The people who are protesting, marching, and possibly some of those who are rioting and looting in Missouri are dealing with a recent and local situation. However, the explosion of emotion across the country reveals that this is not simply a local incident but one that resonates in many communities across the nation. The frustration of how black men are dealt with by the police in general, how many of them are profiled, pulled over, frisked, treated as if guilty, manhandled and disrespected is a wide spread and fairly consistent occurrence.
Unfortunately there is another far too consistent dynamic. Young black men without jobs, without good home training, with little respect for authority, with an aggressive and combative attitude, in a competitive culture with other such young men that reward thug and tough guy behavior. The underbelly of all of this publicity about St. Louis is that black men are far more likely to be killed by other black men than the police.
It is nice to be simplistic, but this drama gets played out far too often for us to settle for solutions that only deal with one side of a multi-sided problem. Sometimes there is more than one flat tire on a car. If we could make all white policemen to no longer have racism or bias in their hearts would that solve all the problems? If we could make all police departments have great leadership, wise and judicious policies of how to police, training that put citizens first and not just the safety of police officers, would that solve all the problems? If we made sure every police department had exactly the right racial and gender mix, would that give us peace and justice in our communities? If every black man had a great education, wonderful parenting, a good job, and constant public civility with presentable clothing, would that end the killing?
If we had the best of all of those things we would still have the reality that even good people make mistakes. Mistakes coupled with the technology of weapons; pepper spray, tasers, police clubs and the technique of choke holds means people might still die. Yet, I am sure it would happen far less often if we had the best in people, and from people, and from institutions and communities.
Good policing in a community depends on the support of the community. Our police forces are not occupying armies, though some departments and communities might seem to be in that kind of negative relationship. Good policing must take it for granted that some of the folks they deal with are "bad actors." These folks will not cooperate, they will not surrender, they will not behave.
Good police training should teach officers how to arrest, and if necessary, subdue such individuals without the deprivation of a suspect's human rights. When I read of how police officers testify that they used practices they were trained in but still result in harm, insult, injury and even death to members of the public, and that they are vindicated hiding behind such training, it leads me to believe something is perverted and non-sensical about such training. This is where there needs to be far more dialogue between the public and the police, and training needs to focus more on preserving life then finding excuses for taking it.
Sometimes with all the best training, and all the best motives, someone innocent might die not to mention those who must be killed to stop them from killing others. This is tragic, but cannot be a cause for national unrest or grief. What is a cause for national grief, as well as shame, is a too often result of unarmed men beaten down, choked to death, or shot because they are black, or big, or simply scary and uncooperative.
I want to advocate for moving toward the best outcomes for all of us in this nation. Human beings without prejudice and a biased hostility, especially in those who have police authority. I want to advocate for smart, wise, and humane leadership in police leadership and training. I want to advocate for marriage, and good education, and deliverance from poverty, and wonderful parenting, and a rejection of drugs, gangs, and thug violence in what are now poor black communities.
I think we as a nation should want and pursue all of those things at the same time. I also think we need to learn how to analyze bad events with patience, humility, wisdom, and a passionate commitment to justice without jumping to conclusions or additional violence.