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Shhh, White People — And Listen

One morning earlier this week, my friend Kate and I were walking through our Cleveland neighborhood when our conversation, conducted at a safe distance from each other, turned to the funeral of Tamir Rice.

Only Pastor Kate would think to remember my story from that day.

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Deadlocked Charleston Jury Is Another Big Letdown

“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”  – MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

“Make me want to holler, way they do my life.” – MARVIN GAYE

I find myself burdened by the faith of my elders.

They were generations of cooks and farmers, poets and laborers, of porters and housekeepers, soldiers and slaves, and they navigated a very different America.

It was an America of signs barring entrance, and torture killings in the town square and how much am I bid for this fetching wench who is sure to bear you a litter of pickaninnies.

Yet somehow, for the most part, they never lost the conviction that this thing called America could be hammered into conformity with its own values if only they were patient enough, tough enough, resilient and excellent enough, to see it done. So they hammered at it.

And they hammered at it.

And in the course of time, they passed the hammer down to me. And I have hammered as best I know how.

But Lord, I am just tired.

On Monday, a jury in South Carolina deadlocked in the trial of a former North Charleston police officer who shot a black man named Walter Scott in the back.

There was cell phone video, so jurors knew that when Michael Slager said he feared for his life, he was lying.

What threat is posed by the back of an unarmed man — even a black one — who is 18 feet away and running from you?

And yet, a panel of 11 white people and one African-American could not find it in themselves to hold Slager accountable for this summary execution, could not bring themselves to say that this black life mattered.

This comes a year after a Cleveland grand jury declined to indict a police officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice dead, two years after a Staten Island jury declined to indict the police officer who choked the life out of Eric Garner, three years after a jury in Sanford, Fla. acquitted the self-deputized neighborhood watchman who stalked and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, 24 years after a jury in Ventura County, Calif. acquitted four police officers who beat Rodney King very nearly to death, 61 years after a jury in Sumner, Miss. acquitted two white men who murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till so savagely that he was found with his right eyeball resting on his cheek.

It comes four years after the Supreme Court tore down the Voting Rights Act because it worked too well.

It comes a month after white supremacy was elected president.

And it comes about four months after NFL player Colin Kaepernick, later joined by other, mostly-African-American athletes, first refused to stand for the national anthem.

Infuriated white conservatives could not understand why this handful of black people would not rise to honor America. Frankly, the marvel is not that some black people don’t stand, but that most still do.

You get tired of being disappointed, you know? You get sick of being let down.

Yet I am challenged by the hope of my elders.

I hear King reminding me how the arc of the moral universe is long but bends toward justice.

I hear Thomas L. Jennings declaring that “our claims are on America.”

I hear Curtis Mayfield ordering me to keep on pushing and Sam Cooke prophesying that a change is going to come and Mahalia Jackson testifying how she got over.

And I know that probably, eventually, my elders will beguile me back into faith, convince me there are reasons to keep hammering at America’s ideals, or stand for America’s song.

But in this moment of fresh betrayal? Sorry, elders.

I’m damned if I can think of one.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

IMAGE: Judy Scott (R) is held by her son Rodney after a hung jury was announced in the trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager outside the Charleston County Courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill

What Happens When White Men Are Scared Of Black Men

It happened because a white man was scared.

Chase Coleman was on a park road, probably lost and confused, having straggled far behind the pack — he’s a cross-country runner from Syracuse, N.Y. — when the white man got out of his car and shoved him. A witness said Chase flew back 10 feet and landed on his backside.

Because that white man was scared.

He had no reason to be. As described by witnesses in the Washington Post and on Syracuse.com, Chase is a gangly black kid, 15 years of age, who weighs about 130 pounds. The white man is said to be very tall and to weigh twice that.

But that white man was scared.

Fifty-seven-year-old Martin MacDonald told police he feared that Chase — on foot, unarmed, wearing a runner’s uniform with a number pinned to his chest — might mug MacDonald’s wife, who was in the car next to him. MacDonald was also incensed the boy did not respond to his commands to get out of the road.

