Wrong, wrong, wrong

Posted on March 27, 2015. Filed under: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columns | Tags: , , , , , , |

For the record, it turns out that all the witnesses who claimed Michael Brown had his hands up the day he was shot in Ferguson, Mo., were wrong.

All the broadcast or print journalists who wrote stories sensationalizing the “hands up, don’t shoot” inference–and demonizing Darren Wilson–were wrong.

And every single protester who marched or held a poster supporting some symbolism of the two hands in solidarity with Brown’s fate were, also, all wrong.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice issued the result of its criminal investigation into the shooting of Brown, which totally absolved and vindicated Officer Wilson and his behavior.

The 86-page report is a feast of factual information corroborating the earlier St. Louis County grand jury determination that no charges were warranted against Wilson.

Some of the facts were so simple, and so compelling, it’s hard in hindsight to imagine how the truth could have gotten so derailed by public opinion.

For example, the blood evidence in the roadway clearly shows Brown moved about 20 feet toward Officer Wilson before the fatal shot. Multiple autopsies revealed no entrance wounds to Brown’s back.

At some point, when people refuse to accept facts and instead repeat untruths, they stop being simply misinformed and become deliberate misinformers.

The wrongs in this case are of mammoth magnitude. In addition to the tens of millions of dollars in damages caused by unwarranted rioting and looting in Ferguson, Wilson himself suffered wrongful character assassination, with much malice aforethought.

Brown’s family enjoyed prominent reporting throughout the whole episode. There’s been no fair or equal balance of coverage of Wilson’s family in the wake of the DOJ exoneration.

That might qualify for a racial disparity, using DOJ logic displayed in another report—a formal investigation of the Ferguson Police Department in general—issued simultaneously with the Wilson investigation resolution.

Witch hunts are never designed to produce truths, only witches.

So it’s not surprising that after finding no credible evidence of sorcery in the Brown shooting, investigators expanded their search for “devil’s marks,” incantations or other proof of black magic to the police force as a whole.

Spanning 105 pages, many of the findings are earth-shattering. In true Casablanca fashion, the DOJ is shocked—shocked!—to discover that the city of Ferguson used policing as a source of revenue generation.

The speed trap is as old as squad cars, and only now the federal government is catching on? The report blasts the practice of imposing substantial FTA (failure-to-appear) fines on top of minor infractions such as parking tickets.

Let’s hope the feds don’t decide to cast their eyes a little southward. A few years ago my wife neglected a seat-belt ticket that carried a $25 fine. I discovered it months later while cleaning out our minivan.

I walked over to city hall from my office a couple of days later to pay the fine, and wound up in a line of people, all holding tickets.

When I was next in line at the window, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between the police department employee and the guy in front of me.

The employee asked the man why he missed a court date nine months ago.

“I was sick,” he said.

She then asked about the missed court date six months ago, four months ago and last month.

“I was sick then, too,” he said.

Those collection officers have a tough job, so I smiled when presenting my ticket, with my $25 ready. But my countenance fell when she spoke.

“That’ll be $485,” she said.

Because the seat-belt charge had come up in court, my wife had also been issued a pricey FTA and her license had been suspended (charge to reinstate: $50).

“She is considered a fugitive,” the lady added, “and if pulled over, she will be taken into custody.”

I share that anecdote because the whole DOJ report is teeming with anecdotal evidence that is given the weight of hard fact in drawing wholesale conclusions.

Shouldn’t it kind of raise a red flag to trot out as 100 percent credible a bunch of stories by people accusing the Ferguson Police Department of being racist?

Just one report over, the DOJ admitted a number of similar people falsely claimed Brown had his hands up and was shot in the back in cold blood by a racist cop.

As other “evidence,” the report listed seven emails it deemed racially biased going back to 2008. The most recent was from 2011.

What really is shocking is that after sifting through seven years’ worth of emails of scores of city employees, the most illustrative examples the DOJ can unearth are a few forwarded jokes.

The DOJ is evidently betting nobody will read past the headlines that bash the FPD.

Several journalists, including a couple at the liberal New York Times, have apologized for their misreporting in the Brown shooting. But Attorney General Eric Holder produced nearly 200 pages of documentation without issuing an apology for all the wrongs visited on Wilson.

Federal largesse has rarely been showcased better: bloviate with 100,000 words when a handful would have sufficed, “You were wronged, and we’re sorry.”

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