About . . . . Classes . . . . Books . . . . Vita . . . . Blog. . . . Podcast

by Peter Moskos

April 19, 2015

Too far a gap to bridge?

I lose hope when, on one hand, the South Carolina F.O.P uses the term, "professional race agitators" in a press release. As a former dues-paying member, I will gladly offer my editing service gratis to any FOP newsletter. Seriously. If your goal is P.R. and you're talking about "the recent tragedy." Do not use the term "professional race agitators" in the same press release. Just don't. Trust me on this one. (Al Baker's story in the Times.)

On the other hand, people in Baltimore are protesting a man who remains in a coma after being injured during an arrest. Meanwhile, Baltimore being Baltimore, police shot somebody near the protest who had a loaded gun (the fourth BPD-involved shooting in 2015). And one group of anti-police protesters is idiotic enough to ask in a tweet, "how could [police] know it was loaded?"

See, when police have to explain why they shot a criminal with a loaded gun, it doesn't make you want to engage. It makes you want to go to local F.O.P. bar, drink too much, and talk about "professional race agitators."

[Meanwhile, just FYI, 11 people were shot in the last 24 hours in NYC.]


David Woycechowsky said...

In defense of the tweet asking about the loaded gun, it was not clear from Fenton's tweetstream that police are alleging that the suspect brandished the gun. Other news sources are now saying that police are alleging that the man did brandish the gun (although, as far as I am aware, no non-police sources have confirmed this). Getting back to the defense of the tweeter, the information she had when she made the offending tweet made it sound like: (i) the police only became aware of the gun after they shot the guy; and/or (ii) only became aware of the gun bcs the guy dropped it as he fled.

To try to refine the tweeter's criticism: if the suspect brandished a gun then lead with that rather than "a loaded gun was recovered from the scene." The reasoning goes like this:

1. Police shot a guy who brandished doesn't sound too suspicious.

2. Police shot a guy and a loaded gun was later recovered from the scene does sound suspicious.

If I were a journalist then I would focus on whether the shooter had filed a report on the shooting, and, if so, what that report said. That would put everyone's focus where it belongs -- on the shooter's official report to his employer. I don't care what the circumstantial evidence of a good shoot is here -- I want to know what the shooter knew and when she knew it.

Jay Livingston said...

Do you have to be as old as I am to remember that "outside agitator" was a favorite term of Southern racists back in the civil rights movement days? Do they really want to use the same phrase that George Wallace used about Martin Luther King? It suggests a mentality that "our nigras" are perfectly happy with our police and would continue to be so were it not for these outsiders.
Is that what the police think?

bacchys said...

I don't think we pay protestors to be stupid. We do pay police PR flacks to be, apparently.

Anonymous said...

[Meanwhile, just FYI, 11 people were shot in the last 24 hours in NYC.]

Yeah, but they weren't shot by the police so they don't count.

Moskos said...

You know, Baltimore has some problems, but even in Baltimore, police don't just happen to shoot somebody who just happens to have a loaded gun on him. Of course police saw he had a gun. That's why they shot him! Jesus.

Also, *we* don't the FOP. Cops pay the FOP. And yeah.

Moskos said...

And Jay, I suspect the answer to your question, at least among the leadership of that S.C. F.O.P. lodge, is: yes.

But I do have a serious question. What should you call people who come from elsewhere to protest in your town?

One day you're minding your own business. Then somebody gets shot (right or wrong). And next day all the national news is there and people you've never seen are calling press conferences.

Let's take "outside agitator" off the list for legitimate historical reasons. (Or maybe those outsiders, in the name of MLK, should reclaim the term.)

Is Al Sharpton a "freedom rider"?
What about west coast anarchists? Certainly outsiders can agitate -- for good and for bad -- in an attempt to brew up a local shit storm.

Jay Livingston said...

It's less important to come up with a different term than it is to avoid this one.

When pro-lifers come from out of town to harass clients and staff at family planning centers, nobody calls them outside agitators. Rightly so. They are not trying to get people to see things they hadn't seen, to know things they hadn't known; they are not offering new possibilities. They're just trying to make life miserable for people who do stuff they don't like. They're just called demonstrators (though some of the people who don't like them call them terrorists).

The term is literally accurate for people like ML King. But when those in power use it (and it's always those in power who use it), it implies a mentality of paternalistic racism. They might as well be announcing themselves as ante-bellum plantation owners.

What the official mouthpieces of the police should do is avoid that mentality and confront the issues raised. Failing that, they should try to avoid the appearance of that mentality.

Moskos said...

Yes, for their sake. But I can't help be somewhat pleased when people show the actual substance of their mentality.

David Woycechowsky said...

yes, yes, a loaded gun found near the body answers all questions, of course.

cap vandal said...

When you go to the grocery, they advertise USDA Prime grass fed beef.

Not dead animals for sale.

Social justice Advocate? Or Professional Race Agitators?

We know which label is equivalent to dead meat.

Moskos said...

David, I’m trying to have a serious discussion here. You are not helping.

I don't think you can give me three cases of a "drop gun" that police have used in the past three decades. Hell, I don't know of one.

I can give you 100 cases where unarmed men has been killed by police and “drop guns” sure would have come in handy for the police! Sean Bell. Diallo. I can give you half dozen in the past year (starting with Michael Brown and Walter Scott).

So now you've now raised two points in the past week or so that I'm not willing to debate on this blog (unless you have actually evidence about Baltimore cops shooting people and planting guns).

To you perhaps police are just some abstract concept or stereotype. To me, though I don't think I know these officers personally, I see them as friends, coworkers, and individual human beings. I also know, had I remained there on the job, it could have been me who had to pull the trigger.

I'm tempted to start delete all your comments, something I've only done once before on this blog. And I will if you continue to raise points that cannot be debated because they have no validity. As far as I’m concerned, I owe you nothing and could not care less if you contribute comments or read this blog.

But you have contributed a lot to the comments on this blog over time, so I'm willing to cut you some slack.

But say in a mocking way that "a loaded gun found near the body answer all questions" is nothing more than trolling. To me, a loaded gun does answer all questions. To say otherwise, based on nothing but preconceptions and ideology is insulting to me and the Baltimore police officers who had to shoot an armed man. I strongly suspect that you have never faced off with an armed threat. So please, at least here, do not mock those who do.