The Michael Brown case is now all over the news. The Washington Post has a front page headline, “FBI Will Investigate Shooting in Mo.” It also has a helpful article, “What do we know about the shooting of Michael Brown, and of Brown himself.” According to the reports, Brown had no history of trouble with the law. He was supposed to start college this week.
Police have not disclosed the identity of the officer who shot and killed Brown. One can imagine the rationale for that. There have been emotional protests and some violence by crowds. Concerns for the officer’s safety, and perhaps for family members, could be the primary rationale. That might justify a slight delay in releasing the name, perhaps to give a family (if there is one) a chance to make some temporary arrangements, or for the department to arrange a security plan on the chance that protesters will go to the neighborhood. However, it has now been several days and it is now necessary and appropriate for the officer to be identified.
The authorities keep saying that their investigation will be thorough. Good. That’s what we want to hear. But deeds are more important than words. At this point, it is important to know whether the officer has been the subject of police brutality lawsuits, and what were the outcomes of those cases. On the other hand, maybe this officer has an unblemished record. That would be good to know as well.
Michael Brown lost his life on Saturday. We need to find out what happened and why. Cases like this have 2 parts–the initial incident and then the response. As bad as the initial incidents are; an inadequate response can be even more disturbing because it can be an indication of deeper problems within the police institution. Fecklessness or, worse, abetting criminal conduct. So far, the police have handled the Brown case very badly.