Almost every viral police confrontation is preceded by police being provoked

by James Gagliano| May 24, 2018 02:31 PM


It happens now with almost mind-numbing regularity. Wednesday saw yet another video release of seeming police misconduct, followed by oversaturated media coverage and activist outrage, threats of a civil suit, and almost universal consensus that America’s racist past continues to plague even the wealthiest of its African-American inhabitants.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This week’s edition entails the “tasing” of professional basketball player Sterling Brown by Milwaukee police over a relatively benign parking violation. A cursory review of the facts would lead one to believe that, prima facie, a parking ticket should never lead to the use of physical force by police.

And though Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales stepped in front of microphones at a press conference and apologized for the incident and said the officers involved had been disciplined, the interaction between Milwaukee police and the 23-year old Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard raises more troubling issues than just the obvious one.

Is it fair to say that throughout the course of America’s 242-year history, police (serving as instruments of the state) have at times wielded their powers injudiciously and applied the law unevenly?

Absolutely. And bad cops must be held to account.

But we exist in an era where racial hoaxes for “social justice” proliferate. And we have just been witness to two infamously mischaracterized accountings by prominent African-Americans, who falsified incidents of supposed police misconduct.

To wit: An NAACP chapter president in South Carolina, the “Reverend” Jerrod Moultrie, was stone-cold busted for fabricating a tale about being “racially profiled” by Timmonsville, S.C., police, until the police chief released an officer’s body camera footage that told quite a different story.

And then, there was the story from 37-year old Sherita Dixon-Cole, who erroneously claimed to be raped at the hands of a Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper. The lie, of course, was championed and promoted online by noted racial-arsonist Shaun King in a Facebook post (since deleted), and a viral tweet that he followed with an addendum lamenting his own “victimhood.”

Both disgustingly-twisted and opportunistic tales further prove that body cameras are a necessity, not a luxury in 21st-century America.

Turns out that the very police body cameras that activists demand police departments outfit their officers with have resulted in a dramatic 93 percent drop in citizen complaints against the police.

“We see you!” works both ways.

Which takes us back to the much ballyhooed encounter between Sterling Brown and Milwaukee police.

Brown’s open defiance against the responding police officers unnecessarily exacerbated and escalated the situation. Arguments can be made that police protocols may not have been followed and that sanctions against the officers involved are justified.

But one thing is absolutely clear: Sterling Brown is responsible for what should have been a courteous, civil, and appropriate interaction between law enforcement officers executing their lawful duties and responsibilities.

In watching the released Milwaukee video (which I concede is only part of the story in these cases), it is hard to overlook some damning consistencies with similar cases that resulted in officer-involved shootings and deadly use of force.

High-profile incidents (think: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.) have garnered intense media scrutiny and made it exponentially more difficult for law enforcement to do its job.

The false narrative, or trope, if you will, is that our country is rife with redneck, racist cops who are hunting young men of color and murdering them for sport. And then, as the story goes, racist district attorneys present one-sided stories to racist grand juries, who elect not to indict the officers.

Of course, despite anomalies and outliers, this is simply not the case. Yes, judgments against police officers who are assigned a damned difficult and inherently dangerous task leads juries to view them sympathetically and give them the benefit of the doubt.

But I have made the case for “miscarriage of justice” when I felt the death penalty was a more appropriate sentence for a cop who murdered a man in cold blood, like disgraced North Charleston, S.C. police officer Michael Slager. And I have demonstratively called out inappropriate force escalation, as in the grotesque instance of Daniel Shaver’s avoidable slaughter by police in Mesa, Ariz., in 2016. So, it is difficult to accuse me of shilling for inappropriate police actions.

In this case, Sterling Brown is confronted by officers who had every legal right to address him whether related to a serious charge or a simple parking violation. Officers are trained at every police academy that “noncompliance” is something that should immediately raise suspicion and place the officer in an “alert” status.

Sterling was directly advised by an officer to “Take your hands out of your pockets NOW!”

His response: “Hold on. I got something in my hand(s).”

Police are taught that action is faster than reaction. In layman’s terms, this translates to: A potential assailant can draw and fire a weapon faster than even the most attentive cop can process the actions/movements, discern it is a “shoot” situation, and respond accordingly.

Brown put everyone at the scene in danger. He raised the temperature, and he escalated the incident by not simply complying with lawful commands issued by a sworn public servant, who was conducting his given duties.

When officers have to move in to extricate hands from pockets, it further turns a simple interaction into a physical, and potentially lethal, one. Brown appears to have continued to resist this action to remove his hands, then resisted arrest, and hence, an officer elected to employ a Taser.

The appropriate action by the Milwaukee Police Department may very well have been to censure the officers involved. I am not fully versed in their department’s protocols and processes. The department also elected not to file charges against Brown. Putting a noncompliant subject in handcuffs for their safety and the officers’ safety is a standard practice. Resisting the same is unlawful. Why no charges? This is America in 2018.

Make no mistake about it. We have entered a dangerous new era in police-community relations. The #Resistance is not only a political term, but it also defines behavior that champions noncompliance, turning every encounter into one fraught with peril for citizens and cops alike.

No amount of training or preparation can prepare them for what awaits them when we, as a society, continue to tolerate a shift in acceptable behavior, and reward those who purposefully provoke our public servants.

James Gagliano| May 24, 2018, “Almost every viral police confrontation is preceded by police being provoked”,


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