But Chase has autism and is nearly nonverbal. He doesn’t respond to much of anything.

Except running. He’s not very good at it, often finishes last. But his mom says being on his high school track team is one of the few ways he has ever been able to participate with others, to connect to the world beyond his unknowable thoughts. He loves running.

Or did. Chase turned in his uniform after the Oct. 14 incident.

His mother sought a warrant to arrest her son’s attacker on a charge of harassment, which carries a maximum 15-day sentence. In an act of breathtaking moral obtuseness, a judge in Rochester, where this happened, turned her down. In a victory for systemic bigotry, the judge is African American. On Monday, police said their investigation was ongoing.

Which is all well and good. But try to picture some burly black man assaulting an autistic white boy. Try to conceive of authorities still hemming and hawing about it almost three weeks later. You can’t. Not even Stephen King has that much imagination.

How many times have black people bled because white men were scared? Of retribution or uprising. Of robbery or rape. Of social equality and the loss of place and prerogative. Of blackness itself.

Tamir Rice was shot and killed within two seconds because a white man was scared.

Trayvon Martin was stalked and killed because a white man was scared.

Levar Jones was shot while complying with a state trooper’s command because the trooper, a white man, was scared.

White men’s fear has long been the story of black people’s lives and deaths. It is a story told in spectacle lynchings and burning schoolhouses, in poll taxes and restrictive covenants.

Someone will say violent crime statistics justify a white man’s fear. They don’t. To the contrary, they warn that if you are fated to be victimized, the attacker will probably look a lot like you.

Someone else will say that not all white men are scared and that some actively fight against fear. This, of course, is true.

But what does that matter to Chase? How do you explain any of this to an indrawn boy who had been used to adults being kind to him? How do you tell him that he terrifies some people just by standing in a road, lost? How do you make him understand what can happen when white men are scared?

Consider that a man assaulted him, then justice betrayed him, and that our whole history suggests that it could have been much worse. Then ask yourself:

Who should be frightened of whom?

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

IMAGE: Via The Washington Post

 

Cleveland Police Union Chief’s Rhetoric Is a Growing Danger

There is a stain darkening the city of Cleveland, and it is threatening to leach so many good intentions here as we prepare to welcome tens of thousands of visitors to the Republican National Convention.

This stain has a name: Steve Loomis. He is president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association. Unbelievably, he is also a member of the Cleveland Community Police Commission, which was mandated by a federal court to come up with policy reforms for a police department that he thinks needs no fixing.

If I’ve learned anything about Loomis from our long, meandering interviews, it’s his certainty that there’s nothing wrong with the Cleveland police force that a more appreciative, compliant population wouldn’t fix. Over many months, his ill will has seeped out, bringing dishonor to the men and women he was elected to represent and telegraphing an open disdain for the community he is charged to protect.

We saw Loomis at it again this week, only hours after the city of Cleveland announced a $6 million settlement with the family of Tamir Rice.

Tamir is the 12-year-old black boy who was playing with an air pellet gun in a city park in November 2014 when a police car swept up next to him in response to a call from a 9-1-1 dispatcher, who failed to convey the witness’s belief that his gun was not real. Seconds later, Tamir was on the ground, mortally wounded by gunshots from a police officer who, personnel files later revealed, should never have been hired.

Our city — in our neighborhoods, I mean, where we see boys like Tamir every day — has never stopped reeling from this boy’s death.

The prosecutor who failed to call for a grand jury indictment against the two white officers lost re-election in this year’s Democratic primary. Nationally, we are the consent-decree city now. Reporters occasionally still sweep in to see what, if any, progress we’re making in the wake of a 58-page Department of Justice report that chronicled a pattern of unreasonable and excessive force so extreme and systemic — and unconstitutional — that reforms must unfold through court supervision.

From day one, Loomis has blasted that report as riddled with lies and the consent decree as a waste of his time.

