From my Facebook thread on What Happened in Ferguson?
As one who follows “modern philosophies,” I am not advocating Brown’s innocence. What I am condoning is a search for context that gets beyond racist attitudes and assumptions. Michael Brown was a thug and a criminal and he had the right to an arrest, an arraignment and a trial. Darren Wilson was a young cop. He had a privilege to go home at the end of the day unscathed.
He took an oath in his duty to defend and protect. It’s argued that protection includes the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) himself. He knows going in that he has, for the greater good, put himself in harm’s way by doing so. With that risk he is armed with the necessary tools to protect and defend, along with a higher standard of conduct in doing so. With my son going into law enforcement, that’s my greatest concern, how he chooses in the heat of the moment to balance protections and defense, and I’m always going to hope he errs on the side of self-preservation.
What I hope for the most is something that is completely indeterminable and that’s how he responds when things go completely fubar. I know he will take advantage of the best training he can get. I know he is disciplined with his physical training, with his weapons and deterrents, and with his critical approach. What I don’t know, what we all don’t know is how he or any LEO will respond when adrenaline is pumping, the stakes are critical, and there’s not enough information. Simulation training comes close, but any LEO veteran who’s been in the line of fire will attest there’s little that can be done to prepare for the unexpected, not for the want of trying.
The Police Executive Research Forum has a training series that deals with de-escalation. It’s an attempt to train to de-escalate and minimize use-of-force. This is a necessary read for anyone who assumes “shoot first” is policy. The Open Criminology Journal published a study, Brain Correlates of Impulsivity in Police Officers: A Neurocognitive and Ethnological Exploration, that concludes, “Aggressive situations manifested by policemen may not be related with impulsive factors but with the perception of injustice in the hierarchal organization of the institution.” (p.59)
What this is saying appears to correlate to Darren Wilson’s initial response to Michael Brown. From what I can gather from the evidence presented in the GJ’s investigation, Officer Wilson was initially responding to Brown and Johnson walking down the middle of the street. He asked the two to get on the sidewalk. How he asked, depending on testimony, resulted in a characterized belligerent response from Brown as Wilson continued his drive and simultaneously learns that Mr. Brown is a suspect in the convenience store robbery.
To apply the study, I’m guessing that two responses happened with Officer Wilson; first, the realization that Brown, toting the cigarellos, is the suspect, and second, that Brown challenged the hierarchy of the social context they were in; LEO versus suspect. Then the psychological context; Wilson in his escalation puts his SUV into reverse and backs into position to impede the suspects’ progress and to stop traffic. In doing so he narrowly misses clipping Brown and Johnson. Escalation, breakdown of control, flight, confrontation, defense, death. Any critical assessment is moot.
Is this a criminal offense on Wilson’s part? The Grand Jury’s role was to determine whether this should be investigated in a court of law, but since they were operating outside of protocol, including having no formal charge against Wilson, we will never know. Ferguson PD will never know. Officer Wilson will never know. Michael Brown’s parents will never know. This, as much as the shooting and killing of an unarmed human being, is to my chagrin.