confronting an unarmed civilian.

  • The Grand Leaf

    OK, so a few things about this. Police are well-armed, typically body armored, trained in tactics, and typically operate in numbers... it is expected that their mortality rate would be comparatively low. That's like saying our soldiers invading Iraq had nothing to worry about and were just overreacting and shouldn't have PTSD, because our casualty rates are so much lower compared to the enemy's...

    Cops are traumatized by their experiences in the field. Their sense of safety is forever stripped away and every perp they talk to is the perp that could end their life. This mindset is not something that can be explained away with statistics. Trying telling a PTSD victim not to feel fear because he has a .0000000000000001% chance of being shot by an Iraqi now that he's back in the states. You're kidding yourself if you don't think cops, particularly those in rough areas, don't experience the same sense of loss of safety as soldiers. And Ferguson is a pretty rough area.

    Second, if we suspend disbelief for a moment and go with the story that there was a struggle over the weapon, the concern is not about unarmed combat. The concern is that the officer will lose control of the weapon and then shot with his own weapon.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Your PTSD argument is a classic straw man. If the officer is suffering from PTSD, then he should not be in the field. He should be on desk, or paid leave, and should be seeing a counselor per the agreement with his police union.

    It's not relevant to the fact that law enforcement officers are well trained to deal with unarmed suspects; so well trained in fact that there are a nonexistent number of fatalities from unarmed assailants.

    Therefore his training was (?) thorough enough that he could handle an unarmed assailant, regardless of his own sense of safety.

  • Roguewave1

    The facts are yet to be established even to the point of hearing Wilson's version, but what is filtering out so far indicates the officer suffered a beat-down by a huge and overpowering individual with a gunshot during the scuffle in the first round. If Brown chose to bull rush an armed officer after that sequence, what do you think Wilson should take from that as the bigger man's (I'm guessing as to relative size here) intentions. Know that the test is not to "fear for your life," it is to "fear for your life OR great bodily injury."

    By the same token, it is conceivable that after suffering the smash in the face and scramble for the gun, Wilson could act out of rage and shoot needlessly.

    It might be wize to wait to see who comes forward in the end and an account of the physical evidence such as signs of struggle and gunshots in the car, location of spent shell casings in relation to the body, etc.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    The problem with your "wait for the facts"request is that it reeks of crisis management strategy.

    If you are having a PR crisis, you first call for calm until "the facts" are clear. That's because PR experts know that time tends to defuse people's anger and outrage. Over time, they forget, or move on with their lives.

    Secondly, the PD there seems to be very selectively presenting said facts; withholding some, and pushing out others.

    So if you promise to be actively outraged a year down the road when (if) the PD internal affairs division finds that it was a clean shoot regardless of facts, then I'll be happy to entertain your notion of calm until the facts are in evidence.

  • Jezzer

    The problem with his/her "wait for the facts" request is that it reeks of, "Let's see how we can spin this to completely justify the shooting death of an unarmed teenager."

  • The Grand Leaf

    Dude, they ALL have PTSD. They just manage it in varying degrees.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Then there's something wrong with the training. Ever vigilant is not the same as ever afraid. Lots of jobs require heightened awareness with failure leading to death or injury.

    I don't think they all have PTSD (and I have knowledge/info to back me up on this), but I think we may be creating greater PTSD in police through exactly the kind of militarization we saw on display.

    If you think every single citizen on the street is a possible shooter, then you do get PTSD. But training should start with "every person on the street is someone who potentially needs my help", because that is exactly what the job description is.

  • JustOP

    Interesting conversation going on here. I found this yesterday on reddit - which is a police officers describing his mindset when faced with a threat. The situation he describes isn't that far removed from the one we're talking about here, if we presume the officers events are true.

    http://np.reddit.com/r/AskLEO/...

  • foolsage

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. You claim that "Ferguson is a pretty rough area" as a way of justifying police fear for their safety.

    http://www.city-data.com/crime...

    I'm not seeing it. City-data.com claims Ferguson is in the "average" range of crimes committed per capita.