With the announcement of the financial settlement of the Rice family’s civil suit against the city, there was a collective sigh of relief from those of us who have yearned for something more than that hollow space between the wringing of hands from good people who feel helpless and the insistence of racists that Tamir had it coming.

The money does not bring justice, because not one cent of it will bring back Tamir Rice. It comes with no admission of guilt, either, on the part of the city. But for a moment at least, we could allow ourselves the fantasy that somewhere, in the depths of relentless official denial, burns an ember of regret.

And then Loomis weighed in, with a written statement that read, in part:

“We can only hope the Rice family and their attorneys will use a portion of this settlement to help educate the youth of Cleveland in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms. Something positive must come from this tragic loss. That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm.

“We look forward to the possibility of working with the Rice family to achieve this common goal.”

Immediately, I thought of Samaria Rice, who told me last year in an interview for Politico that she watches that video clip of her son’s shooting over and over, tracking his every moment — looking for a sign, any sign, that Tamir knew what was about to happen to him. She told me how she had fixed him lunch just an hour before, how she never had seen the air pellet gun he was hiding in his jacket because he knew his mother would never have allowed him to play with it.

So typical of Loomis to blame the victim and — as I am increasingly discovering through dozens of off-the-record interviews with his rank-and-file members — to misrepresent the men and women he is supposed to champion. He is “an embarrassment,” they tell me. He is making their “jobs harder.” He is, an officer told me last month, possibly putting their lives at greater risk by casting the Cleveland police as mortal enemies of our neighborhoods.

If Loomis does not dial back his rhetoric, he could endanger not just Cleveland’s citizens and its police officers but also the many guests and activists who will soon swarm this city for what is already expected to be a contentious Republican National Convention.

The stain is spreading, and there is no substitute for leadership to make it stop.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: Jun 9, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Tadar Muhammad (right) and Jeremy Brustein (left) demonstrate in support of Tamir Rice outside of Quicken Loans Arena prior to game three of the NBA Finals. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports 

No, There Isn’t A Racial Double Standard At Work In Oregon

Out here on the edge of the National Forest, in the cattle-ranching, timber-cutting, deer-hunting county where I live, this Ammon Bundy guy looks like the Al Sharpton of cows. His publicity seeking has created a media pseudo-event of a particularly modern kind.

Can anybody doubt that the feds could more efficiently resolve standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by confiscating TV cameras rather than guns?

Actually there’s no real “standoff,” since law enforcement is nowhere in sight. Blocking the roads, cutting the power, and waiting them out looks like the wisest policy, although there appear to be almost as many tribal ideologues on the left hankering for a shootout as anti-government militia types.

Washington Monthly’s normally sensible David Atkins is breathing smoke and fire: “I feel that if Bundy’s little crew wants to occupy a federal building and assert that they’ll use deadly violence against any police who try to extract them,” he wrote “then they should get what they’re asking for just as surely Islamist terrorists would if they did likewise…”

“What’s good for one type of terrorist must also be good for another,” Atkins continued.

Sounds downright Trump-like to me. Elsewhere, racialized insults and cries for vengeance have become common. “Y’all-qaeda,” “yee-hawdists,” “yokel haram,” tweeted New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz. Less witty ridicule is everywhere.

At Salon, Bundy’s cowboy patriots are denounced as a “strident example of unapologetic white privilege in action.”

Salon thinks that “They’d be killed if they were black: The racial double standard at the heart of the new Bundy family standoff.”

“Armed white men seize a federal building. The government stands down carefully. But a 12-year-old with a toy gun?” reads the sub-hed.

Even Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson couldn’t resist making the tempting, but specious comparison between Bundy and Tamir Rice, the Cleveland child killed by cops in a city park. Think harder. Everybody acknowledges the boy’s death was a pointless tragedy. Nobody wanted him to die.

It’s also clearly false that armed white crackpots are always given a pass. Heard of Ruby Ridge? Waco? But hold that thought.

Robinson does acknowledge the single most salient fact: that Bundy’s posse is holed-up deep in the Oregon wilderness, thirty miles from a town of 2800, a threat to nobody but each other. The last thing the US government needs to do is give them the martyrdom a few of the crazier ones crave.

