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What we can learn from Ferguson

Updated on December 19, 2014

Obama on Ferguson


What happened in Ferguson is a tragedy. Another young, unarmed black man was killed and people in Ferguson, Missouri have had enough and are protesting.

I don't blame them. If I was near that community, I would be right out with them protesting. I find it disheartening that the people that are sworn to protect us, use excessive force to kill citizens.

According to the article called: "A Black Man is Killed in the U.S. Every 28 Hours by Police" (which can be found here: says that "Of the 313 killings, the report found that 275 of them or 88% were cases of excessive force."

This is staggering. Disheartening. And sickening. This is such an obscene number that should disgust any moral person.

Human are going to make mistakes. Police officers are no exception. We can't expect them to be perfect all the time. It's impossible. But 88% percent of the time it was determined they used excessive force. That means the extreme majority of the time, they are using excessive force and killing people who they had no right to kill. Plain and simple, they are murdering people and something needs to be done.

I'm glad the protests in Ferguson started and are still occurring. They should. By doing what they are doing, they are bringing attention to blatantly, racist police killings.

Police-Getting a failing grade

The rest of the quote goes on to say:

"Only 8% were not considered excessive as they involved cases were suspects shot at, wounded, or killed a police and/or others. Additionally, 4% were situations were the facts surrounding the killing were "unclear or sparsely reported". The vast majority of the time, police officers, security guards, or armed vigilantes who extrajudicially kill black people escape accountability."

8% percent is not a good number. It's not even remotely close to being a respectable number. It's not acceptable and demands that something to be done to fix this issue in police policy.

And also shows that the 88% mentioned previously could actually be higher because of that 4%. It could, possibly, be as high as 92%.


Protests work

The governor of Missouri took notice of the the events that have transpired in Ferguson, and he is taking action by putting the state highway patrol in power there and keeping away the Ferguson police department.

This is a smart decision by the governor. It is a conflict of interest to have the same police who are being investigated for transgressions and who have delaying the investigation to be in power of the same people who are protesting against them.

Another incident was waiting to happen, and it could still happen.

But the actions of the governor are unique in the fact that this kind of thing rarely happens. And this happened because of the protests and the effectiveness of them.

Social media boosted the efforts of the protests. You seemingly can't go anywhere on any social media or news site without seeing several articles or posts about what is happening in Ferguson. And this is a great thing. Attention needs to be brought to this terrible situation and change needs to be prompted and made.


One possible change

There are many things that can change., and I don't think any of them relates to having a police department that racially aligns with the members of the community. I don't like when it is brought up that the vast majority of police officers in the Ferguson are white. I don't view this as the issue.

I don't view the problem with the officers being the race of the officers of questions, but where they come from. Many of the officers come from other communities and are "outsiders" to the communities they have been sworn to protect.

It makes little sense to have a lot of the officers who are not living in the community preside over that place. I think things could be helped if the police force was focused on recruiting and developing efficient and ethical officers that are from the area.

Not only would it be beneficial to the people of the community to have people they know policing them, but it would help the officers, as well, because they would know the community better than other officers from other places.

It is an unrealistic expectation to have this be true for every officer of any particular area, but it should be true for at least some of the officers. If you had a few of the officers who are from the area and/or are familiar with the people and the area, it would help the other officers who are not to as knowledgeable about the area they are presiding over. .


The more far-reaching solution

You are twenty-nine more times likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist. This is a staggering statistic to have in a country whose politicians emphasize the eradication of terrorism to be more of a priority than the ending of hunger or the economic disparity between the rich and everyone else.

I also find another statistic from the article to be just as scary as the above.

"In the last decade alone the number of people murdered by police has reached 5,000. The number of soldiers killed since the inception of the Iraq war, 4489."

This is pretty staggering that all this attention is being placed on the war in the Middle East when U.S. citizens are being killed by other U.S. citizens at a higher rate than soldiers in the Middle East.

Both numbers are terrible, but it would seem that the real terrorists are the police officers. It makes no logically sense how that many people could be killed in our own country by our own people who are sworn to "serve and protect" us.

I'm not saying that every cop is a criminal or that every cop is evil or bad, that's far from the case, but there are some that are not ethical in their approach. Steps have to be taken to stamp out these officers, prevent them from getting into the force in the first place, and to punish those who step over the line and break the laws of the land.

The Young Turks

Racial disparity in Marijuana arrests


Racial Disperatity

The protests in Ferguson create discussion about another big issue in the U.S. about the seemingly racist actions of the police when targeting people to be questioned, searched, and harassed.

One example of this is the "stop and frisk" law the was overturned in New York last year. A quote from a New York times article talks about the extremely racist nature of the policy.

"About 83 percent of the stops between 2004 and 2012 involved blacks and Hispanics, even though those two demographics make up just slightly more than 50 percent of the city’s residents. Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly have explained that disparity by saying it mirrored the disproportionate percentage of crimes committed by young minority men. But Judge Scheindlin dismissed the Police Department’s rationale.

“This might be a valid comparison if the people stopped were criminals,” she wrote, explaining that there was significant evidence that the people being stopped were not criminals. “To the contrary, nearly 90 percent of the people stopped are released without the officer finding any basis for a summons or arrest.”-

This harassment by police officers is not just isolated to New York or any one place. Minorities everywhere are subjected to increased police attention for the simple act of not being white.

