Ferguson: Two Wrongs, No Right

Michael Brown

The video of the theft using force and violence from the shop is crucial.

It proves that Brown was capable of aggressive, threatening and physical behavior.

It also clearly shows his demeanor in the minutes leading up to the shooting.

He was lucky that the clerk did not have or choose to use a weapon; the matter could have ended right there.

Darren Wilson

As a patrol officer Wilson was the face of law enforcement at the point-of-contact.

He was experienced and we can assume that he was implementing the policing procedures of the city of Ferguson.

At the outset he was in his police vehicle and Brown allegedly struggled with Wilson while he was still behind the wheel.

Rewind and Freeze That Frame

Back up to the instant that Officer Wilson spots Brown and is deciding whether or not to engage him.

What is the city of Ferguson’s policy regarding discretionary engagement in a stable environment?

Is it to protect public safety with the lowest level of interaction or force?

If it’s not, why not?

Expending more resources or applying more force than necessary is wasteful, non-productive and dangerous.

The slang term is “overkill.”

A Firefighting Corollary

Firefighters spend endless hours learning and practicing the science (and art) of “size-up.”

It’s about paying extremely close attention to the environment and taking in all available information before becoming committed to a course of action.

If you decide to engage you are using the best plan including having an escape option.

We do not aggressively engage if certain signs are present: a weakened structure, backdraft or flashover conditions.

In other words, if it doesn’t look good, create an environment favorable to you.

We also have sufficient resources on hand or nearly so before moving into an exposed position.

Back-up is critical.

Caution is always the watchword to make sure we do not get in over our heads.

On the other hand, we also know to employ the right size hoseline or tool for the job.

Few professionalism points are awarded to the crew that deploys a larger size hoseline than is appropriate or needed.

Wilson the Wicked?


Darren Wilson is but a product of his environment and culture.

What should be on trial in Ferguson, indeed across America, is not a single police officer but rather the propensity for law enforcement agencies to create or contribute to circumstances where deadly force is employed when it could have been avoided entirely.

Wilson and others are immersed in a tactical culture where their actions are blatantly escalatory with the consequence that the use of deadly force is rushed, indeed, almost a given.

Darren Wilson chose the time and place to intervene creating a circumstance where his options and resources were few.

The elected leaders and the chief of police in Ferguson are every bit as responsible as Darren Wilson.

Indict, you say?

Indict them.

They are the architects of the framework wherein a lone police officer can make the decision to engage an aggressive  and possibly dangerous man with no effective on-scene resource other than deadly force.

(Officer Wilson did not have a taser because he felt it was bulky.)

The only person in danger at the decisive moment was Darren Wilson.

He voluntarily engaged and his back-up plan was deadly violence.

The rest is history.









  • Victoria Huckenpahler says:

    I so agree with you, Eric. What troubles me about this case (among other points) is the skewing of facts by interest groups and in some cases the media. First, the kid was committing a crime. Second, he attacked the officer in the latter’s own vehicle. Where are the parents in all this? Where is the training of a young person (no matter what the color) to take personal responsibility. No parent wants to believe that his or her little darling acted badly, but this has to start being faced. Same with the very young boy tragically killed for having a toy gun. When he was told to put his hands up, he refused. Yet that’s not the part of the story emphasized. I feel badly for officers who will increasingly feel they have little recourse when threatened other than to 1) lose their lives or 2) lose their careers.

  • Glenn says:

    All this in the midst of an environment where the number one cause of law enforcement LODD last year was gun fire. Don’t know who started these tragic events, however, it is bound to make an unexperienced loan cop a bit nervous when he/she is physically challenged.

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