Samuel L. Skogstad
March 4, 2015
“FEDERAL PROBE FINDS
POLICE BIAS.” This heading on page A3 of
today’s Wall Street Journal summons attention to a “news story” about the
killing by a Ferguson
policeman of a suspected thief. Both the
head and the story perfectly exemplify the severely biased spinning that,
sadly, has come to characterize so much of modern journalism .
The first paragraph of “Police in , routinely violated the civil
rights of the city’s black residents, a Justice Ferguson,
The suspect was believed---correctly, as it turns out---to have assaulted a store clerk, while stealing cigars. He was spotted jaywalking with a friend down the middle of the street by a policeman in a squad car. The policeman approached the suspect, and a struggle ensued in which the policeman shot and killed the suspect. Massive demonstrations, burning and looting, ensued amid community demands that the policeman be arrested and charged with a hate crime. State Prosecutors, with federal agents observing closely, found insufficient evidence to support an indictment. That decision was followed by a U.S. Justice Department investigation which also found insufficient evidence to support charges of civil rights violations by the policeman. Apparently disappointed, Attorney General Eric Holder then ordered an investigation of bias in the
Ferguson police force in general.
Today’s story reports the outcome of that investigation. In the second paragraph the WSJ story describes the background of the investigation as follows: “The investigation---sparked by the shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year old by a white
Ferguson police officer last year
that set off protests nation-wide--- found widespread bias by police in the St. Louis suburb,
according to a law-enforcement official familiar with the findings.”
So far, this article has mentioned that the dead perpetrator was “18, black and unarmed.” The policeman is described only as “white.” Thus they set the stage to help you see how hateful the policeman was. Other evidence that surfaced long ago is not mentioned. Specifically: the 18-year old outweighed the policeman by about 100 pounds; the 18-year old had reached for the policeman’s pistol, while leaning into the squad car where the policeman was at the time; some witnesses for the suspect lied to investigators; other witnesses in the suspect’s defense changed their testimony one or more times; the policeman sustained severe injury to his face where the suspect struck him. These unreported factors do not prove innocence of the policeman. But they certainly endow the policeman’s defense with more credibility than they do for the accusers’ case. To shorten this, most of the evidence suggests that the 18-year old was fully capable of severely injuring the policeman in an unarmed struggle. The press treatment of the suspect as if he were just a typical, playful little boy trying to sneak off for a puff of a cigar--- before going off to college--- is reminiscent of the treatment given by the press to Trayvon Martin, including using pictures of him as a cute little boy, actually several years younger and much more physically mature than Trayvon was at the time he was killed.
But let us not stray too far from the WSJ story of today. As this writer has not seen the report of the subject federal probe of
he can only rely on the WSJ story to give the basis of the conclusions of the
report. Evidence it reports includes the
following four points:
1. Blacks were stopped, and arrested, at a far higher rate than others.
2. 90 percent of excessive force incidents were against blacks, who represent only 67 percent of the population.
3. Only 3 of 53
policemen are black.
4. “emails” (number not given) sent by police and court officials included (a)“racist jokes mocking President Obama,” and (b) alleging that a black woman's abortion would lower the crime rate.
The first two have no evidenciary value unless there is evidence that blacks do not commit a higher rate of offenses, and that blacks do not commit around 90 percent of the offenses resulting in “excessive violence.” Both may be true, but the story does not address that.
The low number of blacks certainly justifies determining why more blacks have not been employed as policemen in
The fact alone, however, is not sufficient however to confirm that it is
due to racial bias. (Here in
the Chief of Police has been persuaded that there are too few blacks on the
police force. To solve that problem,
she has decided to lower the standards applicants must meet to be
accepted. (In the view of this observer,
that is exactly the opposite of the appropriate solution. The preferred
direction of change in local police forces is
toward greater qualifications, not lesser.) Sarasota, Florida
Finally, number four provokes the question how many city officials’ emails did this, and how often? The act itself is abhorrent. But it does not justify the charge of Endemic Bias unless those numbers and identities suggest a culture that engenders the behavior. And, if the Justice
Department can criminalize “mocking President Obama,” our government is way too close to being a third world, totalitarian dictatorship. This is the danger of having a national press, a public education system, and other key institutions blindly following a president who despises dissent from his pronouncements, attributes evil to such dissenters and who surrounds himself with disciples of equal zeal. History gives us many examples of where that leads. (Dr. Skogstad is a retired professor of economics, a blog reader and contributor and a brother Marine. ~Bob)