Call ‘Em As I See ‘Em.

Here we go again. A grand jury, this time in Staten Island, has declined to indict a white police officer for the death of a black man, and protesters are marching against this perceived injustice. Unlike events in Ferguson, MO, the New York protests have been largely peaceful. On the surface, the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner look the same–white law enforcement violating the rights of black men. But as with life, things are more complex in these situations than a reflexive reaction would believe.

Some might accuse me of exercising “white privilege” here, and perhaps an objective view requires having distance, but it’s my position that a valid conclusion has to be based on facts and logic and that while societal trends are important in general terms, each case must be treated individually, since people act individually.

With that in mind, we have to consider the evidence of the two cases. There is no video of the Ferguson event, but we do have the testimony presented to the grand jury, and that supports Darren Wilson’s account. In addition, nothing to date has come to light to show that Wilson acted out of racist motives or that he had a history of excessive force. It’s always possible for new facts to emerge that will change the interpretation of the total evidence, but we cannot ignore present data in the belief that the truth is out there somewhere to be found at some unspecified future point.

By contrast, we do have video of the arrest of Eric Garner:

The video of the incident itself starts at 1:04.

I worked for a while in a residential treatment facility for troubled youths and was taught how to restrain someone who is agitated or violent. A chokehold wasn’t allowed. In fact, NYPD officers are specifically barred from using chokeholds. In the video, I see no evidence that Garner posed a threat to the officers or to anyone else. I don’t know if there was a reason to arrest him, but I don’t see any cause to use force in the process. What is more, unlike Darren Wilson, the officer responsible for Garner’s death, Daniel Pantaleo, has a history of excessive force incidents. That doesn’t by itself prove that Pantaleo was wrong this time, but it does show a pattern of behavior that speaks to the nature of the person.

The point in all of this is that if all we do is react without thinking, we jump to invalid conclusions. We lash out at people not responsible for the perceived wrongs, and we champion causes not worthy of our efforts. Michael Brown was a violent criminal. Eric Garner was not. Brown attacked an officer, while Garner simply expressed his frustration with the police. Neither event justifies burning down a city, but protests are warranted over Garner’s death. But rage without reference to facts invariably brings another wrong in response to the first wrong and thereby dims the moral authority of the cause.


5 thoughts on “Call ‘Em As I See ‘Em.

  1. 3boxesofbs

    I don’t know if there was a reason to arrest him,

    Like the many other times he had been arrested, there was a reason. I’m sorry but that is a pretty ridiculous statement to make — implying there may not have been a reason to arrest him when they were clearly trying to do just that is inane. Surely one of the thousands of media reports would have mentioned if IF there was no cause for the arrest.

    but I don’t see any cause to use force in the process

    Excuse me? Did you not see him resist arrest?
    What should the officers have done “Oh…you don’t want to go to jail today. That’s okay, please let us know when a better day to arrest you would be.”

    He pulled out of the officers — two of them – attempt to control his arms. He used his body to push around the officer who applied the chokehold later. He slammed that same officer into the plate glass window.

    Had he not resisted arrest, NO force would have been used.

    Eric Garner was not. Brown attacked an officer, while Garner simply expressed his frustration with the police.

    Brown was a suspect in a crime. So was Garner.
    Brown resisted arrest or detention. So did Garner
    Brown assaulted an officer. So did Garner.

    Garner did more than simply “express his frustration”. He clearly stated “IT ENDS TODAY”.
    Now either that was a declaration of war on the police or it was an admission of suicide by cop. While I disagree with the law regarding his crime (selling loosies – single cigarettes without paying the tax) telling the police that you will not put up with them arresting you any more is a sure sign you aren’t going peacefully.

    but protests are warranted over Garner’s death.

    And not one person protesting is admitting Garner’s role — in multiple ways — in his death.

    he continued to break the law.
    He resisted arrest.
    He had an enlarged heart — I believe the coroner called it ‘very enlarged’.

    Let me ask you — in this situation – what alternatives did the police have?

    Bob S.

    1. Greg Camp Post author

      In Garner’s case, the offense he was supposed to have committed was much like speeding or jaywalking. Give the guy a ticket, and tell him to show up in court. The response of the police was excessive. Garner wasn’t endangering anyone. The officers could have slowed down, talked more, and resolved the situation.

      1. 3boxesofbs

        Except that according to the testimony — backed up by the timing of the radio calls — Wilson realized that Brown fit the description of the robbery suspect.

        Garner wasn’t endangering anyone.
        Excuse me ? You call a strong arm robbery not endangering anyone? The man – sorry but he was a full grown adult — robbed a store, threatened the store owner with violence — and as we know now this isn’t his first encounter with violence. Sorry but the idea he wasn’t ‘endangering someone’ is complete hogwash

        . The officers could have slowed down, talked more, and resolved the situation.

        Are we talking about the same case? Because I don’t think so.

        Are we talking about the case where the officer — SINGULAR — noticed the 2 — PLURAL — men walking down the middle of the road?
        Are we talking about the case where the man refused to comply with a legal request by the police and responded with verbal defiance?
        Are we talking about the case where the man reacted to the officer trying to get out — probably to talk — by slamming the door into the officer?
        Are we talking about the case where the man assaulted the officer without provocation?

        Exactly when should the officer have slowed down and talked more?

        I’m getting the impression you believe the officer should have let Brown and Johnson go – let them continue to commit whatever crimes and then try to stop them another day?

        A day when they wouldn’t be wearing the clothes seen on the video, wouldn’t be in possession of the stolen merchandise?

        Is that what you are saying should have been done ??

        And while we are at it — what Should have MICHAEL BROWN DONE?

        Bob S.

      2. Greg Camp Post author

        You’re mixing the two cases. Brown was a violent criminal. Garner was selling cigarettes. Two different stories.

  2. 3boxesofbs


    You are right but the questions still apply to the Brown Case — what should have been done?

    And as for as the Garner case — again –what should have been done ?
    The man stated he was ‘tired of being hassled’ — as if being arrested for breaking the law is a hassle — didn’t his record have nearly 30 arrests on it?

    What should have happened because he stood on the sidewalk and told the officers — “it ends today”? Do you really think he would have been any more cooperative after being ‘hassled again?

    Do you think he would have shown up for a summons when he was violating several statutes already? Come on — while I think the laws are inane, when do we simply say “oh…you are tired of us arresting you? Then we’ll just leave you alone”?

    Bob S.


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