President Obama spoke on the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, posted on Facebook and sent out an email from the White House that said, “We are better than this”. Had he ended his comments there, I might not be up all night writing and some good men might not be dead today.
But he didn’t stop there, instead he did what he usually does when there is an issue that can be racial … he fanned the flames.
“But what I can say is that all of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings, because these are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. And I just want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues.
According to various studies — not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years — African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over. After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites. African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites. African American defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime.
So that if you add it all up, the African American and Hispanic population, who make up only 30 percent of the general population, make up more than half of the incarcerated population.
Now, these are facts…”
I won’t dispute the facts the President used here, I’ll let them stand as they are and ask, so what? Why is this taken as proof that Blacks or Hispanics are singled out as opposed to them actually committing more crimes? Are police really racists that target Blacks and Hispanics to kill or arrest? Having known many officers over the years, my thoughts would be that generally speaking, they are not.
Yes, there are bad apples in any job, including law enforcement, but I find it hard to believe that there are enough bad apples to make these statistics as lopsided as they are. Social and economic pressures on the Blacks and Hispanics are more likely responsible for these statistics than bad police officers.
The two young Black men that were killed by police this week could have both avoided the confrontation that ended their lives. I’m not trying to excuse the officers for these shootings, that is for investigations to look into, I’m saying that maybe if you are going to compare Black vs. White as the President did, maybe we should look at how the contact with police came about in the first place.
Alton Sterling had police contact because he flashed his gun at a homeless man who was bothering him for money. Rather than just run away scared, the homeless man called police on his cell phone (seems unusual, but I guess everyone truly does have one these days).
Police responded and the confrontation occurred. If we are to compare this as a Black vs. White issue, I would argue that a White person would not have flashed a gun at a homeless person as a threat to make the homeless man leave them alone. Could it happen? Sure it could, but the odds are less likely.
It is currently unknown if the officers had previous contact with Mr. Sterling, but in 2009, he was charged with carrying a firearm while in possession of marijuana. He plead guilty two years later and was sentenced to five years in prison, with credit for time served and a recommendation of work release and drug treatment. Sterling had plead guilty to various other charges in the past.
Philando Castile was killed by police as he was reaching for his ID after telling police that he was armed. Mr. Castile did have a concealed weapons permit and should have had the knowledge on how to deal with a police officer during a traffic stop while armed. While speaking with an officer while armed, your hands must always be in plain view on the steering wheel until they give you explicit directions on what to do next.
In most cases, the officer will request backup if alone, have you get out of the car, and then recover / control your weapon. Once they verify that you can legally possess that weapon, they will return it, usually with the magazine removed and no rounds chambered.
Mr. Castile appears to be a good hard working man with zero felony charges but a lot of minor traffic offenses, such as driving with a revoked license, failure to wear a seat belt, and no proof of insurance. Two marijuana-possession charges were both dismissed. The records show he had not been arrested since 2011, though he had been issued tickets for minor traffic and parking violations. NBC News counted 31 misdemeanor traffic violations, for things like driving without a muffler.
This is a disturbing case as although he was pulled over for a broken tail light, there are unconfirmed reports that the tail light was not broken. If that is the case, why were they pulled over? The girlfriend did confess that they had marijuana in the vehicle, but was that a factor in the stop and how did Mr. Castile deal with the officer verbally at the beginning of the stop is still unknown (video starts after he had already been shot. The Minnesota Governor said this shooting was racial and that it would not have happened if Mr. Castile had been white.
Proper dealings with police when armed is very important for concealed carriers and it does not appear that the officer or Mr. Castile used a proper procedure for this contact and the officer went to lethal force where it should not (by all current accounts) have been required.
After the President made his statement and many others talked about racial injustice there were the usual protests in cities around the nation. Dallas was no exception. Police were on hand to ensure the protestors safety and said they would allow the protests as long as everyone was peaceful. As the protest was winding down, shots rang out.
Eleven Dallas law enforcement officers were shot, five fatally at the time of this writing, by what is believed to be two snipers who opened fire from elevated positions on the police officers, according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown. He described the shootings as “ambush style.”
“We believe that these suspects were positioning themselves in a way to triangulate on these officers from two different perches in garages in the downtown area, and planned to injure and kill as many law enforcement officers as they could,” Brown said at a news conference, noting that some officers were shot in the back.
Police were locked in a standoff with one suspect on the second floor of a parking garage and had exchanged gunfire with him at the time of this writing. Another suspect, a woman, was taken into custody near the garage, and two people seen leaving the area in a Mercedes were stopped and were being questioned.
The suspect in the standoff with police “has told our negotiators that the end is coming, and he is going to hurt and kill more of us, meaning law enforcement, and that there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown,” Brown said.
This is not a random incident, this was a well thought out tactical attack on the Police Department by some very skilled attackers with prior training.
Is The President to Blame?
This happened last time the POTUS fanned the racial flames over police shootings, officers were shot and killed and once again it has happened. In his speech he says, “There is no contradiction between us supporting law enforcement — making sure they’ve got the equipment they need, making sure that their collective bargaining rights are recognized, making sure that they’re adequately staffed, making sure that they are respected, making sure their families are supported — and also saying that there are problems across our criminal justice system, there are biases — some conscious and unconscious — that have to be rooted out. That’s not an attack on law enforcement”
But this comes well after the race dividing rhetoric that was the bulk of the speech and after the fuel was thrown on the fire. You cannot get people riled up against police and then try to talk them down, some people simply don’t come back down from that.
There have been reports that a race war would be the plan for the summer to continue the divide in the country which would help the Democrats in the November election or even create a situation where martial law would suspend the elections, hopefully this does not escalate further.