Monday, August 25, 2014

Ferguson and Jennings

So the story came stumbling out of the WaPo the other day that Brave Officer Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, started his police career with the nearby (indeed adjacent) Jennings PD in 2009, just before it was disbanded as unreformable. Officer Wilson did a kind of lateral transfer to Ferguson and that as they say was that.

I've often suggested that police departments be disbanded. For example, APD -- Albuquerque Police Department -- looks to be unreformable; and OPD -- Oakland Police Department -- has long been notoriously defiant about any movement toward reform; and SPD -- Seattle Police Department -- is on the very same (if not worse) defiance track. These are all candidates for disbanding, and there are many more. In fact, a quick Google search shows that many police departments have been disbanded recently.

I had no idea, though, that Jennings, Missouri, had actually taken the step to disband its corrupt, violent, and unreformable police department, and that Officer Darren Wilson had been a late-hire member of the force not long before the decision by the Jennings City Council to abolish the force and reconstitute it on a different and ostensibly more appropriate basis.

So it can be done, and it was done, and it happened right next door to Ferguson where an appalling level of misconduct continues (ie: "Negro Farming" for revenue) and all of a sudden, Michael Brown got killed by Officer Wilson in the middle of Canfield Drive while out walking one day with his friend.

The Officer Wilson who started his police career with Jennings. Next door. Where a largely white police force was disbanded in a largely black community and replaced, top to bottom, with a more representative and responsible police force.

The WaPo story really didn't offer many details about what was going on in Jennings that led the powers that be there to disband the force. They said it was too white in a majority black town and that there were incidents between white officers and black residents, but that's essentially typical everywhere. What I want to know is what motivated disbanding the police force altogether. WaPo doesn't say.

I'm trying to find some primary information about it. Not easy to find, in part because the WaPo article has swamped the Googlemachine. By design? Hard to say, but there is something deep-rooted going on here that needs further investigation.

I only know what I can recall from spending several months working in a St Louis suburb thirty years ago, and none of this surprises me in the least. Obviously, not much has changed except demographics. What were once nearly all white suburbs in North County are now mostly black. But the town setups surrounding the city core of St. Louis appear to be mostly the same, many like Ferguson run the way they've always been run by corrupt good-ol-boys, living a fantasy of Sparta, Mississippi (or worse) before de-segregation. When there are Nigras involved, you gotta do what you gotta do.

My impression of the St Louis metro area thirty years ago was that it was one of the most racially disharmonious and seriously socially diseased cities in the country -- and that's saying something. It was deplorable. Surely there were worse places to be a Negro, there must have been. But I wasn't aware of them. What I saw was grim. Institutionally grim.

It wasn't so bad if you were white, but if you were white, the old timers said you had to be on your guard, for there were constant rumors and fears that the Negroes were out to get you. The fear of rampaging Negroes was ever-present, and white self-protection was the name of the game. People wondered why I didn't carry a gun and wasn't afraid for my life when I had to pass through "Niggertown". That's no exaggeration.

When I see what's been going on in Ferguson and the area generally, I see strong echoes of that impression I got so many decades ago.

The police officer who was recorded shouting "Bring it, you fucking animals, bring it!" or the one who threatened to "fucking kill" a black journalist during the protests in Ferguson or... on and on it goes. We may be shocked and our consciences may reel, but it's normal enough in that metroplex that people take it in stride.

It's bullshit, it's the way things have long been. It's the environment in which Officer Wilson learned policing.

Nevertheless, his killing of Michael Brown was the first murder in Ferguson in years. There were only five guns confiscated during the protests, none from protesters themselves, all from people stopped at checkpoints. There have been numerous unsubstantiated reports of guns fired at police, none resulting in police wounded, and frequent reports of other objects thrown, including "Molotov cocktails" -- which are clearly grenades launched by police being thrown back at them.

The policing situation in Ferguson has been representative of the entire region, and the furious reaction of police, starting immediately after the killing of Michael Brown, has involved many of the area's police departments, all of them working together ostensibly under the command of Captain Ron Johnson of the State Highway Patrol. Under his guidance, some of the worst incidents of police riot took place.

So while I advocate disbanding and replacing the Ferguson police department, just as the Jennings department was disbanded, it's clear the problem is state-wide, and the police are as brutal and bad to the residents of Ferguson as they are to any other majority black district.

Changing it will take more than disbanding and replacing this one police force, but it's a start.

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