According to an article by Washington Monthly-

"Overall, black drivers are nearly three times more likely than whites to be subjected to investigatory stops." -

So racial profiling is a problem everywhere in the U.S. Not just in New York, or Ferguson, Missouri.

And it needs to stop. We are too much of a progressive society to be doing things like this. There is not place for racism and judging people solely on their appearances. Officers and people in general should be taught to view and treat every person equally.

The Young Turks


Secular Talk

The future

As this story develop and more facts get known, somethings will change about the case. But the one thing that won't change is the problem that there is with race in the policing of America.

Is racial discrimination by police a problem in the U.S.?

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    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      4 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub and analysis, Thunkfulthinker. Race relations and the criminal justice system are in a woeful state though few wish to discuss it. Incidents such as Ferguson are valuable in highlighting these injustices. Hopefully the media and the public do not lose interest and sweep this back under the rug as they have done countless times. Much positive change has occurred over the past 50 years but there is still much more to be done.

    • twoseven profile image


      4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Good for you for covering this important and thorny topic with real thoughtfulness. I will be following along for future articles like this.

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      4 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      My understanding is that the police officer, when initially encountering the boys, did not know of the robbery, so that should not have affected the officer’s behavior. The boys, however, during the initial encounter, were aware of what they had done.

      Skip ahead a bit ... after the officer notes the cigar box being held by one of the boys, and decides to follow up. At that point, both the officer and the boys are aware of the robbery. My understanding is that the robbery was described as a strong-arm robbery. It will be interesting to hear if the radio calls on that are released, and a full timeline established.

      What is 100% clear at this point is that there is a second party involved in the robbery that will likely be arrested (and should be). That same party was ready willing and able to describe his involvement in interview that was shown to the world as feigned and total innocence, well after seeing the death and riot consequences. That part of the story was relayed out as if he thought no-one would ever know what was done, and one wonders if it was in fact the same convenience store that was robbed that got burned out during the riots in hopes of destroying the evidence found on that tape.

      This is why we would should take a deep breath and wait when something like this happens. Establish the timelines. Know who did what and when, seek to understand the why, grieve for those who died, then take it into court and seek justice. My opinion is that it is still too early, that some of the witnesses may now realize what was going on when they saw what they saw, and will have additional information to share that might change our collective understanding of what happened.

    • thunkfulthinker profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Ohio

      When I wrote this article, the video had not surfaced yet. And it brings up some good points and some further discussion.

      First, from what I'm reading the officer didn't know about the robbery, so I think it plays a non-factor in the shooting. Although, it does crack the imagine of the "innocent black college bound boy" that was being portrayed. But, even so, there is no justification of shooting an unarmed man. I believe the timing of the release before the release of the police officer's name is an attempt to "justify" the shooting. Which is pretty obvious. They shouldn't get to pick and chose which information to release because they are, of course, going to set it up to make themselves be in the best light possibly.

      Second, I think a lot of the disrespect of the officers is from the ill treatment from the police. When the governor of a state sends police to take over the jurisdiction of a city because of mistreatment by the police, I think that is not something to sweep under the rug.

      Third, this is a multi-faceted issue and there are many things to consider in this case, but I believe one of, if not the, biggest factor that played into it was the skin color of the victim.

      Fourth, there is still much more information that we all need to know. Such as the name of the officer, how many times he was shot, and the toxicology report.

      So there is still more we need to know, but I think we can all agree that the likelihood of a white person being shot in the manner of Michael would be much lower. And that discrimination by police to minorities is still a HUGE problem no matter how this case turns out.

      But thanks for the comments. You both brought up some great thoughts. I hope I was thorough in my answer.

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      4 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      What do you think of the interview of the witness that was walking with the young man that was shot? He and the other boy had just robbed a convenience store less than fifteen minutes before, and pushed the clerk around when the clerk tried to stop them from exiting the store. He never mentioned that in the interview, instead choosing to claim total innocence.

      In these days and times, with private cell-phone and surveillance cameras everywhere, both sides of the story will eventually be heard, and the full truth will come out.

      For the love of a cigar, a boy is dead, a town riots, a state and a nation are on alert, and a convenience store owner is now out of business. There is no good in this.

      Evil wins again.

    • Lily Luna profile image

      Lorri Woodmansee 

      4 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      I think what happened in Ferguson is unfortunate. The problem, however, is multi-faceted. Racism cannot be the blanket accusation over the problem.

      First, in a video, you see a large, black, adult male bullying the store owner - using intimidation and violence. He then walks out after taking a box of cigars without paying.

      Second, you have a black community that does not respect nor trust their police department. Not surprising since the arrests of black is double that of white residents.

      Third, neither side wants to take responsibility for what happened.

      No one who is unarmed and surrendering deserves to be shot dead, especially over a box of cigars. However, criminal activity is not acceptable under any circumstances.

      Is criminal behavior an acceptable practice in Ferguson? When watching the video, it seems to be. Michael Brown didn't even bother to cover his identity and he chose a shop keeper that he knew couldn't stop him. That sends a pretty disturbing message in my mind. 'You can't stop me from taking from you'.

      Did he deserve to die over it? No, but this activity is certainly something to consider while looking at his death. Does the black community in Ferguson create distrust through committing these crimes often? This question is a valid one and is part of the problem where trust and respect is concerned.

      Both the police and the black community have a lot to own and its time they came to the table and admitted their own parts and responsibility that lead to this tragic crescendo.


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