This Does Not Justify Excessive Police Force

There is a video of a black man beating a white police officer at a traffic stop making the rounds on Facebook.  It is posted as a reason justifying Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown.  The link I have here is from YouTube, the link the posters share comes from a site that features animal abuse, murder, and other disgusting human acts.  But no one expects the thoughtless and ignorant to be classy.

There is no problem with the subject of the video.  It is a dash cam video of a man beating a police officer.  The man is a criminal.  He knows if the police officer runs his identification he will go to jail.  He should be in jail and he is in jail now.  He is a bad person.

However, that does not mean that everyone stopped by the police is a bad person.  It does not mean every person stopped by the police will attack the police.

In fact, as wrongheaded as this statement will be, I would say that the police video proves Darren Wilson wrong.  Darren Wilson claims he feared for his life.  If the video somehow justifies Darren Wilson’s use of lethal force, it is hard to see how it does.  If the man in the video explains why Darren Wilson did what he “had to do”, it doesn’t close that argument because the man in the video does not kill the police officer.  He knocks her out.

Beating a police officer — or anyone — is a brutal crime.  It should not be tolerated.  And perhaps one might even argue that it is justifiable that if you see someone being beaten, force up to deadly force is justified.  You don’t know when the beating will stop or what might happen.  People die as a result of fights.

Nonetheless, the video does not explain why Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown.  It is unclear what Michael Brown did (that’s why a trial would have been appropriate, not a grand jury) and not every suspect is a potential cop killer.  All the video shows is an incident that seems to validate Darren Wilson’s action.  And it might.  However, there is a saying that goes back to Cicero — the exception that proves the rule — and in this case it isn’t so much the exception, but the norm (i.e., most people don’t kill cops and most cops don’t get killed on duty) that seems to argue against Darren Wilson.

All the video shows is crime against a different police officer.  It does not validate the specific case of any other crime, including whether or not Darrin Wilson had a justifiable reason to kill Michael Brown.  If the logic of those Facebook posts prevailed, we would have no system of rights and justice.

And so back to the link posted on Facebook.  It comes from a site that includes a video of two men beating a dog to death with a 2×4.  (I did not watch it.  No need.  No point.)  Do we conclude that any time we see two men with a 2×4 they beat dogs to death?  No.  And I believe the logic is obvious.  Apply that same reasoning to other facts of life, including police work.


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