By Ron Hosko, LE Action President
Last week, the Department of Justice exonerated Officer Darren Wilson of any wrongdoing when he defended himself against a violent aggressor last August. The decision not to charge Wilson with violating Michael Brown's civil rights took seven months for Eric Holder's Justice Department to share with the public.
Even then it was obscured by another lengthy report issued by the department at the same time.
The attorney general took just a few minutes to detail DOJ findings of exactly zero credible evidence rebutting Darren Wilson's version of events in his encounter with Brown. Not surprisingly, Holder stopped short of stating the truth in a simple and accurate sentence:
“Michael Brown’s death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson."
— Attorney General Eric Holder
In contrast, he provided not only DOJ's findings but also carefully selected statistics and anecdotes to condemn alleged "patterns and practices" in the Ferguson Police Department and municipal court system.
This week, Ferguson's police chief and city manager resigned while the judge overseeing the municipal court system agreed to depart and the court clerk was fired. They were right to do so and probably should have stepped down sooner if the DOJ report is even close to accurate.
Their departure opens the door to new leadership, making it easier for the city to move forward in a positive direction.
But for at least some of the hundreds of protesters, the dressing down of the Ferguson Police Department by Attorney General Holder last week or the departure of the organization's leader wasn't enough. They wanted blood.
On Wednesday evening, two police officers from neighboring departments were shot by a would-be assassin as a crowd protested outside of the Ferguson Police Department headquarters. The attempted murder is hardly surprising. Most law enforcement officers presumed it would only be a matter of time before such a tragedy would occur again.
Cops certainly live with the understanding that their lives are always at risk. In fact, law enforcement officers spend each and every day of their careers willing to die for someone they've never met. The magnitude of that sort of selfless sacrifice, both of police and their families, is likely incomprehensible to most Americans.
The police know they face great danger in their job. They also know that now—thanks to the rhetoric of their president, attorney general, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Rev. Al Sharpton and members of the media looking for a sensational story that advances a particular political agenda—that an angry mob is ready to assign sinister motives for simply performing their jobs.
On that November night when the county grand jury announced it would not pursue charges against Officer Wilson, the nation watched in horror as protests turned increasingly violent, looking on in dismay as dozens of local businesses were burned to the ground. The cops stood helplessly as mob rule descended upon the city, threatening the lives of innocent civilians and law enforcement alike.
Let me be abundantly clear: the violence and destruction emerging from these protests is not intended to be a remedy for what these vigilantes see as systemic injustice.
It is purely criminal opportunism.
These are individuals who thrive on anarchy, who use events like these as excuses to sow death and disorder. To rationalize their behavior as the fruits of their frustration with government is both intellectually dishonest and dangerous. These criminals need little prodding. They only need a common enemy and storyline. And they've found their perfect target with law enforcement.
There are many who should share blame for this narrative—elected and appointed public officials who have consistently insinuated that police are the natural enemies of civilians, especially minorities; professional instigators, like the Rev. Al Sharpton and many members of the media, all too eager to transform a local crime story into a nationwide drama offering plenty of material for slanted news coverage.
While this narrative fulfills self-serving aims, it does so at a great cost. The new circumspection of police will most adversely affect the vulnerable among us, especially those living in disadvantaged communities who most rely upon police for their day-to-day protection. The rising animosity directed at cops puts their lives at even greater risk while performing an already dangerous job. And it exacerbates the growing divide between law enforcement and the communities they live in and serve.
But, it doesn't have to be this way. Real leadership, especially from the White House, could have long ago calmed this situation. Real leadership from the attorney general—like explaining the real facts of the Wilson/Brown encounter months ago when they were already clear—shouldn't just be a hope.
Instead, President Obama simply tweeted a comment nearly 12 hours after the police shooting.
Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers in MO. Path to justice is one all of us must travel together. –bo— White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) March 12, 2015
To his credit, Holder issued a scathing comment on Thursday:
"This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was a damn punk, a punk, who was trying to sow discord."
But actual leadership would have been even more helpful when it was timely—before Ferguson descended into chaos, before two NYPD officers were assassinated and before two more cops were shot in Ferguson.
Perhaps it's better late than never. The country is watching. And waiting.