On the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a Ferguson, Mo., police officer fired his gun several times, killing teenager Mike Brown in the streets. The sad reality that people outside of St. Louis will come to learn is what residents, past and present, already know: The police force in St. Louis and surrounding communities is the most racist in America.
Before I moved to St. Louis, I was told to avoid entering Ferguson, but unfortunately, as a basketball official and baseball/softball umpire, I was assigned to games there. Every time I went to a game, a police officer would pull me over. On several occasions, officers would have their guns drawn and pointed at me. My hands would be in plain view, resting on the steering wheel. However, that did not stop them from damaging my car with their nightsticks.
I wrote many letters to political officials and filed many complaints to no avail. After a couple of filings, the desk sergeant started throwing my complaints away in front of me. Suffice to say, I am of the opinion that the police officer who shot and killed unarmed Mike Brown – while Mike’s hands were raised in a surrender-like position – will not be punished. Let me explain how.
At the Texas university where I am an associate professor, we hire adjunct professors who are or were Houston police chiefs, assistant police chiefs, and city councilpersons. After conversations with them, I know how the Houston Police Department would handle a Mike Brown murder. I suspect Ferguson will handle it in the same manner.
First, the Ferguson Police Department will collect all evidence and monopolize it. It will take court orders for them to share the evidence.
Second, they will create a narrative that conforms to that evidence. They will analyze that narrative six ways to Sunday to ensure that it is airtight.
Third, they will blackmail or pay off witnesses so that they give alternative versions of events. Dorin Johnson, the friend of Mike Brown, has been extremely consistent in detailing the encounter that he and Mike had with the rogue Ferguson police officer. The Ferguson police will convince many residents to give different versions of the events to neutralize Johnson’s testimony.
Fourth, an all-white or pretty close to all-white grand jury will be seated.
Presto! The police officer will walk.
Another sad fact that was revealed from the events that Saturday is that the mistreatment of African-American citizens is very prevalent in that metro area. In Cahokia, Il., a St. Louis suburb, African-American males are routinely arrested for no probable cause.
I have witnessed one African-American male in particular taken into custody multiple times – his name will not be stated because it would draw more injustice to him.
I have seen the Cahokia police arrest this young man in a number of ways; I saw them pull over a car in which he was riding in the back seat; I saw them go to his house and pull him out in the wintertime without a coat on his back; and I saw them waiting for him outside a church during a Sunday service.
His family is not able to afford an attorney to get him out of jail or sue over the many times he has been violated. No other help is available, for the NAACP in the area is dormant or just ineffective, and none of the city officials are willing to do anything about the police force. The media were informed about the many incidents, but they are not interested in his story. Maybe they will be now.
I moved from St. Louis to Houston. As police departments go, I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. You’ve all seen online the horror of the Houston Police Department beating citizens and running into them with their patrol cars. In Houston, police routinely violate the civil rights of my students, family members of my students, and my family members. They have violated my civil rights too.
I will not detail the many times I have been profiled by police in Houston, but many African- Americans, myself included, do not believe there are more good police officers than there are bad ones.
If there were more good officers than bad, then there would not be so many civil rights violations by the police. If there were more good officers than bad, then the number of civil rights violations would decline. If there were more good officers than bad, then there would be fewer incidences of police killing African-Americans.
Police often complain that they do not get cooperation from residents when trying to solve crimes. Ironically, police do not cooperate with residents when the police commit crimes or violate the civil rights of citizens.
When citizens do not cooperate with the police and give them the information they seek, police will arrest those citizens for obstruction of justice or on some charge that makes them complicit.
Don’t believe me? An African-American male in St. Louis audio-taped one encounter with the police in which they blackmailed the young man. So, if citizens do not cooperate with the police so they can arrest the wrongdoer, what does it mean when a police officer does not enforce the law when a fellow police officer is a wrongdoer?
It is not OK for police to look the other way, sweep it under the rug, or laugh it off. If that officer does nothing, then he is just as culpable. No one believes that police officers break the law and no one knows about it. I bet many police officers know, but choose to do nothing. Therefore, there are far more bad police officers than there are good ones.
Dr. Maruice Mangum, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs Associate Professor, Department of Political Science Texas Southern University