I grew up in New Zealand and have spent a bit of time living in England. In both of those countries, the police on the streets are usually unarmed. From that perspective, what has happened in Ferguson, Missouri is difficult to comprehend.
In case you have missed the story, a local teenager of the small town was walking down the middle of a quiet street. A passing police officer stopped and spoke to the young man. At the end of this interaction, the young man had been shot and killed by the police officer.
As frequently happened with these sorts of events, the young man is black and the police officer is white. It is being portrayed as a racial issue. The recollection of events as told by the police officer differs markedly from the story told by a friend of the slain youth.
Whether the events that occurred were a result of racial bias is currently being debated and will likely end in a pointless inquiry or an equally pointless show-trial where the officer is acquitted.
As I see it, there are two different things happening here. Firstly, a young man was killed by a police officer. This happens tragically often in the United States.
Thanks to the second amendment, both police and criminals are heavily armed. As a result, deaths of police, criminals and innocent bystanders all happen way too often. Any interaction with police can end in tragic consequences.
Secondly, when it is a white officer and black victim, the first assumption is that the killing was racially motivated. It may be too soon to answer that but since the local community are rioting because of this, it looks like trust in the police was already low. In a community where 67% of the population is black and 94% of the police force is white there is likely to be tension.
It’s sad to see that the response by the local authorities is more heavy-handed policing.
What amazes me is that these events keep on happening. They had been happening long before the Rodney King beating in 1991, they are still happening now and they will probably keep happening for years to come.
Nothing appears to have changed.