A few hours ago, a grand jury decided that there was not “probable cause” to indict Darren Wilson in the murder of Michael Brown, who he fatally shot several months prior. Minutes after the decision to “not indict” was announced, I witnessed many individuals in my social media feeds expressing outrage at this atrocity. I agree. We do not live in a post-racial society. We do not live in a society where the police treat people with respect. We do not live in a world where race is not a factor in day to day decisions of police officers. That being said, I wanted to stage an opinion on the issues surrounding the tragic death of Michael Brown and a possible constructive solution to prevent these absurd events.
Prior to engaging in this conversation, I wanted to admit a few personal assumptions I will make and do not want to debate upon in this article for the sake of creating solutions opposed to hedging fights that distract us from major issues. I will assume that race is an issue. I will assume that there is an issue in the fact that Ferguson’s police force being majorly white opposed to the town being of mainly black individuals. I will assume that the obvious misuse of force and draconian power to suppress and crush protestors, many whom were engaging in a peaceful dialogue in events prior to this indictment decision, was not justified. And I will assume that race was not in the minds of the grand jury when they made this decision.
The last statement seems to stand out among the others in that it removes race as a factor. But the reason I make this assumption is that the possible racist tendencies of individuals deliberating in a court room distract us from a conversation we can fairly have: the records of the indictment process will not be released and the potentially racist assumptions garnered by those in the grand jury are a very small problem, as scary as that may be, relative to a much larger and horrendous injustice as a whole. Yet the main reason I want to make this assumption is that I also feel that the jury has a justified decision and that is the frightening reality that must be explored.
Yes, justified according to what an indictment is. An indictment is laying a charge against someone based on the statutes and laws in place at the time of the incident. The jury is, in many ways, not acting (in an ideal state) based on their own intentions or beliefs in what is right, but based on their interpretation and application of the law to a case. If the law says that murder is justified, the grand jury should state that a murderer ought to go free and not be accused of a crime. Granted, and most obviously, that statement seems to be deplorable as the moral ramifications surrounding murder justify its illegality. So the question is, for a grand jury, does Darren Wilson slip out of the legal guidelines necessary to charge him with murder. Does a dead black boy on the road not amount to a “probable cause” of a murder charge? The thing is, after reviewing the evidence personally, I think it does not amount to a murder charge according to the current law. And that is the crux of the issue at play.
Here are the facts that the common media wants us to exclusively, and naively in my opinion, work with. The media tells us that the close range gunshot wound occurred in a struggle against a vehicle. It tells us that the evidence is ambiguous in reference to the shooting in the head. Evidence also seems to indicate that the direction of the palms of Michael Brown’s hands were down, not facing up. Anonymous sources noted that 7-8 witnesses to the scene testified stories to the Grand Jury that aligned with Darren Wilson’s account. This is the paragraph that is emulated in countless articles defending Darren Wilson, radically opposing any attempt to process a charge against the police officer.
But I find that this narrow channel of discourse surrounding the events that night also to be disturbing. Where is the conversation to why Darren Wilson didn’t just use a taser? Where is the conversation to why Darren Wilson had to bring a gun into play instead of a baton? Police brutality has been manifested in a number of items, I will concede, but nothing has been more deadly than a gun. This is an issue I grieve with the national media and the painting of this event. The constructive ways and alternate conversations listed above to deal with shadowed stories such as this, where the testimonies completely contradict and no video evidence is in play, are excluded because our conversation is simply limited to a binary of “it was justified” and “it was not justified.”
A kid died. An unarmed kid died. Maybe he punched the officer, maybe he strangled the officer, and maybe he started the fight. Even if we assume all of those things, which does take a lot of creativity and a lack of evidence to fully prove, we cannot possibly and reasonably assert why a police officer used a gun to kill him. But the dark and disappointing reality is that the reason these conversations do not or barely happen is because they don’t matter in a court of law.
Darren Wilson should not have been indicted, in my opinion, in that court of law according to the standards of indictment. But the standards of indictment is a symbol for the government, a government which has been full of racist, misogynist, and draconian tendencies which are derived from a lack of fair representation and modern corruption. This argument is something I really am disappointed to make because I believe Michael Brown didn’t deserve by any means to die. I don’t care if Darren Wilson honestly thought his life was in danger. Use a taser. Be creative and safer. You’re a cop, you were employed to protect the people and not yourself. Ever heard of a firefighter who puts her or his life in danger before others? Why can’t you be more like firefighters?
I find it simply absurd that police officers are MANDATED to use a gun, not a taser in these situations. It seems absurd police officers don’t wear bullet proof vests and helmets cause they are cumbersome – the lack of which lead them to claim they were in “life threatening situations.” Then there is an equally large and problematic racist component regarding such: if it was a black cop shooting a white boy, the indictment would happen and it would have happened months ago.
Most of those that claim that Darren Wilson is innocent miss an entire issue. It is those same proponents that are usually guilty of glorifying the police force. It is those that buy merchandise of the cops face saying they support him. Support him for what? For being a terrible cop and accidentally killing someone because he couldn’t defend himself properly?
Those who support an indictment and believe charges should go into play specifically also believe a white officer can get away with killing, intentionally, a black teenager. I agree. Those who reject indictment refer to the evidence noted above as legal testimony to why no trial should even take place. I agree also, but you are also trying to justify your thesis within an already racist system.
Does the police system need work? Yeah, seriously. But I think there is another issue that needs to be tackled – the laws that hold this system in place. There needs to be active reform of the legal framework justifying a police officer’s life as coming before any reasonable assumption of “deadly force.” There needs to be a direct revisit to the fact that police officers are almost encouraged to kill individuals. There needs to be a direct revisit to those in Washington, state and town legislatures, which are predominantly run by money elected bureaucrats and white men in how they are using “law” and the “lack of evidence” to promote and support the racist police force. Darren Wilson was going to walk free according to the law. He was going to make that shot at Michael Brown that night according to the law. He was going to pull a gun as asked by the law. The issue here is the law. It is also the police, but the police use the law to justify themselves. So that is what we as advocates need to target. The law.