Friday, November 28, 2014

Some Facts about Ferguson

Michael Brown & Ofc. Darren Wilson
It's always a tragedy when anyone dies in our society regardless of skin color or any other demographic.  Before any honest conversation on this matter can occur, facts must be presented and myths and reckless spin rejected.

The shooting that occurred on August 9, 2014, marked an event that precipitated strong feelings from both sides.  This was done previous to any public release of evidence and very few facts on the shooting involving Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department.
 It is dangerous and reckless to our system of justice to make such strong stands for or against either involved party until facts and evidence are presented.

Much has been reported about "The shooting of an unarmed teenager by Ferguson Police."  An 18-year old (age of Mr. Brown at time of his death) is technically a teenager and also a legal adult, but when most people hear the term "teenager" they think of a much younger person who would generally be considered a kid by most people.  Mr. Brown was 6'4" and 290+ lbs- clearly, the physical size not commonly associated with that of a child.  Mr. Brown is frequently referenced as being "unarmed" which is likely the biggest spin in this entire situation.  Websters Dictionary defines "unarmed" with the following definition: "Not having a weapon: not armed: not using or involving a weapon."   A more realistic understanding of the term would take into account realities such as size disparity and the fact that unarmed doesn't necessarily equate to "not dangerous".  Knowing the fact that Mr. Brown conducted a strong arm robbery just previous to Ofc. Wilson's interaction with him (and the clear difference in physical stature; about 4" more height and 50+ lbs), it's clear the size disparity was present.  Mr. Brown and his associates were walking in the middle of the road not five minutes after the strong arm robbery (this behavior is consistent with a practice of intimidating driver and pedestrians alike).  The combination of these behaviors could suggest that Mr. Brown was prime for a confrontation.

Lets now address the Policy and Procedure / legal case president side of the equation.  Ferguson, MO Police Department's "Use of Force Policy (section 410.01) states: "An officer may use lethal force when the officer reasonably believes that the action is in defense of human life, including the officer's own life."  There are also two court cases that were likely provided to the Grand Jury members as "case president":
1. In Jones v. City of St. Louis, 92 F.Supp.2d 949 (E.D. Mo., 2000) the federal district court, in a lawsuit from the police use of deadly force, held that the use of deadly force is reasonable where the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or others.**
2. In Fitzgerald v. Patrick, 927 F.2d 1037 (8th Cir.,1991) the 8th circuit federal court of appeals, in another police use-of-force case out of Missouri, said law enforcement officers are justified in using deadly force in self-defense of a third person if a reasonable person in a similar circumstance would believe it was necessary.**

One sentiment commonly thrown about by those who have little to no knowledge of Police work or have never been in a physical confrontation is: "How can an officer be in fear of death or great bodily harm from an unarmed teenager?"  The determination of lethal force is normally based on two things: fear of death or grievous bodily harm and the reasonableness standard.  The fear of death or grievous bodily harm has much to do with the capability of all involved parties as well as things like the size disparity that was clearly present.  When there is a confrontation between a citizen and police officer, there is at least one firearm present.  If an officer has a reasonable belief that he may lose that weapon, it is reasonable that the officer must do what is necessary to prevent the assailant from getting that weapon as the weapon may be used against him.  The reasonableness standard has been found by the Supreme court to state that an officer's actions are 'objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them at the time without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.  Columnist and Police Chief Joel Shults explained it this way, "If the physics and the facts of the Brown encounter show that Brown attacked, the question of reasonableness starts first with the question of whether any other citizen would have the right to defend themselves.  Wilson's position as a peace officer gave him no fewer rights."

I'm not here to suggest guilt or innocence of any involved party, just to present facts which are all too often neglected in our PC world where emotions and prejudices take over where facts and evidence should be dominate.

**Information quoted from an online article written by Doug Wyllie Police One Editor in Chief.