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Despite continued reductions in law enforcement officers’ use of deadly force, this decade is shaping up to be one of the most trying decades in the history of American law enforcement. The debate surrounding the state of policing is dominated by emotion rather than fact. The amount of demagoguery and invective in the national discussion of law enforcement should concern everyone, because effective policing and, in turn, a safe citizenry rely on factual and objective reporting. The police-involved shooting death of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California last year is just the latest example of how facts tend to get hijacked when it comes to controversial police actions.
Hours after a Ferguson, Missouri police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative had begun to take shape. Across the country, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s presumption of innocence was bulldozed by rumors that Michael Brown was in the process of peacefully surrendering when shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. In the ensuing days, Ferguson would be torn apart by riots and destruction. Professional athletes, celebrities, members of Congress, and even news commentators completely bought into the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative. They ignored evidence that Brown had just robbed a convenience store, assaulted and attempted to disarm Officer Wilson.
March - Department - Justice - Findings - Wilson
In March 2015, the Department of Justice issued its official findings that Wilson’s use of deadly force was reasonable and lawful. It didn’t matter; the damage was done. To this day, Michael Brown’s name is synonymous with the false narrative his death spawned.
To the extent these wounds had begun to heal in the four years since, raw nerves were again laid bare in the recent coverage of the shooting death of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California. Sadly, as in the Brown case, the events which led to the death...
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