Then too, as a political matter, Bundy appears to have made an almost comical miscalculation. Hardly anybody in remote Harney County appears to support his cause. Even the father-son team of ranchers who reported on schedule to begin serving five year prison terms Bundy’s group is allegedly protesting have renounced his support.

Dwight and Steve Hammond did plead guilty to arson, you know.

In a press conference, county Sheriff David Ward addressed the anti-government vigilantes directly: “To the people at the wildlife refuge: You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County. That help ended when a peaceful protest became an armed occupation. The Hammonds have turned themselves in. It’s time for you to leave our community, go home to your families and end this peacefully.”

Which is not to say those sentences are either just or equitable. Even among their neighbors, opinions differ. Five years seems like an awfully long time for torching 139 acres of sagebrush and juniper—particularly given Dwight Hammond’s age, 73.

The sentencing judge thought so too, refusing to enforce the mandatory minimum as unconstitutionally severe. After prosecutors objected, the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco imposed the statutory penalty. Indeed, the Hammonds’ legal appeals are not complete, making the timing of Bundy’s insurrection inconvenient at best.

Detailed accounts in local media make the entire affair sound like a high desert version of Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey’s manic epic about a western Oregon logging clan. Some stress the Hammond family’s business success and generous support of local charities.

Trial records, however, also make it appear that as wealthy ranchers are prone to do, the Hammonds had taken to acting dictatorially. No doubt Bureau of Land Management bureaucracy can be maddening, but renting grazing rights on government land doesn’t convey the freedom of action a rancher has on his own property.

For the past 20 years, the Hammonds have taken to confronting hunters killing “their” deer on federal land, and threatening U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents over water and fencing disputes. According to a 2010 grand jury indictment, “Hammond family members have been responsible for multiple fires” for more than 20 years. The indictment also alleged that one fire was set to destroy evidence of deer poaching — animals killed not for meat but because they competed with cattle for forage.

If true, the wonder is that they got away with it so long.

Photo: Ammon Bundy departs after addressing the media at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Ohio Grand Jury Clears Police In Fatal Shooting Of 12-Year-Old

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – A grand jury cleared two Cleveland police officers in the November 2014 fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was brandishing a toy gun in a park, after finding a series of mistakes but no criminal activity, a prosecutor said on Monday.

The decision drew calls on social media for protests around the country and a special prosecutor days after another fatal shooting by Chicago police of two black residents increased pressure on that department and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The Ohio grand jury had heard weeks of testimony on the Rice shooting, which occurred within seconds after police reached a park next to a Cleveland recreation center in response to reports of a suspect with a gun. Rice died the next day.

The shooting was one of several that have fueled scrutiny of police use of deadly force, particularly against minorities. The officers are white and Rice was black.

Rice was holding a replica handgun when Officer Timothy Loehmann shot him within seconds of reaching the park in a squad car driven by his partner, Frank Garmback.

“Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty told a news conference.

Police radio personnel gave officers a description of the suspect’s clothing but did not convey that a 911 caller had said the suspect was probably a juvenile and the gun may not be real. Those errors “were substantial contributing factors to the tragic outcome,” McGinty said.

Activists questioned the grand jury decision and planned to gather at the recreation center.

“This case has been botched from its inception by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor,” Michael Nelson Sr., president-elect of the Cleveland NAACP, said in a statement.

Rice’s family has filed a civil lawsuit over his death. It also demanded the officers be charged, a special prosecutor handle the case and the U.S. Justice Department investigate.

“Tamir’s family is saddened and disappointed by this outcome – but not surprised,” family attorneys said in a statement.

The Justice Department and FBI have been monitoring the investigation and will continue an independent review of Rice’s death, said Michael Tobin, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland.

McGinty said an enhanced security camera video showed Rice was reaching for the gun, which shoots plastic pellets, when the squad car pulled up next to him.

