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December 06, 2005

Devin's Advocates

The DA has decided against pressing charges against the officer involved in the shooting death of Devin Brown. There's not much more to say about this incident than has already been said.

It was this shooting that initiated my recognition of the Coalition of the Damned, those ragtag few who take every opportunity to bash police at the cost of their own political relevance. Their occasion champion here in Los Angeles, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, holds out hope as ever that there is some silver lining to such tragedies. I say it's just another sad day for sad people in a sad state of affairs, which is about as generous as one can be to a fatherless, 14 year old would-be car theif high on weed. Of course it ended tragically. It didn't have to but the odds weren't good.

Today's responses:

"Every time Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley makes a decision like this, it amounts to a tacit endorsement of police abuse, shootings and violence," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, political commentator and South Los Angeles activist. "Chief [William J.] Bratton at least did see what a horrible, horrible shooting this was and changed the policy and procedures on shooting at cars so that there are enough checks to ensure it can't happen again."

Minister Tony Muhammad, head of Western states for the Nation of Islam, called the decision to not file charges "another deep dagger into the heart of this already strained community," which will cause "more mistrust of the cops."

A co-chairman of a South Los Angeles coalition formed after Devin's shooting, Muhammad immediately called for the Police Commission to decide that the shooting was outside of the department's policy on shootings. Bratton, he said, "absolutely needs to fire Garcia."

I suppose such statements are about as responsible as any unelected member of the community has to be. It doesn't quite matter whether or not they read the DA's report because there is no recourse if they are wrong. And of course there isn't really a such thing as the Coalition of the Damned, they're not organized. We just give them a name - the people for who the dagger cuts deep, those who are bound by their sentiments and political orientation, to take opportunties like this to dog the system.

There is a difference between criticizing the system and dogging the system, and those who might bother to read the DA's report might notice that there are better ways to address the problem than to fire a scapegoated symbolic officer. In fact, Bratton has done so in retraining the force with regards to the standard felony stop. In one scenario, officers will park their cruiser within 10 feet of the back bumper of the suspect's vehicle in such a way that the car will not have enough space to pick up enough speed to be deadly. I know this because my brother's a cop and has been retrained. But I wonder if those who dog the system know that reform has already taken place. I imagine that if they were constructively engaged with the LAPD, they would know such things, but that is not the aim of Tony Muhammad, nor any other unelected mouthpiece of the Coalition.

It must be sad not to know how wrong you are, how politically ineffective are the desires you have been exhorted to champion. It must be frustrating to be in such a state of mind that you only feel you can gain if the police lose. But no matter how sad and frustrating things get for the Coalition of the Damned, they're simply wrong. They have picked a poor set of spokesmen and a poor set {Stanley Miller, Devin Brown, Tookie} of symbolic victims. I hope, for their sake, sooner or later they'll determine that they're on the wrong team.

Posted by mbowen at December 6, 2005 07:20 PM

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