that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, or so the old adage goes. I used to occasionally wonder what would happen if the two factors (malice and stupidity) happened to merge. I wonder no more. We've got the police force in Ferguson, Missouri, providing a prime example.
First, they wallowed in the Stupid for a few days: they had an officer-involved shooting but totally blew the response. The list of ways they managed to screw up is a long one, but a few gems from the first few hours after the incident include failing to secure the scene, bungling the communications with dispatch (the 911 dispatchers learned about the shooting from the news media, not from cops on the scene), allowing the body to remain in the street for over 4 hours while the neighborhood worked itself into a frenzy, and then responding to protests by sending in riot police that looked like they were invading Fallujah. In short, the first 24 hours or so leaned pretty heavily towards Stupidity in its purest form.
Then came the malice: smearing the victim, portraying him as a thug, emphasizing that there had been a robbery reported in the neighborhood even though the police themselves admitted that the officer involved in the shooting had no knowledge of a robbery, and similar efforts. Those efforts included releasing a video tape that purportedly showed the dead teenager pulling off a strong arm robbery a few minutes before the shooting.
And this is where stupid and malice cross: it has now come out that the police did selective editing. The complete video surveillance tape shows Michael Brown paying for the cigarillos. He apparently didn't have enough money on him for as many of the nasty little cigars* as he wanted as the tape also shows him handing some cigars back to the cashier. Even more telling, the store owner is now stating loudly that there was no robbery, they never reported a robbery, and they're really, really upset that the police are claiming that there was.
Another old adage says that when you realize you're in a hole, you should stop digging. Apparently the cops in Ferguson haven't figured out that they're down well past their ears and that it's time to put down the shovels.
It's unclear what's going to happen long term, but a good start to defusing the current situation might be to start housecleaning in the local police department. Given the apparent stunning incompetency of just about everyone in it, they'd probably be better off just firing them all and starting from scratch.
The S.O. says that if the grand jury in Ferguson is smart they'll indict the cop on homicide charges. It'll thoroughly piss off his supporters but, hey, when white people riot they buy T-shirts. Long-term I doubt if the guy would be found guilty of anything -- cops rarely are -- but by providing the illusion of accountability it could have the short-term effect of eliminating one of the reasons people are protesting.
*If the news reports are accurate, he was buying Swisher Sweets, one of the more disgusting tobacco products on the planet. Why anyone would ever want to smoke them is a total mystery; the only thing they have going for them is they're cheap.