In a statement to the grand jury, Loehmann said he yelled for Rice to show his hands and saw him pull a gun from his waistband before the officer fired. Loehmann and Garmback also said they were concerned the armed suspect might enter the recreation center.

Rice either intended to hand over the gun or show the officers it was not real, McGinty said, “but there was no way for the officers to know that.”

The Airsoft replica of a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun usually has an orange tip on it, but Rice’s gun did not. Prosecutors showed a standard handgun side-by-side with a replica at the news conference.

McGinty also called on makers of replica guns to do more to make them easier to distinguish from actual firearms.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Writing by David Bailey and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Chris Reese and Dan Grebler)

Samaria Rice (C) leaves the funeral services of her son Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio in this file photo from December 3, 2014.  REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk/Files

 

 

Official Reports Usually Side With Police Officers

One day in April of 1880, a cadet named Johnson Whittaker was found unconscious in his room at West Point.

Whittaker, who was African American, had been gagged and beaten, tied to his bed and slashed on the face and hands. He said three white cadets had assaulted him. West Point investigated. Its official conclusion was that Whittaker did these things to himself.

He didn’t, should that need saying, but I offer the story by way of framing a reply to some readers. They wanted my response to news that outside investigators have concluded a Cleveland police officer acted responsibly last year when he shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black kid who had been playing with a toy gun. Specifically, the local DA released two separate reports Saturday from two experts on police use of force. Both said Officer Timothy Loehmann’s decision to open fire on the boy was reasonable.

As one reader put it: “What say you???”

I say a few things, actually. In the first place, I say this is not an exoneration. That question is still up to the grand jury, though it’s fair to suspect these reports might be a means of preparing the ground for a similar finding from that panel.

In the second place, I say these reports sought to answer a relatively narrow question: Was Loehmann justified in shooting once the police car had skidded to a stop within a few feet of the boy? They left aside the larger question of the tactical wisdom of pulling up so close to someone you believed to be armed and dangerous in the first place.

And in the third place, I say this:

Forgive me if I am not impressed by an official report. The experience of being African American has taught me to be skeptical of official reports. As an official matter, after all, Johnson Whittaker beat, bound, gagged and slashed himself. As an official matter, no one knows who lynched thousands of black men and women in the Jim Crow era, even though the perpetrators took pictures with their handiwork. As an official matter, the officers who nearly killed Rodney King while he crawled on the ground committed no crime. As an official matter, George Zimmerman is innocent of murder. For that matter, O.J. Simpson is, too.

I am all too aware of the moral and cognitive trapdoor you dance upon when you give yourself permission to pick and choose which “official” findings to believe. And yes, you’re right: I’d be much less skeptical of officialdom had these reports condemned Officer Loehmann.

What can I say? A lifetime of color-coded, thumb-on-the-scale American “justice” has left me little option but to sift and fend for myself where “official” findings are concerned. Indeed, the only reason I was willing to give credence to a report exonerating Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown is that it came from Eric Holder’s Justice Department, i.e., a Justice Department that gave at least the impression of caring about the civil rights of black people.

Sadly, most prosecutors don’t give that impression. And that failure colors these findings irrevocably.

Last November, two police officers responded to a call of someone brandishing a gun in a park. Rather than position themselves at a safe distance and try to establish contact, as would have seemed prudent, they screeched onto the scene like Batman and came out shooting. Tamir Rice, a boy who had been playing with a toy firearm, lay dying for four long minutes without either officer offering first aid. When his 14-year-old sister ran up and tried to help her little brother, they shoved her down and handcuffed her.

And I’m supposed to believe they acted reasonably because an official report says they did?

Sorry, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than that.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

(c) 2015 THE MIAMI HERALD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo via Rose Colored Photo

When Police Brutality Goes Viral

One might find little reason to hope after seeing a video of a white police officer in suburban Dallas terrorizing a bunch of African-American high-schoolers at a pool party. It was the latest in a string of videos to reveal the gross misconduct and institutionalized bigotry among police officers that African-Americans routinely face. In light of yet more evidence, how could anyone hope for a future in which racism stopped being so destructive?

