Facts don’t matter. Police are guilty until proven innocent — or even if proven innocent. The Black Lives Matter crusade, born after Florida vigilante George Zimmerman shot unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in 2012, turned to police shootings of black men after the death of Michael Brown, 18, in 2014. It doesn’t matter that the U.S. Department of Justice essentially cleared Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson, who said he shot Brown in self-defense. Facts cannot dent the popular narrative of white cops shooting black men because police are racists.
Sunday, African American vigilante Gavin E. Long ambushed and killed three law enforcement officers — Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald, and Brad Garafola — and wounded three more officers. Long apparently wanted to pay back Baton Rouge police for the baffling July 5 police shooting of Alton Sterling, a black man hawking CDs. Watch a video of the shooting and it is hard to figure why police shot Sterling. Yes, he was armed, but the two white officers appeared to have control of the 37-year-old — although perhaps not, as the videos are short and the view largely obstructed.
The officers certainly had reason to be fearful. Sterling was no unarmed kid. He apparently had a gun and a long criminal record that, according to the New York Times, included aggravated battery, domestic abuse battery, and carnal knowledge of a juvenile. The officers were responding to a 911 call about a man making a threat with a gun in front of a convenience store. The Department of Justice rightly is investigating the shooting.
Hillary Clinton already seems to have decided the Sterling shooting smacks of police brutality. The day after Long’s rampage left six officers down, she came up to the very edge of asserting the cops misused force when she said in a speech to the NAACP that a proper response to what happened in Baton Rouge is investing in police “training on the proper use of force.” Presumption of innocence? Police need not apply.
By the way, the Baton Rouge police perfectly understood the proper use of force when Long ambushed them. “They ran to the threat,” Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said at a news conference, “not from the threat.”
Clinton did say something with which I very much agree: “We white Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day.” I only wish Clinton had departed from your typical liberal conversation. (One side talks; the other listens.) She should have told NAACP members to listen to the reasonable fears of cops in U.S. cities — especially during supercharged confrontations.
Sure, Clinton suggested that everyone put themselves in the shoes of police “heading off to a dangerous job,” but she did not suggest that police deserve the benefit of the doubt. To the contrary, she spoke of the need for black Americans to alert their children on how to behave around cops “because the slightest wrong move could get them hurt or even killed.” She also failed to ask anti-police activists to withhold judgment in the statement released after Michael Brown’s funeral. First the verdict, then the trial. That’s how Hillary Clinton brings America together.
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