Justice is as Justice Does

“Seasons Greetings” reads the lighted banner in Ferguson, Missouri.

Justice for Michael Brown might well be his being brought back to life and sentenced to prison for robbery and aggravated assault. He might seek leniency in the length of his sentence because part of his attitude problem may have come from the influence of the jerk he had for a stepfather. – you know, the “burn this bitch down” guy. Of course, that will not happen.

Justice for Darren Wilson would be for him to resume his normal job duties, and continue his career with the Ferguson Police Department, and maybe receive an award, a commendation, at least a private attaboy from his commanders for a job well done, or perhaps an apology from officials who rushed to judgment. That will not happen, either.

Justice is an elusive concept. What seems just for one might seem unjust to another, and in that sense, it depends upon a point of view. Rain is good for the farmer, but bad for the picnicker.

As written in this blog previously, law for most of history, really has not been about justice. It has been about public order; justice has been an occasional by-product. Since the 18th Century Enlightenment, especially in the United States, the one nation on earth that was founded upon Enlightenment concepts, law is about preservation of ordered liberty for the benefit of individuals. That has resulted in doing justice more often than in other systems, and, consequently, has made it expected. Justice is still, however, a byproduct, not the main reason for law.

Going from the academic to the practical, there are a few myths or misconceptions about the Wilson/Brown incident that I am qualified to speak to, given my experience as a police officer, lawyer, and serious student of history.

If Wilson were to remain a police officer in Ferguson, he probably would be sentenced to work deep nights at a desk job for the rest of his career. That happened decades ago to an officer here in Dallas who was involved in a high-profile case in which she was eventually exonerated from any wrongdoing. Because of the nationwide notoriety of the Brown incident, it is probable that Wilson would not be hired by any other police department except perhaps in Podunk, Alaska.

That is too bad. Wilson did exceptionally good police work, and, as previously stated, should have received some sort of recognition for it. Wilson was alert, as patrol officers are supposed to be, and he acted quickly and timely. He received a radio report of a robbery and a description of the perpetrator. Shortly thereafter, he happened to observe Brown, who fit the description nearly to a T, walking down the street. Wilson certainly had reasonable suspicion to confront Brown. Upon Brown becoming violent, together with Wilson observing what matched the description of the stolen property, there was probable cause to make an arrest. The subsequent shooting that resulted in his death was entirely Brown’s fault.

Why did Wilson pursue Brown? Well, he was a police officer sworn to uphold the law. Police are supposed to pursue and arrest persons they have probable cause to believe committed a crime, particularly if they pose a continuing danger to other individuals. A private citizen has the authority to do the same, but not the duty. Most would probably not get involved. Wisely. If the police were supposed to back off from a confrontation that was likely to become violent, however, the result is obvious. It is not what a civilized society can tolerate.

Brown was unarmed, therefore, the implication has been the use of deadly force against him was ipso facto unjustified. This is wrong. The media has continually spun this story by describing Brown as an “unarmed teenager” or even as a child. This is misleading to the point of being fraudulent. He was not a child; he was a grown man and legally an adult. And not being armed with a gun, knife, or other item that can be used as a weapon does not render a person incapable of inflicting death or serious injury upon another.

But Wilson was about the same height, though weighing considerably less than Brown. Why did he have to use a deadly weapon? First of all, Wilson had no way of knowing whether Brown had a gun, knife, or any object that could be used as a club. Second, Wilson testified under oath, and independent witnesses corroborated, that Brown was charging at him. A street fight where a suspected perpetrator is resisting arrest is not a boxing match under the Marquess of Queensberry rules. It is deadly serious in every case. Brown was big and heavy enough to seriously injure Wilson. A city street is not grass, or even astroturf. Being knocked down on concrete pavement can break bones, and if the head strikes it right, can cause brain damage or even death. No police officer, or anyone else, is called upon to take that risk. There is no such thing as a “disproportionate” response to meet someone whose act could cause you brain damage or possible death.

What about the number of shots fired? I suppose most of those who believe Wilson’s firing nearly a whole magazine of ammunition is evidence of malice or panic have never fired a handgun, much less in a deadly stressful situation. They get their information from what they see in television cop shows and western movies, most of which are fantasy. The ability to accurately shoot a handgun takes a lot of training. To do under stress is exceptionally difficult. Anyway, all firearms instruction emphasizes that you do not stop shooting until you are sure the treat has been neutralized. Actually, Wilson did pretty well insofar as his accuracy is concerned.

Darren Wilson was not poorly trained, he did not panic, he did not overreact. He did what any competent and courageous police officer would have done under the same or similar circumstances. Wilson was entirely justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown. Anyone who believes otherwise ignores the facts, or believes, under some twisted concept, that robbers and thieves should get away with their crimes and have the right violently to resist arrest by a police officer doing his job.

One final word. Attempts by the leftists to conflate this incident into an example of continuing racial oppression throughout the nation is ludicrous. Whether there sometimes is racial animus in police or private citizens’ conduct, that is beside the point in this incident. There is not one iota of evidence that Wilson was motivated by anything other than to investigate and perhaps apprehend a suspected felon. The charge of racial bias fails utterly under close examination of the facts and conduct of the individuals involved. That it is given any credence at large is a manifestation of the evil of collectivism, and its corollary, identity politics. Viewing persons primarily as members of a group, particularly a group based on skin color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry is tribalism, and belongs to primitive humans of the Stone Age. It should have no place anywhere in the modern world, much less in the United States of America.


By bobreagan13

My day job is assisting individuals and small businesses as a lawyer. I taught real estate law and American history in the Dallas County Community College system. I have owned and operated private security firms and was a police officer and criminal investigator for the Dallas Police Department.

I am interested in history and historical research, music, cycling, and British mysteries and police dramas.

I welcome comments, positive, negative, or neutral, if they are respectful.

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