Once again the streets of St. Louis are filled with protestors and there are violent clashes with police. Although they began peacefully, after dark troublemakers used the protest as an excuse to vandalize property including the mayor’s residence. The protests are over a police-involved shooting of a civilian where the police officer is white and the victim is black. There is extensive video of the 2011 incident in which a known drug dealer used his vehicle to strike at a police vehicle and then drive off. After an extensive and risky police chase the individual is shot while being taken into custody. The arresting officer found a weapon in the vehicle but some accused the officer of planting the weapon since the only DNA found on the weapon was that of the arresting officer. A judge has ruled that the police officer was justified in using deadly force to defend himself in this instance. This was a known criminal and often times police are forced to make split-second decisions where any hesitation can cost an officer his or her life. The primary role of the police is to maintain law and order while protecting the public. They must also protect themselves and it is unfair to judge their actions unless we are in a similar situation.
Officer-involved shootings are not uncommon and victims include whites as well as blacks. In fact, more whites are shot by police and shootings are committed by black and white officers alike. It is only when the officer is white and the victim is black that the story makes headlines and results in accusations of police targeting and racism. The police are not are enemies and are not to be feared if we are law-abiding. I would not want to live in a society without a reputable police force. Law enforcement is the only thing standing between civilization and anarchy. Police officers are human and may occasionally make mistakes, but until we have walked in their shoes it is wrong to condemn an action when we don’t know all the circumstances. The type of protests taking place in St. Louis will accomplish little and only increase distrust for law enforcement.