On August 9, 2014, a white Ferguson, MO, police officer named Darren Wilson shot and killed an 18-year-old African American named Michael Brown. Brown was unarmed but had just assaulted Officer Wilson and had attempted to take control of the officer's firearm. When that same firearm discharged during the struggle, Brown fled. Officer Wilson pursued, Brown turned and charged the officer, and the officer shot him. The shooting was investigated by the St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice on the orders of President Obama, and Officer Wilson was cleared despite mobs calling for his blood. These are indisputable facts.
Yet last month on the fifth anniversary of the shooting, two Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, totally ignored these facts and accused former officer Wilson of murder. One of these women is a former district attorney and the other is a member of the bar, and neither one seems to know the difference between a justified police shooting and a murder. Or more accurately, neither one cares. It doesn't fit their narrative for any police shooting of a minority subject to be justified.
Every law enforcement shooting of a minority suspect has now become the subject of a heated argument, not in a court of law where it belongs but on Twitter. And the one thing that never seems to get mentioned is what actually happened. What are the facts?
I personally have debated some of these cases with friends on Facebook and they all seem to think that American law enforcement officers could avoid shooting anyone if…wait for the magic word…de-escalated.
I have never met a cop yet who wouldn't rather avoid a violent confrontation with someone than escalate it to deadly force. But all parties involved are responsible for de-escalation and sometimes Mr. Meth Head who is cranked out of his skull or Mr. Gang Member who doesn't want to go to jail just isn't in the mood.
The Washington Post maintains a database of fatal police shootings. According to their stats, 992 people were killed by American law enforcement in 2018. Anti-police activists use this figure to rail about "police violence," claiming every one of these "victims" was extrajudicially killed. They say it's a tragedy. And ironically that's the one thing you probably agree with these social justice warriors about is that you shouldn't have to kill nearly a thousand people a year. Maybe somebody should convince the "victims" to stop committing violent crimes, stop attacking you, stop resisting arrest and go to jail peaceably, and especially stop using you as the instrument for their suicides.
That number 992 is by itself meaningless. Any statistical study of police shootings is absolutely worthless without some attempt to provide context. And that goes double for any academic research that crunches numbers of minorities shot by officers and just comes to the conclusion that officers are biased. If a huge guy is charging at you after trying to take your firearm and use it on you, your race doesn't matter and neither does his.
But the people who walk around yelling about the "murder" of Michael Brown and waving that photo of him taken when he was 13 and not a 300-pound man don't care about the facts or why his violence led to him being shot by Officer Wilson. The reason they don't care is the same reason that Sen. Warren and Sen. Harris both do not care. It's because the facts, the truth, do not fit their propaganda narrative.
That propaganda that you are murdering young minority men is extremely damaging for you and for the law-abiding civilians that you protect. It's one of the reasons that law enforcement agencies are experiencing so many personnel shortages. It's also why so many officers seem to be less enthusiastic about proactively fighting crime. Nobody wants to end up like Officer Darren Wilson, losing their career, their home, their pension, and living under constant threat of sudden violence by someone bent on "avenging" the "victim," which is the social justice warrior and journalist word for "assailant." For presidential candidates who should know better to perpetuate the "murder" libel against Wilson and by association all officers is not only reprehensible, it's reckless.
David Griffith is the editor of POLICE Magazine/PoliceMag.com.