While Bob McCulloch's handling of the Wilson-Brown shooting was wrong in a lot of ways, he did say something I found to be profound.
When asked last week how we prevent future situations like this from happening, he said:
"The idea, I hope, is to avoid ever being in that situation."
... at 34:25 in this video
That is an idea that everyone on all sides of this problem can agree on.
The Darrin Wilson's of the world don't want to police neighborhoods that they fear.
The Michael Brown's of the world don't want police who fear them policing their neighborhoods.
Bob McCulloch is right - the question to ask is how do we avoid creating communities that are set up to have people fear one another?
There is a lot to unpack in the idea of communities that are set up in such a way that people fear one another - centuries of history, hopes, aspirations, competition and more. I'll get to a few ideas of how that might be addressed later in the diary.
The immediate recurring problem of overly aggressive policing in these communities is an immediate crisis that needs immediate solutions to help stem the suffering.
Body cameras are a good idea, but to my mind, while they help treat the immediate crisis, they don't stop the crisis from happening to begin with. They treat the symptom but not the disease.
That said, until we can create communities that are more safe, stable, healthy and optimistic, I am all for body cameras to help treat the symptom of police-community fear and all the pain that flows from that relationship.
But the larger challenge is to avoid ever being in that situation. To solve that problem, we need to create healthy, stable, safe and optimistic communities so that we help police and people in those communities not fear one another, and so we don't ask people in these communities to put their lives at risk — it is not fair to the Michael Brown's of the world, and it is not fair to the Darrin Wilson's of the world.
I am no expert, and I am certain many others have thought this through much better than I have here, but there are several concepts I think most would agree can help these communities and the law enforcement who are a part of these communities to avoid ever being in that situation:
1. Give people a decent living standard - that could be accomplished through a minimum wage, through access to quality healthcare, through access to good housing and well planned neighborhoods, parks, safe street design and maintenance. I am sure there are a number of other measures that I haven't thought of.
2. Bring the diverse members of all communities together in face-to-face settings, where people who often don't cross paths in life, can see one another for who they really are - just people, who want the same things out of life: happiness, health, respect, opportunity, love. This could be accomplished through civic activities - sports (little league, soccer, basketball, etc., and police are encouraged to coach, volunteer); food co-ops where farmers come to the inner city to describe their farms, products, issues they face, their families, etc. and police are encouraged to help in some fashion at the food co-op); inter-faith organization activities. Again, I am sure there are a number of other measures that I haven't thought of and I am sure there are many that are already in place and working on these issues.
Bob McColluch's statement — The idea, I hope, is to avoid ever being in that situation — is simple and profound.
I'd like to see him follow up that statement with action.
If he thinks some of the ideas laid out above are worthwhile and would help Ferguson and other communities like them to avoid ever being in that situation, I'd like to see him and the commission set up by Jay Nixon to address the problems associated with Ferguson, lead an effort to implement them.
I am sure the commission will come up with other ideas - implement those in Ferguson and in other communities across the United States that can benefit from them.
Finally, this issue is part of a larger conversation this country needs to have — as an advanced, developed economy and country, are we going to try to strip away the growth and progress that was made in the 20th Century and was led by progressives at the grass-roots level and implemented by progressive-minded politicians (Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson), progress that gave use food safety and security, progress that gave us clean water and air, progress that gave us education opportunities, job and wage security and stability, progress that gave us healthcare security, progress that gave use Civil Rights and Voting Rights, or are we going to continue to cut taxes on the wealthiest in this country and cut spending that supports the progressive state that was built over the last century?
We see the kind of instability, anxiety and fear that are encouraged and exacerbated by financial/capital-gain driven economies that are focused on distributing wealth and financial security and stability to only a few and those resources are then supposed to be trickled down on the rest.
That is a system that, in my opinion, encourages situations such as Ferguson, where the health, happiness, stability and security go to certain communities at the expense of other communities, and we create the exact situation Bob McCulloch says we need to avoid.