Panic in the streets: Black cops weigh in on Ferguson

African American law enforcement professionals converge in the midst of Midwest civil unrest

Gregg Reese | 8/21/2014, midnight
It is perhaps just one of the oxymorons of modern society that Black men, among the most marginalized within the ...
Cover Design by Andrew Nunez

Several of the retired cops at the convention were from departments in St. Louis and nearby environs. While they were quick to have opinions about the Ferguson shooting, some would only speak off the record.

“For years, local law enforcement served under the direct supervision of the governor. After the last election, all that changed, and now they’re under the mayor,” said one man who is one year into his retirement from the St. Louis Police.

This, in turn, he claimed, complicates things because the mayor is subject to the whims of the various aldermen who comprise the local government, resulting in the unwelcome addition of “cronyism” into the milieu. They speculate that foreseeable consequences of all this will be the likely inability to get impartial adjudication, if the accused policeman is brought to trial at the local or state level. This will all but ensure that the legal system at the federal level will be brought into play.

“I don’t condone murder—but it’s hard to support (someone) when pic(ture)s show you jacking someone.”

—from the Facebook page of Cheryl Dorsey

During her months-old retirement, LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey has become an outspoken critic of the department she served for two decades. None-the-less, she retains a cop’s sense of order and propriety. This outlook informs her view of the officer-involved incidents in Missouri and New York.

The events that precipitated Brown’s demise may have started with an alleged theft of a box of cigars from a convenience store. Brown’s use of his size (six feet four inches tall and 292 pounds) supposedly facilitated a form of strong-arm robbery against a diminutive clerk.

Having viewed the security video of the alleged robbery, Dorsey used her years of patrol experience to surmise that there was a “back story” that informed the tragedy that unfolded. She bases this on the body language Brown exhibited in the video.

“Everything about his demeanor (on the video) suggests he was a ‘bad actor,’ probably well known to the police and the clerk he victimized.” That said, she agrees that he did not deserve the punishment that was meted out.

No video footage exists of the exchange between Brown and Wilson, but the information available along with her years of practical experience gives the seasoned cop a sense of what likely transpired. She believes oppositional acting out against authority figures is a typical behavior exhibited by young men in their teens and early adulthood. Dorsey has come up with her own term for this conduct—“Contempt of Cop.”

Similarly, she speculates that the 350-pound Garner had a previous relationship with police because of his hawking loose cigarettes in the neighborhood along with other behaviors. She believes such repetitive activities create emotional friction, at which point the involved police can easily personalize disrespect, real or perceived, that they believe is directed at them. Officers who reach this point are just a step away from over reaching, and in turn may find themselves on the wrong end of the legal system.