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The Death of Ferguson

Cop-shooter probably just gunned down Ferguson's future

This is likely the end of Ferguson, Missouri:

Two police officers were hit by gunfire early Thursday outside the Ferguson police department.

The shots were fired just after midnight as police were confronting protesters who had gathered outside the police station.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said one officer was with his department and the other was with the Webster Groves department. Both were being treated at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where Belmar spoke, and were in serious condition.

The chief said at least three shots were fired. He described the injuries of both men as “very serious gunshot injuries.” Neither injury was considered life-threatening.

Police planned to hold a news conference at mid-morning about the shootings and protests.

The Webster Groves officer was shot in the face. He is 32 and has been on the force five years.

The county officer was hit in the shoulder. That officer is 41 and has been in law enforcement for 14 years.

Belmar said no suspects have been identified in the shootings.

They shoot cops in the face in Ferguson. For many in what is left of the middle class there, this will be read as a signal to get out. There is no future there.

Let us recall that this all began with a white Ferguson police officer shooting an unarmed black man. That officer was exonerated by at least two official investigations, one by the US Justice Department, which found, as the state investigation did, that witnesses who said Michael Brown had his hands up were lying, either consciously or unconsciously.

The Justice Department also found that the city government of Ferguson was rife with abuse. Conor Friedersdorf writes, in criticism of the way conservatives regard the Ferguson report:

If one accepts every premise advanced by the authors of National Review’s coverage, including the most dubious—if we treat the Michael Brown investigation as a cynical pretext; presume Eric Holder hates every white cop in America; ignore statistics about racially disproportionate stops as inconclusive; and presume that people are being mistreated wholly due to their poverty rather than their race; even then, it remains the case that hundreds of Americans have had their Constitutional rights or basic liberties violated by governing elites with perverse incentives to cite, fine, and jail them as often and as expensively as possible.

That is an outrage. And what amounts to the exoneration of Officer Darren Wilson—itself a legitimate news story, from the subset of self-described witnesses who lied about what happened in the altercation with Michael Brown to the media treatment Wilson received—should not be treated as more important than all injustices that hundreds of poor, disproportionately black Ferguson residents experienced. Having criticized the protestors who brought the nation’s attention to Ferguson and the DOJ investigators who’ve done more than anyone to document serious abuses there, how would conservatives suggest uncovering and remedying egregious Constitutional violations in municipalities like it?

I’ve never seen the question answered well. And I can’t help but wonder if the American Fergusons would be ignored entirely if conservatives were running the country, just as present-day injustices tend to be downplayed or left out of conservative media when they cut against the conservative counter-narrative on race.

I believe Friedersdorf has a good point here concerning the way the Ferguson city government seems to have been run as a kind of shakedown operation (see the NYT summary of the Justice Department report for more on that). As for the rest, it is hard to know from the outside to what extent the overwhelming number of police stops of African Americans reflects systemic racial bias (as distinct from anecdotal instances of racial bias), and to what extent they reflect the unpleasant fact that young black males commit a vastly disproportionate number of crimes in this country. Whatever the truth, news that a small-town city government abuses its police powers to get more revenue is appalling, but hardly the Symbol Of Race Relations In America that the media narrative has it. The reality is more complicated.

Consider the more recent police shooting of an unarmed black man, the one done by a white cop in Madison, Wisconsin, one of the most socially progressive and Democratic cities in the country. As Steve Sailer has pointed out by examining the actual statistics, blacks in Madison are nine times more likely to be arrested than non-blacks, and three times more likely to be arrested than blacks in Ferguson. Does that make Madison’s police department between nine and three times more racist? If not, why not? You can’t really paint Madison as Kluckerville. According to a comprehensive 2013 study, blacks in Dane County (Madison) are vastly worse off on just about every measure than others there, despite the city’s progressive policies and attitudes. For example:

Blacks are 5.5 times more likely than whites to be unemployed in Dane County.

Three-quarters of the county’s African-American children live in poverty , compared to 5 percent of white children.

Half of all black high school students don’t graduate on time, compared to 16 percent of white children.

African-American children are 15 times more likely than their white counterparts to land in foster care. And black juveniles are six times more likely to be arrested than white juveniles.

Children who come from poor, broken families, who don’t get an education, and who grow up to be unemployed or unemployable, are far more likely to have run-ins with the cops. To what extent is this the case in Ferguson? Why isn’t Madison the focus of the media’s ire, or the Department of Justice’s? Does it not fit the preferred narrative?

My sense is that the reality of Ferguson doesn’t fit either the progressive or the conservative narrative. I have been reluctant to comment on the DOJ report because frankly, I have lacked the interest to parse it, and to separate what’s true from what’s spin. That’s the frustrating thing about “Ferguson”: it long ago ceased being a real place, except for the people who live and work there, and instead became a pseudo-place through which our competing narratives about race in America are vindicated. I think it is entirely possible that black people have been unfairly treated by the police and city government of Ferguson, but that bias does not tell the whole story about race and crime in Ferguson.

But none of that matters now to Ferguson’s future. They shot two cops in Ferguson last night, at an anti-police rally. NBC News reports:

Belmar said that three or four shots had been fired. The officers were standing together, in what Belmar described as a line of 20 to 25 officers.

“This is really an ambush, is what it is,” he said.

An officer from the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, 32 and a seven-year veteran, was shot in the face. The bullet entered under his right eye and lodged behind his ear, Belmar said.

The other officer, from the county police force, was shot in the shoulder, and the bullet came out his back, Belmar said. That officer is 41 years old and a 14-year veteran.

Police say the bullets came from 125 yards away. If so, this is not a heat of the moment thing; this was an assassination attempt. The tragic thing about this is that since the DOJ report came out, top Ferguson officials have been resigning, clearing out of town. Ferguson had a chance for a fresh start. What the shooter doesn’t understand is that he probably just gunned down Ferguson’s future.



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