Editor’s Note: Issac Bailey has been a journalist in South Carolina for two decades and was most recently the primary columnist for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. He was a 2014 Harvard University Nieman fellow. Follow him on Twitter: @ijbailey. The views expressed are his own.
Issac Bailey on the view of some that police have no choice but to shoot after racially profiling a black man
Of course he did something wrong. He made the cop shoot him.
He was insufficiently compliant, too imperfect, probably both.
There’s no other reasonable explanation, because cops are good men doing impossible jobs, and good men doing impossible jobs need our support, must have our support.
That man, he made the cop fear him, had to, made the cop pull out his baton or pepper spray or stun gun or Glock. Why are we wasting time mourning wasted blood flowing from the body of a wasted life?
He’s been arrested before, certainly. Maybe stole some cigarillos from the helpless owner of a corner store. And you know he smoked a little weed, if not that night on that dark street corner, last week or the week before. And we know what weed does to their systems.
Who told him to wear that hoodie? His pants sagging like a prisoner’s? He had on a red sweater. The Crips? That blue cap. He should have known that would have triggered the cop’s training on gangs and gang violence. And those tattoos, a thug’s signature decoration, if ever there was one.
Who gave him that nice car? You know drug dealers drive cars like that, and drug dealers are a threat to us all, and cops, good men doing impossible jobs, are supposed to take the likes of them off the street. They need to be praised for doing so, not questioned about how they go about doing so.
Who told him to reach down so quickly when the cop told him to retrieve his ID slowly from his back pocket? Who told him to smoke that cigarette in his own car?
Why did he keep shouting, asking why he was being stopped and detained, long after that cop told him to shut his fat mouth? Any time my daddy told me to shut my fat mouth, I shut it, immediately, or he shut it for me. Maybe that’s why he didn’t know to do the same because, you know, they usually don’t have daddies.
Why didn’t he smile more, appreciate the cop’s protection? That smile would have put that cop at ease. That smile could have saved his life, if only he was willing to paint it on his face for a few seconds. But, no, he wanted to be hard and disrespectful instead. I mean, really, he had no reason to fear that cop and should have known that the cop, like every cop, whether in Baton Rouge or Minnesota, had good reason to fear him.
You know, without cops, we’d all be in trouble. Why couldn’t he see that?
Didn’t his parents give him “The Talk,” about how to reach a state of perfection in the presence of a man with a badge? Shame on his parents if he didn’t. Shame on him if he didn’t take good enough notes to be effective when staring down the barrel of a cop’s gun if his parents did.
Maybe none of that applies to him. But he’s still one of them, and they commit a disproportionate of crime. That’s why he’s suspect on the spot. That’s not the cop’s fault; that’s their fault.
Blame them for his death, not the cop who pulled the trigger, if not out of anger or fear or self-preservation, but common sense. They are dangerous. Maybe he wasn’t dangerous. But a cop has to get home safely to the wife he’s trying to love and the kids he’s trying to raise. You can’t expect him to assume that that man in that instance was one of the few good ones in the bunch.
The cop? Clearly a good man. How do we know? Because he’s a cop, an officer of the law, and where there’s no law, chaos reigns. The badge, the uniform, the smile, they all tell us he’s good. Because only good men willingly run toward the problem everyone else is fleeing.
The cop needs our support. You can see on the video how distraught he was for being forced to shoot that man. We must pray for him, console him, put ourselves in his shoes. The horror of having to live in the aftermath of taking an unarmed man’s life.
The cop desperately needs our prayers. Can you imagine the pressure he’s under, the guilt he’s feeling, because he’s the focus of angry protesters for the sin of simply doing his job?
And if that cop made a mistake, or if several cops keep making similar ones, well, we don’t have the right to judge him, or them, too harshly, or use their missteps to judge the entire profession.
Because cops are good men doing impossible jobs, nothing is more important than shielding them from unfair criticism. Because treating them as though they are guilty until proven innocent would be wrong.