President Obama has now twice made remarks concerning the grand jury verdict in Ferguson, Missouri. He first made remarks last night at the White House and again earlier this evening during a speech in Chicago concerning immigration.
On both occasions, Obama has spoken about having “more representative police forces”. Last night he said, “That means working with law enforcement officials to make sure their ranks are representative of the communities they serve.” This evening he said, “We know that when we have a police force that is representative of the communities its serving, that makes a difference.”
I know President Obama likes to watch House of Cards. Does he ever watch The First 48?
For the past decade, The First 48 has aired on A&E. It is a behind the scenes look at how various police forces across the U.S. handle homicide investigations from the moment they are summoned to the scene. The term “the first 48” refers to how murders are less likely to be solved if they are not closed within the first 48 hours.
Whether the homicides are committed in Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Miami or Birmingham, many of the homicide victims are African-American and many of the investigators and supervisors are also African-American. Many of the profiled homicides are often drug related. Often the victim is a member of a rival gang or sometimes the victim is an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. When these African-American homicide investigators try to talk to potential witnesses they are met with a wall of silence every bit as thick as when their Caucasian counterparts try to do the same. The unwillingness of the African-American community to co-operate in solving these homicides demonstrates that life in these communities is, to quote Hobbes, “nasty, brutish and short.”
You can have all the African-American police personnel you want. It’s going to take a lot more than that to break down the wall of resistance in racial minority communities towards the police. And it sure as hell going to take a lot more than a few townhall meetings featuring the grandstanding of Eric Holder. In these communities, “Stop Snitchin'” is more than a t-shirt. Disdain for the police and a general lack of respect for authority is a badge of honor and those who see fit to help the authorities risk grievous harm to themselves and to their families.
There are no easy answers or quick fixes here and demagoguery only makes things worse. Having more African-American police officers will not prevent situations where police officers, whatever their color, will be compelled to use deadly force against assailants, whatever their color.