    If we suspend disbelief for a moment and go with the story that Officer Wilson fired his weapon without due cause, the concern is about a police department's overt cover-up of the crime, and the community's very reasonable response thereto. In this context, the show of excessive force by the Ferguson PD is a desperate attempt to force the citizenry to shut up and let the cops push them around.

    This is why it's best not to make assumptions; they cut both ways.

  • The Grand Leaf

    I could pull out my "I've been there, have you?" card but I won't ;)

    First of all, that comparison is relative to nearby areas. All of which are 'rough.' North County and North City St. Louis have low property values in general.

    If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you'll see a chart that compares overall crime rate to the U.S. average and it's pretty close to double. It's not a place you feel comfortable walking at night.

    Regarding the cover-up, if this was a small podunk town with no national attention, I'd believe they could cover up. But the FBI is involved, national spotlight is on, the governor is involved. I think a successful cover-up is really unlikely, and if it was attempted, I think some people will be going to jail. Not saying it's impossible, but I just find it unlikely.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    "US average".

    Is that a statistic where metropolitan areas are thrown together with all those big, wide and empty rural areas you guys have other there?

  • The Grand Leaf

    I'm not sure how they arrived at the statistic but I'm pretty sure it's per capita. Once you start getting out into the boonies of Missouri in the 'wide open spaces,' things are just as screwed up if not worse. My wife codes ER medical charts for a rural hospital, and the depravity there makes you sad for the human race.

    I live in the largest suburb of St. Louis, right on the border of St. Louis County, and this site shows our crime well below the national average. It's a very middle of the road type area, nothing special, with a fairly wide range of incomes. Some of the schools and areas are really good, some are awful.

  • foolsage

    There are several OTHER neighborhoods with higher crimes rates, which drive up the St. Louis average, sure. But, again, Ferguson itself is average in terms of crime per capita.

    Are you arguing that the existence of more dangerous neighborhoods elsewhere somehow drive the Ferguson PD to be more fearful? One could in fact make precisely the opposite argument; they should enjoy serving, and relax in, what is relatively a less dangerous place.

    As to the "been there, have you" card, you actually DID pull it, by referring to your ability to pull it. And, yes, I've been there; both to Ferguson (I have family in St. Louis and have seen most of the area) and to communities stricken by civil discord, resulting in riots (e.g. the LA "Rodney King" riots). None of that makes me think the use of deadly force here was probably justified, especially in the context of the apparent police coverup/fascist overreaction.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    Yeah, don't underestimate the possibility of a coverup. If you read through the articles about Berwyn Heights and the shooting of the Mayor's dogs, you;ll see that the local police chief went public with attempts by the state troopers to cover up the story. If he hadn't been the mayor? There's no chance the coverup would have been revealed.

    Washington Post had the best coverage, but I can't find a link, this Salon article gets it done too.

    http://www.salon.com/2013/07/1...

  • Wigamer

    Thank you for this. Facts are facts, though who knows what crazy people will try and twist them into meaning.

  • CQueued

    I don't have an official source but I heard that his family did not want those pictures of him in the street posted around. If anyone has an official source to confirm please do but thought I would share just in case.

  • dilwazr

    I also do not have an official source, but I also read/heard that his mother requested that people not post/share the photo of him lying in the street. Although frankly, any picture of Mike Brown is fucking heartbreaking at this point.

  • calliope1975

    Thanks, TK. It's insane to me that I have to bend over backwards to defend the person who is dead. And it happens every. damn. time. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

  • foolsage

    That article lists some great examples of a pattern that I find quite obvious, yet many people in America (and even here) still deny. White suspect? Make sure to highlight the positive. Black victim? Make sure to establish criminality.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Yup. I mentioned it earlier, but one of the Aurora shooters was described thus: Shooting Suspect Was Brilliant Science Student. Who gives a hooping funt?

    Social engineering, nothing but.

  • The Grand Leaf

    Shooting victim was a gentle giant boy who solved problems, didn't create them, graduated high school and was on his way to college. The coverage has gone both ways on this. Incidentally, you can't establish criminality for someone who hasn't committed a crime. The facts are the facts. They'll be dug up and shared.

