*This post was originally drafted on May 3rd, when Brian Moore was in critical condition. Out of fear for his fate, and then respect for his life, I have held off posting this. While any discussion of police actions in the U.S. right now risks appearing politically motivated, I still believe this is a question which needs to be addressed (though I don’t think the question needs to be asked).*
By all accounts I have read, Brian Moore, a 5 year veteran of the NYPD, was a hero who served bravely to protect his fellow New Yorkers. His death is a tragedy, and the thousands who showed their support for him at his funeral understood we can never repay the ultimate sacrifice he made.
Everyday, thousands of brave police officers like Brian Moore patrol our neighborhoods serving our communities and keeping us safe. They regularly have to approach strangers’ vehicles, praying the driver has no ill intent. They have to serve warrants to the homes of known violent offenders. They have to step into the middle of highly charged domestic disputes. They have to remain calm in the face of outraged demonstrators (they have to). And they have to be ready to put their life on the line to defend people who rarely appreciate the level of dedication required by our law enforcement officers. Thank God that the vast majority of police officers are heroes.
Sadly, like many before him, Brian Moore was killed in the line of duty. He was murdered in cold blood. If Demetrius Blackwell truly fired the shot that hit Officer Moore, I trust the courts will render a decisive verdict against him following due process.
From time to time, when the media is focused on the alleged abuses of various police departments, friends of mine will remind me of officers who have been the victims of civilian violence. They will often ask, “Why isn’t the media reporting their deaths?” “Why don’t they get national coverage?” They will often highlight the races of those involved, “White man shoots black officer” or “White officer shot by a black man, Where’s the media outrage?”
On the surface, these questions seem legitimate. Isn’t it media bias to give wall-to-wall coverage of a black civilian who is shot (or tazed, or wrestled to the ground), but silence when an officer is killed? While there are always various agendas at play anytime the media reports anything, I do not think this question or the question titling this post are necessary. I do think it is necessary to question the question.
The main reason I think these questions are unnecessary and misguided (and often reflect subconscious white supremacy) is that no one with any social credibility ever defends cop-killers (except their attorneys). Nor should they. If someone has intentionally killed or injured an officer of the law, they should be charged, arrested, convicted, and punished (according to due process). And virtually everyone agrees. Certainly the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors responsible to seek justice agree that cop-killer should be punished. No cop-killer is given a paid administrative leave (nor should they be). No one calls for patience for a thorough investigation until all the facts are known before a cop-killer is arrested. No one speculates whether or not they had legitimate fear for their life. No one speculates if they saw the officer reach for his/her waistband before they shot. Demetrius Blackwell was rightly (if the identification was accurate) arrested within two hours, and he was rightly charged within 24 hours. What he did was wrong, illegal, immoral, and a threat to his community’s peace and tranquility. He took the life of a young man created in the Image of God. He should be given all the protections of due process and then tried and punished accordingly. (If, indeed, Blackwell was the shooter.)
Contrast that with nearly any killing of a civilian by a police officer. The officer of the law is nearly always given the benefit of the doubt.
Walter Scott was killed on April 4th, but officer Slager was not arrested until April 7th, only after video evidence of the killing was released. Freddie Gray was assaulted on April 12th and died on April 19th. The officers involved were not suspended until April 21st. On May 1st, Gray’s death was ruled a homicide (a medical, not legal, classification) and the police report was determined to be falsified. Following that determination, six officers involved were charged and arrested, twenty days after their alleged crime took place. Yet the police officer’s union called this action a “rush to judgment.” (Charging and arresting someone is not a rush to “judgment”; they are still presumed innocent until proven guilty).
If the NYPD took twenty days to arrest Blackwell, after his crime, the people of New York absolutely would riot. And they absolutely should if it took that long, especially if they knew who committed the crime while they conducted a “thorough investigation”.
On August 5th, 2014, John Crawford was killed by police while shopping for a BB gun. No officer was ever charged. Twelve-year-old, Tamir Rice was shot for playing with a BB gun following a >2 second encounter with police on November 22, 2014. The investigation is ongoing; no one is in custody.
Where are the protesters for Brian Moore? There aren’t any. Even given the outrageous nature of the crime against him, they aren’t necessary. The community rightly showed strong support for the fallen officer, with thousands of citizens and officers attending his funeral. When an officer is killed, the community s/he serves should show public support. But you won’t see them protest. They don’t have to. Their killers are prosecuted as fast as they can be arrested.
“Protest” is what we do when those with authority appear to fail those who have trusted them for protection. “Protest” is necessary when power appears abusive. “Protest” is necessary when normal democratic processes of representative government no longer function in any way that resembles justice.
The murder of Brian Moore was an egregious crime. The swift response of the NYPD was a victory for justice. Protests are unnecessary and won’t happen. The demonstrations of support were sincere and poignant. But if his killer was walking the streets until a full and thorough investigation had been completed, the public response would rightly be far more visceral.