It's not a good news cycle as of late. Life goes on in Midland rather normally, with most local issues being of a low-key nature, like whether the downtown area is getting a bit too gentrified/elitist along with a slow-motion bifurcation between the mall quadrant on the upscale north side of town and a Saginaw Road stretch that is downscaling with payday loans, pawn shops and auto-parts stores replacing more middle-brow establishment.
However, the national news is of another matter. A couple of cases of (at first blush) trigger-happy cops killing black guys in Minnesota and Louisiana have kicked Black Lives Matter-style sentiments into overdrive this week. I'll put the Dallas shootings off as a second forthcoming post, for that calls for a separate, albeit related, analysis.
Both of the recent suspect fatalities seem to be the work of imprudent police officers. I have to stress the seem, since the supporters of the fallen guys are free to spin and cast the officers in an unfavorable light, while the police are often tight-lipped while getting all the facts and letting the legal process move forward without grandstanding.
In MN, the case smells quite a bit of Driving While Black, with a black couple pulled over for a broken taillight in a (I assume) white suburb. I recall getting pulled over for a blown headlight last summer, but as a conventional-looking white guy in the middle of nowhere on US-2 in the UP, I wasn't worried about what an officer might do; the biggest worry was whether I was going too fast and on the verge of my first ticket in a quarter-century (I wasn't, thanks to cruise control).
Discussing a concealed-carry permit seems to have escalated into the cops firing on the guy. The guy had no criminal past and was clean enough to get said CCR approved, but he's a casualty of a somewhat trigger-happy cop. At least that's the conventional wisdom at this point, as BLM folks and libertarians like VodkaPundit (the source of the link) err on the side of being skeptical of the police.
The Baton Rouge case seems to have had somewhat trigger-happy cops as well, turning fear of a possible gun into a violent episode where there seems to be little threat eminent. There was also possibly an element of assumption of trouble, as Mr Sterling seemed to have a legitimate if unconventional business selling CDs out of his car. That type of informal business transaction seems to be open to having cops wonder whether the CDs were legitimately acquired and whether some less-legal business was also going on merely using the CDs as a front.
There seems to be a lot of informal economic activity in the South from my days living in FL and KY, more so than in Michigan. Casual labor, food trucks, roadside stands and flea-markets are more common. There seems to be a bit of a class factor in my vision of those as things that are not part of my suburban-style upscale upbringing, having a Third-world feel to them. Could that snobbishness and the viewing of cop shows where such informal institutions were criminal fronts factor in to assuming the worse of Mr Sterling?
Again, I'm working on very incomplete information, spun in the favor of the deceased.
The Spiderman line, "with great power comes great responsibility" comes to mind. Police have the authority to capture folks and use force when needed and get the benefit of the doubt when force is used. You don't want to handcuff police and have suspects turn themselves in when they feel like it, but you also don't want them to have a "shoot first and have the police union and the usual suspects on the right back you up" attitude.
In the two cases that kicked-off the BLM era, the Michael Brown Ferguson case and the Eric Garner NYC case, the officers were ultimately not convicted. Force was over-applied in both cases, but were seen as tragic mistakes rather than manslaughter or murder.
In Ferguson, the officer kept firing a notch longer than seemed to be needed as Brown was fleeing (better to let him go for the moment in 20/20 hindsight), but was part of defending himself from a suspect that was attacking him. In the Garner case, the "I can't breathe" cries could have been seen in the heat of the moment as the self-serving exaggeration of a perp you were trying to tackle. In 20-20 hindsight, it proved to be very true, as Garner died of asthma-aggravated asphyxiation. Responsibility
We don't know quite yet if there are similar back-stories in the two new BLM cases; the Ferguson cops looked worse than they did a few days after the incident, as Brown was being pursued for shoplifting and was less than the college-bound angel he was cast as by his supporters. Garner was being arrested for selling bootleg cigarettes sold without the high NY cigarette taxes; you can make a libertarian case that he shouldn't have needed to be arrested for depriving the state of tax money, but he was breaking the law.
The two recent dead black men seem to have done nothing criminal and nothing that warranted getting a weapon pulled on them. That makes these cases, at first blush, more troubling than Brown and Garner, who at least warranted the attention of police for illegal activity. If we have cops being too trigger-happy and possibly with biases against blacks and/or informal economic activity, then some reflection and retraining of our police is called for.