The Washington Post has published a detailed article about Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson PD patrolman who shot and killed teenager Michael Brown, setting off a national furore about race and police militarization. The piece is headlined Darren Wilson’s first job was on a troubled police force disbanded by authorities. This is how it starts . . .
The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch.
That was three years ago. One of the officers who worked in that department, and lost his job along with everyone else, was a young man named Darren Wilson.
Facts, yes. But the clear implication: Wilson was part of a police force so racist it was disbanded. So Wilson’s a racist. Maybe. Probably?
To answer that question – which has no proven bearing on the Michael Brown shooting – you have to scroll down 34 paragraphs. Past the author’s condemnation of Wilson’s silence on the incident. Past information on Wilson’s divorce, his mother’s felony conviction for forgery and stealing and a history of the Jennings Police Department’s [allegedly] racially motivated misdeeds. Until, finally . . .
Robert Orr, the former Jennings police chief who retired in 2010, said of Wilson: “He was a good officer with us. There was no disciplinary action.”
And then it’s straight back to guilt by association. Wilson is an officer for the Ferguson PD. . .
an example of a police department staffed predominantly with white officers, many of whom live far away from, and often fail to establish trust with, the predominantly black communities they serve. Policing can become a tense, racially charged, fearful and potentially violent series of interactions. Distrust becomes institutionalized, as much a part of the local infrastructure as the sewers and power lines.
A newly released report by a nonprofit group of lawyers identifies Ferguson as a city that gets much of its revenue from fines generated by police in mundane citations against residents — what the group calls a poor-people’s tax.
It’s one thing to say a mostly white police department in a mostly black community can become oppressive. It’s another to say that Ferguson’s PD is oppressive. And another to say that the police oppression is racist.
That passage is highly inflammatory. Kinda like repeating a version of events that makes it sound like Wilson murdered Brown – without offering an alternative, credible version which indicates the shooting was self-defense. Like this:
According to Johnson [the teenager with Brown at the time of the shooting], Wilson reached out, grabbed Brown by the throat and then grabbed his shirt as Brown tried to move away. At that point, Johnson said, he saw Wilson pull out a gun and shoot Brown in the chest or arm. Johnson said the officer hit Brown with another round as he was running away and fatally gunned him down after he stopped and raised his hands in surrender.
Given that the article uses considerable column inches to chronicle a pro-Officer Wilson rally – “most of them white” – the authors had space to detail information that’s emerged that supports Wilson’s innocence. Instead, the WaPo chose to assassinate Wilson’s character, impugn the motives of his supporters and fan the flames of racial tension. Am I wrong?
Before you answer that, check out the caption underneath the video of Wilson receiving a commendation from the Ferguson City Council: “Video shows Officer Darren Wilson receiving a commendation months before Michael Brown’s death. Residents say they saw a different image of the officer after the shooting.”
What does that mean? Is there any evidence that Wilson was a bad cop? A racist? Or is this “different image” of Officer Wilson a projection of [some] residents’ biased views? Or maybe the paper’s biased view?