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Every day we are bombarded with information – far more than we can handle thrown at us from a perspective we don’t understand. The most common response is outrage – disbelief that this could possibly happen.

Every day we find ourselves in situations we don’t understand – things that are going crazy around us.. The most common response is outrage – disbelief that this could possibly happen.

The officers responsible for the death of Jamar Clark on 15 November was one of these incidents, and the reports and (lack of) legal proceedings comes at us in much the same way. Everything about this makes no sense if you look deep enough into it yet everyone has an opinion about it. Let me tell you the simple, clear facts that we can be sure of:

Jamar Clark is dead. Any city that has been through this and wants to be known as “civilized” has to make sure that this does not happen ever again.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman

Last Wednesday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman outlined in great detail exactly why the police responsible for shooting Jamar Clark in the head will not be tried for a crime. It comes down to this – in the opinion of the attorney they had reason to fear for their lives, thus deadly force was justified. This appears to be the end of the road for any sense of Justice for Jamar.

There is one flaw at the heart of the explanation offered for the events that night, and that is the reason why it escalated in the first place. Freeman described the situation as a “domestic dispute” that the police were called to. But Rayann Hayes, the woman who called 911, says it was no such thing. She was injured earlier and her ankle was only getting worse when her friend, not boyfriend, Jamar told her to get an ambulance.

Apparently, the police who arrived on the scene believed for reasons still unknown that they were arriving on the scene of a domestic dispute. They apparently treated Clark accordingly. It also seems that, accused of a crime he did not commit, Clark lost his cool and the situation escalated from there. Eventually, he wound up with a police bullet in his brain.

Well, the laws do apply to you.  Plus a little more.

Well, the laws do apply to you. Plus a little more.

As the news of this ripples outward in waves of reports everyone naturally has an opinion about the situation – despite the fact that hardly anyone was actually there. Many people who saw this as a domestic dispute could reasonably put the pieces together to see how the police were in a situation that required deadly force – except, of course, that this was not a domestic dispute.

Instead, what apparently happened was that Clark lost his cool and was executed for that.

Who or what should we be outraged by? I will stand by my earlier assertion that any time anything like this happens there is a problem with the system at the heart of it. Either the wrong police were hired, they were poorly trained, they were over-worked, they were not treated for the PTSD they incurred in the line of duty, or something else along those lines.

Away from the Minneapolis Police, there is no question that the community of North Minneapolis has been walled-off by freeways in an attempt to quarantine thousands into a ward of hopelessness where everyday life is a constant frustration and the only interaction with the system comes in blue with flashing lights.

There is no trust. The worst is always assumed by everyone. The only response is invariably outrage.

Jamar Clark's death was not the only incident.

Jamar Clark’s death was not the only incident.

We must expect better from our police, who must be masters of de-escalating a situation rather than escalating it. We have to hold them to the highest possible standards and recruit the best we can from every community because diversity is more than a “politically correct” thing, it is a matter of life and death. And when we have those standards in place we must pay them appropriately to be the true and professional“thin blue line” that stands between chaos and civilization.

We’re not there yet. The police aren’t there, but more importantly the system isn’t there. We, as a people, are not anywhere near there yet. All we can feel is outrage.

Away from this incident, which so few of us were there to see, everything that blasts our minds from day to day is numbing. We respond with the lightening of adrenaline fueling our outrage because something outrageous did indeed happen. But everyone involved probably acted as they did because of what was in front of them at the moment for reasons that none of us can understand from afar.

It doesn't help a thing, but it's pretty much what we do.

It doesn’t help a thing, but it’s pretty much what we do.

Outrage is easy. Fixing the problems of our world is much, much harder. But to fix our problems requires compassion and understanding along with a commitment to not always assume the worst of everyone who has acted the way they have for reasons none of us understand.

Jamar Clark was apparently judged before he was executed. Outrage propelled the bullet into his brain as much as gunpowder. No matter what “The System” does or does not do to produce “Justice” for him, he is still dead.

All of us, everyone, have to stop allowing ourselves to slip so quickly into the easy trap of outrage. Civilization requires a more loving heart and a cooler head that can listen to every heartbeat even when our pulse isn’t throbbing through our bodies with outrage.

Many things went wrong that night. Many things still don’t completely make sense. The result was a senseless wrong that cannot happen again if we are going to call ourselves “civilized”. As long as there are two sides to the story working at opposite ends this event will be repeated over and over. There will be outrage at all levels – and outrage will fuel more outrage.

Only when the community is one and does not fear the police will this stop. Only when the police do not fear the community and automatically assume the worst will this stop.

Meanwhile, we are all outraged. Justifiably so when a young man is gunned down. But it will only stop when we move forward from the outrage and fix what has gone horribly wrong with love and respect for each other. Outrage only allows us to see and be the worst. We must insist on more.

