My broadcast began at 9:00 am with my usual greetings and the welcoming of several new stations to my “Common Sense” radio network. A few minutes later, the first of many urgent texts came in from my wife. Shootings and police officers down just blocks away from where I was broadcasting. With only scattered information available, I was probably the first national program to tell of the carnage and open warfare in the streets of Baton Rouge.
When the bloodbath subsided, three police officers were dead and three more wounded by an African American vigilante from Kansas City. The shooter, one Gavin E. Long, had become obsessed with white cops firing at a black man because, as the narrative goes, police are racists.
Baton Rouge has quickly become a national symbol of disruption creating open wounds that will be difficult to heal. As The New Yorker wrote this week, “The virtual blur of gunfire, death, protest, sorrow, recrimination, anger, remembrance, and shock that has defined this period has made it possible to lose count of the totals. We know, or at least ought to know by now, that harm inflicted upon innocents as retribution for other harmed innocents is bad mathematics. The grief isn’t dimmed; it’s compounded like interest.”
In Baton Rouge and Dallas alone, eighteen police officers have been shot. Eight are dead. So a legitimate question to be asked: Do blue lives matter?
One of the dead Baton Rouge police officers was Corporal Montrell Jackson. Just days before his death, he anguished in a Facebook post: “ I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me,” he wrote. “In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat. Please don’t let hate infect your heart. The city MUST and WILL get better.” A few days later, he was shot dead. He will never see his four-month-old little boy again.
Corporal Jackson and the other two police officers who were killed accepted the dangers of their jobs and knew exactly what they were expected to do. “They ran to the threat,” Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said at a news conference, “not from the threat.”
Several thoughts can be taken from this Baton Rouge catastrophe. So much for the good-guy-with-a-gun theory. There were 12 well-trained and armed Dallas police officers that were gunned down, and they had to send in a robot-delivered bomb to kill the assassin. Alton Sterling, killed in a confrontation with Baton Rouge police officers, was illegally carrying a gun. Guns are everywhere and readily available, legally and illegally. And that’s part of the mindset of a police officer who begins and ends his or her shift knowing that, even in a routine traffic stop, guns can and often will be in play.
What was in the minds of the deranged killers who assassinated police officers in recent weeks? Was it an effort to somehow “get even”? Was it payback time as a response to police shootings of civilians? There is some solace in that the shooter was not a local, but an interloper who came to Baton Rouge from the Midwest to settle his own warped personal score.
Every year in my hometown, police officers confront hundreds of armed felons without the necessity of using lethal force. We send police officers into dangerous situations every day, then second-guess decisions that are often made in seconds. One confrontation that leads to a death can undermine even the best efforts of those in charge of keeping the peace.
Dialogues are beginning by community leaders and elected officials around Louisiana. There are legitimate complaints by African Americans about being profiled, and those concerns should be addressed. But the dialogue is not a one-way street. Officers who serve and protect have apprehensions as well. As Corporal Jackson wrote in his final Facebook post: “These are trying times. Please don’t let hate infect your heart.”
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.