August 29, 2014

The Presence of the Attorney General in Ferguson Invites Racism

In an August 20, 2014 article titled, “Holder Says He Understands Mistrust Of Police As Ferguson Protests Dwindle” and on that same date, “during his meeting at the FBI building in St. Louis, Holder told Ferguson community leaders that he has assigned the federal government’s ‘most experienced agents and prosecutors’ to the investigation of a white police officer’s fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old.”

This is a very practicable decision for the AG consistent with his Constitutionally assigned duties of protecting our country. But his actions be-lied his comments when he made the following statements.

“Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that he understands why many black Americans distrust the police as he made a one-day swing through the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., where a black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer almost two weeks earlier.

"Holder made the comments during a meeting with about 50 community leaders at the Florissant campus of St. Louis Community College in which he heard about their own issues with law enforcement officials.

"I understand that mistrust,” Holder said. “I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man.” The attorney general then described how he was stopped twice on the New Jersey Turnpike and accused of speeding. Police searched his car, going through the trunk and looking under the seats.

If this isn’t pandering to the probably almost totally black audience then I don’t know the meaning of the word. It makes me want to ask, “Why do you suppose you were pulled over by the New Jersey Turnpike police? Do you believe it was because you were speeding or because you were a black man?”

Holder also said to the meeting at the college in St. Louis, “I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.” I have to wonder if that same thing had happened to a white person would he or she react any differently than Mr. Holder? And remembering my feelings when it once happened to me, and in my case the police even searched the glove compartment and made me stand outside of the car with my hands on the roof and my legs spread wide; I don’t think so.

Holder did not say how his police incident was finalized, but in my case after the search ended, the officer returned my papers and lectured me on the dangers of speeding then sent me on my way without a citation. I was also angry and humiliated and yes, it also had an impact on me – I kept my speed at or UNDER the limit after that.

As the United States Attorney General, I would hope that Eric Holder understands the mistrust of police. By the same logic, which the black man that Holder is, he should likewise understand the mistrust of the black community of Ferguson. Also, in many ways, Holder as the USAG should trust the police even more than the black community; it’s his job. He is in essence, the ‘Top Cop’ in America and has overall authority.

Saying he understands the mistrust of those under his command shows a lack of faith in his subordinates. What if the Commanding General of the First Marine Division made that statement about the Marines in his Division; do you think he would remain CG for very long?

It should be the same with the country’s Justice Department, including all operative personnel entrusted to carry out their sworn duties just as the USAG swears to fulfill his sworn obligations. If the US Attorney General mistrusts the police who are subordinate to his commands, someone has to go.

In this scenario, it is obvious that the top man in either unit is failing to uphold his obligations and should be replaced by his superior, the President of the United States for the USAG or the Marine Corps Commandant for the CG, FMD. But in this case the President of the United States is also a black man, and rigidly so. Even more reason for the Attorney General to speak and act as impartially as possible to preclude a show of favoritism or racism.

The report continued stating, “In nearby Clayton, a grand jury began hearing evidence to determine whether Ferguson Police Officer Wilson should be charged in Brown’s death. A spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said there was no timeline for the process, but it could take weeks.

"Outside the St. Louis County Justice Center, where the grand jury convened, two dozen protesters gathered in a circle for a prayer, chanted and held signs urging McCulloch to step aside.

"McCulloch’s deep family connections to police have been cited by some black leaders who question his ability to be impartial in the case. McCulloch’s father, mother, brother, uncle and cousin all worked for the St. Louis Police Department, and his father was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect.

"The prosecutor, who is white, has insisted his background will have no bearing on the handling of the Brown case, which has touched off days of nighttime protests during which authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the streets.”

If absolute favoritism is to be avoided, the Attorney General should return to Washington, DC and the President should also remain there. Otherwise the aura of those two offices will cast a racial flavor on all proceedings.

Let’s keep this case color blind and without favoritism.

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