18 thoughts on “Outrage

    • Thank you very much. I’m trying to turn the (justifiable) outrage into action here, so I hope I’ve added something to the discussion.

      • Easier said than done, I’m afraid. But I’m with you on that … most times, outrage only makes a bad situation worse. Calm, intelligent thought is much more helpful. It just seems there are so few who do that these days.

  1. Good post. Police kill hundreds of people each year in the US and it is obvious than many if not most of those killings are avoidable. It is another example of something gone terribly wrong in our society.

    • I do believe that our police are, generally, way over-worked and under-paid. That’s not an excuse for this but I do think if we want the highest possible standards we have to set things up for that to happen. This includes the best people and the best training, but it also includes proper representation from the community they are policing and support services for the community so that problems don’t get out of hand. This is a systemic problem and there is just not going to be one solution that cures it all.

  2. Great post. What I don’t understand is how the Minneapolis police only have lethal force. What about tazers or pepper spray? Isn’t there something they can use other than a gun? As for Jamar I don’t really know what happened but I can assure you I don’t believe the police reports. There was no reason for him to die, period. That’s about all I can say. Yes I’m outraged but I see what you mean that we have to go beyond it. Well all they understand seems to be force so maybe we have use the outrage to force them to change. This has gone on way too long. Jamar is not the only person to die and not all of them are black even if way too many are.

    • Your point about non-lethal force is well taken. I don’t understand this, either. I have seen people very incapacitated by pepper spray (tasers seem like a bit much to me) so why is it not used more often?
      I don’t think there is any acceptable reason why Jamar Clark died. There had to be alternatives.

    • A major issue that leads to police murders such as this is training. Through Defense Department grants the police are receiving military style training and military grade weaponry. Military style training is meant for soldiers operating in occupied territories and preserving their own lives. Shoot first and ask questions later may be effective there, though I have my doubts. Police in America shouldn’t think of themselves as “occupiers in histile territory” and yet that is how they are being trained and what their mindset has become.

      • Yes. There are many places the system could go wrong, and the most important is probably training. Are the police getting the training they need in de-escalation techniques? I doubt it. But you raise the point that they may be getting training in exactly the wrong things, which I also fear is a contributor. We can’t allow that. We have to insist on better.

      • Yes, yes, yes. We need to moving towards disarming the police. As in, say, the UK and New Zealand, cops should have guns only in special situations with supervisory approval. I know this sounds nuts to many people who can’t imagine such a thing, or feel it would leave the cops helpless. But shooting can’t be a first resort if you don’t have a gun, and de-escalation would become essential. Militarization of police is exactly the wrong direction to be going. More powerful weapons sends the message that greater violence is the preferred solution.

  3. North Minneapolis is a war zone. I’m not saying thats right I’m saying its the way it is. Bad things happen in war zones and no you can’t always make sense of it.

    • So let’s make it something other than a “war zone” … like maybe a community that is a good place to live in a well functioning city, perhaps?

    • When I was in placement for my MS in Social Work, I had a caseload of schizophrenics living in the South Bronx. At the time (1981) the S. Bronx was considered a “war zone” in the media. So infamous was it the there was a Paul Newman movie called “Fort Apache, the South Bronx” showing policeb besieged in their ownpolice station. Funny, but I a blond, blue eyed White guy walked those same streets, alleyways and tenements, both day and night, without weapons. No one ever said anything to me beyond an acknowledgement of my presence. Could it be that the sensationalist news media benefits from stories that make people of color innately dangerous. Could it be that police are prpagandized into believing they are in a war zone and act sccordingly?

      • Exactly. It’s a “siege mentality” that doesn’t do anyone any good. When the flashing lights arrive on the scene everyone – citizens and police alike – fear for their lives. Nothing good can possibly result.

  4. This is from a Facebook post I just did:

    ” I understand there is no one single case of excessive police violence, and I am no expert regarding any of them, but it seems there is a matrix of factors including behavioral effects of trauma and environmental toxins; systematic use of police to hold down an underclass; lax legal criteria for police use of deadly force; the “war on drugs.” the prosecutorial conflicts of interest described in this thread, lack of skills and motivation to de-escalate confrontations; and lots more….”

    Some of the players, such as Gov. Dayton and Mayor Hodges, seem to be people of good will who would like to play a role in turning things around in the war zone. Likely also some of the City Council members. At the moment there may be too many bigots and haters in the Legislature to make much progress, but thinking and planning can surely take place. There is a lot of brain power and money in Minnesota, though the structure of things tends to prevent the best thinkers from being heard.

  5. Great points here that I never hear in the MSM. Why is that? Surely there must be intelligent people in government and the community making these same points. Why do we never hear them?

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