Checks and Balances

Same topic, different views

By Joe Carbonari and Tim Baldwin

By Joe Carbonari

A spokesman for the Ferguson, Missouri police reportedly told a reporter that the memorial to a young black man recently shot by police was a pile of trash. He was suspended from his job. Should he have been?

I don’t know. I can’t know without the context. How did he say it? What did he mean? Now go back to the shooting itself.   Why did it go from a late night street check to nation-wide demonstrations?

It struck a deep-felt chord in a lot of Americans, many of whom feared and disliked their local police for a variety of reasons. For many, even just a traffic stop can easily go from an annoyance to a degrading or dangerous experience, largely based on how they look, where they are, and how they talk to one another. Best be careful.

We all have a sense of danger and a set of instinctive, and learned, warning signals that alert us. They are life protecting. They suggest how contacts can be kept from becoming confrontations.

It is not enough for a patrolman, or a spokesman, to just know the rules. They should also understand and respect the different kinds of people that they deal with. For the safety of all of us.

Our police protect us. The more we unofficially interact the greater the understanding. We should make a point of it.


 By Tim Baldwin

Ferguson Police Department has suspended its spokesman for his calling Michael Brown’s memorial a “pile of trash” after a report was made of criminal mischief to the memorial. The FPD said, “[The officer’s] negative remarks about the Michael Brown memorial do not reflect the feelings of the Ferguson Police Department.” Really?

This officer was the FPD spokesman. He had respect and influence among all ranks. He did not become spokesman by holding singular, strange views outside the common sentiment. Undoubtedly, his attitude was shared by many FPD officers. Of course, this attitude is not isolated to Ferguson. It happens throughout America. Naturally, such an attitude prevents officers from approaching the public unbiasedly. This leads to leniency for some and harshness for others – creating privileged and unprivileged citizens.

So, who checks police, especially where the chief or sheriff is unelected by the people? Who reports the stops, investigations and arrests officers make so the public can know how officers understand and treat the rule of law, liberty and rights? Or do we blindly trust that people carrying badges, guns and cuffs have nothing but everyone’s liberty and rights in mind?

We should pay attention to what is happening in our streets as much as we do our capitols.

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