Minding the Matter of Media – Siddiqui
Aug. 9, 2014 is a day that will be historically remembered for causing one of the biggest uproars that Ferguson, Missouri has ever seen. On this day, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson when walking down the street. Many witnesses claimed Brown surrendered or fled and was killed without causing any threat.
What followed were waves of protests, lawsuits and media attention. Ferguson was used as a symbol of the dangers of police brutality.
Recently, after conducting further investigation into the circumstances of Brown’s death, an autopsy report shows that it is likely that Brown did not have his hands up in surrender at the time of his death. There was a bullet shot through the front of his arm indicating his palms could not have been facing outward.
What does this mean for the uproar? The protests? Many would argue that they weren’t warranted. Because of the large public outcry, there were businesses damaged, police cars trashed and streets illegally blocked off.
What started out as peaceful demonstrations turned into full riots in which police had to coerce citizens back into order. Tear gas and rubber bullets were released and for what? A man who was most likely not brutalized in any way?
What these critics don’t realize is the reminder that comes along with incidents such as Brown’s. Whenever there is a case of police brutality, the law and criminal justice system as a whole favors the enforcers. It is a difficult task getting enough support to warrant a full investigation into a crime by police.
Antagonizers of this sort of unrest would claim that there is no reason for protestors and citizens to jump to conclusions before the evidence is out. The fact of the matter is there will be no evidence unless there is enough public attention to make officers accountable. The majority of police brutality cases don’t receive a full investigation. Incidents such as Ramarley Graham’s (who was chased into and shot dead in his grandmother’s bathroom floor) don’t even make it to a prosecutor.
If there had not been this much excitement over the shooting initially, nothing at all would have been done to bring justice. Michael Brown would still be dead. Darren Wilson would be continuing on as a cop regardless of whether or not he murdered a man.
Even if it ends up that there is no case against Wilson, the precedent still stands. The only way to hold officers accountable for their actions is to give them some fear of consequences. This is not possible if they are allowed ample time and resources to dodge any cases of brutality that might come their way.
Police officers are allowed too much discretionary power to always be viewed as victims in cases where they have killed people. Instead of giving these officials the proper reprimanding needed, the justice system lifts their arms back up so that they can take aim at another victim.
As of now, there isn’t even an official count of civilian deaths due to police shootings. There is no record taken despite countless efforts to change that. Having discretion to the point of keeping the public oblivious to mortality statistics is unacceptable. Without a public record of when officers kill civilians, it is that much easier for them to not fear any sort of consequences.
If the public doesn’t react when possible cases of police brutality occur, no one will. Officers have every weapon in their arsenal to prove their innocence if accusations are misled. Those who are abused or killed have much fewer resources.
The only true way to combat the power officers have to abuse is to remind them that there are masses to fear that won’t allow it to go unnoticed.
Ali Siddiqui is a second-year biomedical engineering major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.