But there is reason, abundant reason, to hope.

Not too long ago, an episode in which a white cop manhandled an African-American girl and drew his sidearm on African-American boys would have boiled down to points of view: what the kids said happened and what the cops said happened. In past courts of law, as well as past courts of public opinion, deference was almost always paid to police officers, who, as we are reminded, lay their lives on the line every day in the name of duty.

That’s no longer the case.

The ubiquity of digital video cameras has worn down—in mere months—the monopoly on information, and high levels of public trust, that police departments have historically enjoyed. In years past, no one would have doubted that Michael Slager, a police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, was forced to kill a black man in self-defense. But thanks to video evidence, we know Slager shot Walter Scott in the back in cold blood. He was indicted by a grand jury on a murder charge on Monday.

Over the weekend, social media networks erupted in outrage after video emerged of a police officer in McKinney, Texas, slamming to the ground a black teenager calling out for her mama, and pointing his pistol at black teenage boys fleeing in terror. On Monday, McKinney’s police chief denounced Cpl. Eric Casebolt’s behavior as “indefensible” and launched an investigation. On Tuesday, Casebolt resigned in disgrace. Depending on the results of the investigation, he may face criminal charges.

There’s more good news.

Casebolt was responding to a report of a fight breaking out at the pool. The fight is alleged to have been started by two adult residents of the McKinney subdivision, a white man who is reported to have told the African-American students to go back to the ghetto, and a white woman who was video recorded punching one of the teenage girls in the head.

BuzzFeed reported that the man, Sean Toon, had slandered the students before later claiming that he feared the worst (he won media attention for holding up a sign thanking “McKinney PD for keeping us safe”). The Guardian newspaper this week revealed Toon’s criminal history of assault with a deadly weapon and torturing barnyard animals for kicks.

The Dallas Morning News, meanwhile, reported that the woman accused of starting the confrontation, Tracey Carver-Allbritton, had been furloughed by Corelogic, a financial data firm that contracts with Bank of America, because it was embarrassed by her behavior. It told The Dallas Morning News that it “does not condone violence, discrimination or harassment and takes conduct that is inconsistent with our values and expectations very seriously. … We have placed [Carver-Allbritton] on administrative leave while further investigations take place.”

Video evidence has unveiled to white Americans what is blindingly familiar to nonwhite Americans. With each revelation comes new levels of distrust, even among white Americans, who historically have little reason to suspect being suspected; and with each viral video comes a new opportunity to forge multiracial alliances to effect political change.

And that change is coming.

Since Michael Brown’s death last summer, criminal charges have been brought against cops in South Carolina, in Baltimore and, most recently, in Cleveland, where a judge on Thursday found that probable cause existed to charge two city police officers with murder and negligent homicide, respectively, in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

In less dramatic though no less important circumstances, a state’s attorney in Cook County, Illinois, brought perjury charges against four police officers who claimed reasonable suspicion in arresting a 23-year-old man on drug possession charge. Video evidence, however, contradicted their claims, infuriating a circuit court judge. “All officers lied on the stand today,” she said. “All their testimony was a lie.”

In responding to a disturbance, Cpl. Eric Casebolt made a decision. Confront the white adults bringing violence to black high-schoolers swimming in the community pool or confront the black high-schoolers. Casebolt, like many cops before, took the path of least resistance.

For someone in a position of power, someone accustomed to having a monopoly on information, someone whose public statements are rarely questioned, it’s plainly easier to push around a bunch of black kids, whose word does not carry as much weight as his, whose accusations of police brutality would scarcely raise an eyebrow in the court or the media.

Confronting black kids, even drawing a weapon on them, is much easier than confronting white adults about their rank and ugly racism. And in the past, there was nothing for a police officer to lose. Not so now.

Thanks to a video taken by a white boy shocked to witness such hostility toward his friends, there is much at stake. In this new age of ubiquitous video, cops should think twice before choosing the path of least resistance.

John Stoehr (@johnastoehr) is a lecturer in political science at Yale. Follow him on Twitter and Medium.