Emboldened rogues: sign of the times

The fact that these episodes of rogue behavior by law enforcement types, in treating with persons of color, continue to mock our “civil” society pretensions, is bedeviling, more so for the message of seemingly unrelenting defiance it delivers than even the rogue displays themselves, appalling though they be. The latest unfolding, out of McKinney, Texas last weekend, billboarded for us yet again what can only be now termed a viral condition affecting law enforcement ranks across the nation, in which resistance to doing the right thing would appear to have somehow risen to badge-of-honor levels.

With each new headline-making bout of contemptible police action, we’ve naively thought we had arrived at a cresting of this nightmare reality darkening the landscape. We had not. Not when Eric Garner came to his chokehold-induced demise on Staten Island. Or Walter Scott was shot eight times in the back in South Carolina. Or the brutality suffered by Freddie Gray while in police custody, leading to his death in Baltimore… Obviously, at this point there’s precious little reason to expect that a white cop, in a supervisory role at that, tossing a defenseless 14-year-old African American girl to the ground and pointing his firearm at other teens in Texas, will spark a turnaround from the wave of ugliness.

Scariest of all, of course, is the common-sense takeaway from all this, of total indifference on the part of perpetrators to public awareness today of what formerly would have remained hidden truths. One would have imagined that the ubiquitous presence of video evidence of wrongdoing (and everything else) and the ease with which this materializes, would have been a major game-changing dynamic, serving as a deterrent to lawlessness among designated protectors of the peace. Instead, the modern-day availability of documentary evidence is apparently not the least bit bothersome to some of the practitioners who inhabit the dark corridors of law-and-order authority.

If we are to accept, and we do, that the vast majority of cops should not be judged by the renegade actions of a misfit in the fold, as was on display last week in Texas, it leads naturally to wondering whether there’s been a realization by law enforcement entities throughout the country, that in today’s high-tech environment, where concealing rogue behavior is much more difficult, a redoubled effort to identify and expunge from the ranks all such elements had become a major priority. Proactive moves on this front is clearly preferable to coasting with a status quo that has so often now shown itself susceptible to untoward developments that negatively impact all those caught in the vortex.

The white kid who shot the cell phone video of what went down at last week’s pool party incident reportedly said that the out-of-control officer (the other responding cops evidently did not join their supervisor in his over-the-top rampage) sort of skipped over him and headed toward African American youngsters he presumably felt warranted his focus. The supervising officer’s “handling” of the black kids evidently called for, among other things, the use of lots of profanity, as borne out by the video. Essentially, the glimpse given us of this “training” officer is probably as solid a reason as any for a lack of confidence in this unsettling story of “bad apple” police conduct righting itself anytime soon.

Initially placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, word subsequently came that the guy who lit up the Internet, supposedly to the tune of millions of views, resigned from the department. But hardly should that be the end of the vignette, as it relates to a character who was clearly miscast in his “peace officer” role. The McKinney story would be incomplete, absent this particular rogue facing the music in the criminal justice system.

It goes without saying that not only would the now departed one have insisted that his actions were all very correct, but there would doubtless have been a chorus of voices rallying to his cause. The McKinney episode, like many others one might cite, has assaulted our senses in this particular phase of the American narrative that qualifies to be called paradox writ large. We have said before, and will not tire of saying again and again, that Barack Obama’s ascending to the presidency, far from the cathartic effect and healing some suggested it would come to represent in our bifurcated society, has instead served to magnify hate to a degree we had fancifully believed to be a relic of an unsavory past. McKinney and other white cop / black target eruptions that have given us pause in recent times, are of a piece with a sharper edge to the racial divide that’s now unmistakably in place. No surprise that, in this environment, law enforcement types with a penchant for roguish behavior, feel emboldened.