The injustice in Ferguson, Missouri, where a jury has refused to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, seems unspeakable. Especially offensive is the attitude of both Wilson and Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis county prosecutor, who both come across as paranoid and self-pitying, as if they can’t understand why the world finds their conduct so reprehensible. Amid the outrage, the Brown family has remained impressively sane, issuing a statement saying that “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequences of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.” They call for a campaign requiring police officers nationwide to wear body cameras.
From what I’ve read, in cities where officers wear these cameras, incidents of police brutality drop remarkably; these cameras protect the officers as well, from false accusations. In response to tragedies like Ferguson, most of us throw up our hands, or discuss the legacy of ingrained racism. The Brown family has suggested a workable solution.
I’ve now watched the video footage of George Stephanopoulos interviewing Darren Wilson, after the verdict. I found it just about impossible to watch the interview objectively, because I kept looking for clues and missteps, as if I was a juror. I also thought the following:
Whatever anyone thinks of Darren Wilson and his actions, being interviewed on TV in the wake of such a hyper-publicized event is the most unnatural act imaginable. Wilson had clearly been coached, which is understandable. He stuck by his story without a second of doubt or, frighteningly, regret. When Stephanopolous asked him if, in retrospect, he would’ve done anything differently, he said no. He insisted that he’d simply been doing his job, according to his training.
Being a police officer is an impossibly difficult job, requiring enormous courage, and many officers are true heroes. But I’m not sure if being an effective officer means sacrificing your humanity; Wilson seemed determined to remain calm and straightforward, and to consider the death of another, unarmed human being, as just, in his own words, “something that happened.” Wilson doesn’t come across as a monster, but he does seem to have dangerously compartmentalized his actions, which of course, may be a necessary tactic when faced with extreme circumstances.
Watching Wilson, all I wanted to know was: is he lying? The answer, clearly, is that by this point, even Wilson probably doesn’t know. His memory of the events surrounding Michael Brown’s death is remarkably clear and concise, which seems unlikely, but again, he was adamant about not admitting to any confusion.
Wilson characterized Michael Brown as looking like a demon. Wilson and Brown are both 6’4″, but Wilson claimed that he felt like a 5-year-old being grabbed by Hulk Hogan. All of this may be not only racist, but it leads to the conclusion: why was this man allowed to become a police officer? Wilson also said that this was the first time, in the line of duty, when he’d ever fired his gun. When Stephanopoulos asked Wilson why he didn’t just remain in his police car, rather than pursuing Michael Brown, Wilson again claimed that he was doing his job. None of this timeline made much sense. Wilson’s account of his actions may in fact be true, but it also sounds like a very carefully rehearsed narrative.
Wilson has just gotten married, and says that he just wants “a normal life.” I couldn’t tell if he was in shock or denial or just being hopeful, but his goal, under the circumstances, came across as either crazy or callous. Millions of people consider Wilson to be a criminal and a murderer, and plenty of people regard him as a hero. From the interview, more of which will be broadcast tommorrow, it was hard to see Wilson as anything but a template, a willfully blank page, for all of our opinions.