Mourning Michael Brown and Eric Garner

By Nicholas Riebel II Staff Writer

Many of the facts about what happened in Ferguson are uncertain, but one thing is clear: Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. Michael Brown may have robbed a convenience store, may have taken drugs, and may have fought with Wilson, but even if he was guilty of all of that, I don’t think it should have necessarily ended with his death. If Wilson used his training as a police officer and apprehended Brown without lethal (and almost certainly excessive) force, a tragedy would have been prevented, and I think that’s what we should focus on when we discuss the tragedy that happened in Ferguson.

What happened with Eric Garner is far less ambiguous: he was choked to death by a police officer who definitely used excessive force over a relatively minor crime— selling untaxed cigarettes. We know what happened because someone took a video of it. But the end result was the same: two people were killed, and the police officers responsible are not going to be held responsible: grand juries refused to indict them.

It initially seemed as if the solution to prevent police from using excessive, lethal force was to have police wear body cameras. Yet, it seems that the death of Eric Garner raises serious questions about whether that would actually work. As Jon Stewart said: that was caught on film, and it didn’t make any difference.

Whatever crimes these murdered men may have committed, they did not deserve death. These events may very well have been racially-motivated, at least in part.

Don’t get me wrong: I tend to trust and respect our police. They put their lives on the line so we can live ours. But, as defenders of the people and of the law, we hold them (or ought to hold them) to a much higher standard. Those who cannot apprehend unarmed men without resorting to deadly force should not have the right to work as police officers.

Minorities in this nation suffer a history of persecution, and only recently gained full civil and political rights within the past few decades. And historically speaking, the police have discriminated against minorities, with the most notable example being the southern police during the civil rights movement over integration.

I do not condone or justify anyone committing crimes, and if Michael Brown and Eric Garner were alive today, I would want them held accountable for whatever they did. Yet it pales in comparison to the crimes a few of our police officers commit against America; in their zeal to pursue justice, some police officers are taking their power too far and responding with deadly force much too hastily.

Some may say that I am wrong about the police. We are trained from birth to believe that police officers, after all, are always heroic and noble, willing to sacrifice themselves for us, if necessary, in the line of their duty. And this is usually true. Yet even if this is just a problem caused by a few bad apples, there are far too many of them in the barrel. And no, not all police are like Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo. These were, as I said, at the very least extraordinarily incompetent officers, who should both be at the very least fired from their positions (and it seems Wilson is voluntarily resigning, as he should).

Issue also lies with the justice system. It is clear that grand juries are too reluctant to prosecute police officers who have failed or broken the law. Because the proceedings of the juries are kept private, we do not know exactly how they made their decisions, and we don’t know the role of the prosecutor-police relationship in them. But the evidence to indict (and convict) Eric Garner’s killer is unquestionable. The video speaks for itself, and no, resisting arrest does not and should not put you at the police officer’s mercy. Police officers have many methods of successfully subduing individuals without killing them, and they should use those techniques.

We should mourn the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and we should be upset that there are far more tribulations than trials.

Sophomore Nicholas Riebel is a staff writer. His email is nriebel@fandm.edu.

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