  • Maddy

    I think you'll find the positive descriptions of his character has been on social media. Not so much the case in mainstream media from what I can see.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    That's inaccurate, as the NY Times chose to highlight the positive of Michael Brown, but it's a statistical drop in the bucket to the larger trend

  • Maddy

    I'll admit I haven't followed all the American news coverage but I feel like you're agreeing with the 'not so much the case' thing I just said.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I mean, the general trend in American media may be to show black murder victims in a less than flattering light. But the early reports that I read of this particular shooting, were of Michael Brown as "college-bound" good kid - they were distinctly different. That is partially what prompted people to start saying "What difference does it make if he's college-bound?" - what are the labels the media will put on something to demonstrate that *this* killing is wrong because the victim was a quote unquote worthy individual as opposed to a ne'er do well.

  • Maddy

    Ok thanks that makes sense it basically comes down to judging whether his life was 'worthy' which would never be in dispute with a white victim,

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Yes, totally grounds for killing someone, but that's not what I was talking about. What I was saying is that a white guy went on a killing spree and the press focused on his good qualities. People are so frequently willing to explain away crimes committed by whites while smugly condescending to people about crimes committed by blacks. When involved in criminal acts, a white kid is 'troubled', a black kid is a 'thug'.

    Whatever the 'facts' may be, why should a person who commits an act of mass murder receive what amounts to a hair short of a hagiography, while the killing of blacks is treated as something they ALWAYS bring on themselves? Maybe he did rob the store, no one is condoning that if he did and no one is promoting that.. But, we're sure as hell not going to condone the of use of lethal force and retroactive continuity as just desserts.

    The police weren't interested in investigating the case but they were very interested in telling us why Brown all but deserved to be killed and why everyone should feel bad for the cop. I don't know what Michael Brown did any more than anyone else knows, but what I know he didn't do is murder a bunch of kids who were just trying to watch a movie. He didn't murder anybody. Whole libraries full of speculation, truth and allegations don't change that fact. But what that cop did is explained away by appeals made on behalf of his pain. The amount of force used by the police on the protesters, which was in no way commensurate with the dangers that were presented by the small number of people who rioted is explained away by giving the cops more gear. All protests following the first were peaceful and incident-free. So, they have beefed up security because, true, people might be peaceful now, but the Minority Report (hm) dictates that they're totally going to start killing people, so make sure to contact your sniper.

    Maybe Brown did some bad things that merited punishment, but even if that cop knew he was dealing with an alleged suspect--and he didn't because no report was filed--that punishment doesn't fit the crime. People do a lot worse and receive a lot less. If he robbed and roughed up that clerk he should be in jail, not a casket. And even so, why is there this lopsided view encouraging everyone to be eager to find reasons as to why Brown should have been killed and so little enthusiasm in figuring out why Wilson decided to kill him? Rhetorical question.

    Back the Aurora shooting: I don't see how alleged acts of delinquency on the part of Brown merit more vilification than a person who committed mass murder, or any of the other mass shootings that call for 'understanding and dialogue', but the press does. Lots of other people, too. I think there are people who love that they've been given a reason to continue to cleave to their world view. Thank God they can still fear and hate black people with what they believe is legitimacy: order has been restored.

  • Wigamer

    If you're somehow trying to assert that black suspects and white suspects receive the same treatment in the media, there's no reasoning with you.

  • The Grand Leaf

    What I'm saying is that Michael Brown has gotten both the saint and the devil treatment. The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle.

  • e jerry powell

    I am working on more Dohnányi and watching wildlife combat on NatGeo Wild. I cannot hear anything about Ferguson right now.

    LALALALALALALALALA
    LALALALALALALALALA
    MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB, LITTLE LAMB, LITTLE LAMB

  • DeaconG

    Would that we could all be so blessed.

  • Roguewave1

    Unarmed, my azz. Six foot five, 290 lbs. and, as we see on video, willing to use it. Already having been smacked in the face, was Wilson expected to be the tackling dummy because his assailant was "unarmed?"

  • Jezzer

    Oh, fuck off with this shit.

  • That's why police officers are issued tasers and nightsticks. Trust me, those are both exceptionally effective in controlling a situation while(as a general rule) leaving everyone involved alive.

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