Opinion

Lowering the Civil Rights Bar

News came down this week that the local district attorney in Sacramento will not prosecute two officers for shooting an unarmed black man in what turned out to be his grandparent’s back yard. The original shooting and this news has sparked more protests about supposedly evil law enforcement. And the controversy has escalated the decision to the state’s attorney general. There have been the usual and correct articles about the need for context and the difficulty in deciding when to use force in a complex situation, but I’m also stunned at how the Civil Rights movement seems to lower the bar by lionizing criminals.

The victim, Stephan Clark was facing possible jail time after a domestic violence complaint filed two days earlier by the mother of his children. He also had researched suicide-oriented websites which included the method of using the tranquilizer Xanax, one among several illegal drugs found in his system after his death. Body-camera footage clearly showed that he fled from officers and assumed what looked like a shooting position while reaching for something in his pocket.

That something in his pocket turned out to be a phone. His criminal record for domestic violence suggests somebody who has anger issues and problems with impulse control. Running from the police heightened the situation and suggested, at best, an unwise choice. Like Trayvon Martin, he had illicit drugs in his system including codeine, cocaine, and Xanax. He didn’t just commit a crime like Michael Brown. But the police were investigating a vandalism complaint, and his running away made him even more suspect.

Many writers have correctly covered the tense situations that police are placed in which requires knowing the entire context. But for activists and Black Lives Matter supporters, the only thing that seems to matter is the color of both the police and the victim, not that the supposed victim is often engaging in suspicious behavior at best, and is often a violent criminal violently resisting or fleeing police.

In contrast to the truly innocent victims like Emmet Till, or pillars of community like Martin Luther King Jr., the modern-day “victims” are hardly innocent but often resemble thugs and criminals who are then elevated by race-baiters promoting an agenda. Again, even criminals have rights to be treated humanely while being arrested, but these individuals are often lawless riff-raff that should be a target of law enforcement; they create the deadly situations in which they find themselves, and when they face the reasonable consequences of fleeing the police and appearing to draw a gun, they complain that it’s a cosmic conspiracy by racist cops that results in their deaths.

Perhaps someday I’ll read about a victim that was on the way back from feeding the homeless at the Salvation Army, didn’t do drugs, wasn’t reasonably suspected of criminal activity, and calmly talked to police who then shot him for no reason. That would be a true civil rights crisis. But the people who follow the law and listen to the lawful commands of police officers have so little reason to fear the police that I will never read about that scenario.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Morgan Deane

Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman. Deane also served in the National Guard as an Intelligence Analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming book Decisive Battles in Chinese history, as well as Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.

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