On Walter Scott: Imperfect Thoughts on a Perfect Problem

Not all cops are bad. Not all people of color are criminals. The problem is that wrong-doers don’t wear a specific uniform or come from a specific race. They are interwoven into our community and remain hidden among us—often until it’s too late.

It’s not simple

We ask cops to protect us. We ask them to look for and deal with the troublesome part of our society. But the “bad guys” don’t advertise. They are hidden among good people, often until it’s too late. The problem lies on both sides, in fact there are no sides. The problem is camouflaged among every race, community, office and position. There are good people working amongst bad. But wait, good and bad are traits that lie in everyone. We measure people on a scale on which trait they lean to the most, but that scale can tip in an instant.

You see, It’s not that simple.

If I lose my temper, have a bad day or act out or work, I may do a little bit of damage or cost the company some business (money). The consequences of my flare-up are likely monetary—at worst. If a cop loses their temper, has a bad day or acts out at work, someone could lose their life. The environment they are in, the people they encounter (continually) raise the stakes and likely shorten the fuse; quickly escalating a small mistake into a life-altering situation. My workplace flare-up carries drastically different consequences from an officer’s. Yes, cops are supposed to be “more responsible,” they accept said responsibility when they put on the uniform and assume power over civilians, but they are still human. I can’t say that I would handle every situation a cop gets put in perfectly, so how could I expect that. What do I expect? It’s hard to say. But it’s not as simple as identifying the good and bad people, because that potential lies in everyone.

On Scott

A cop shot a man who was running away then (seemingly) lied about how it all went down. An unsettling video surfaced to help shed light on the truth and maybe the system will get it right and serve justice in the eyes of the public.

But I wasn’t there. 

My perspective of the events that took place are incomplete. The video left me in a disturbed state of confusion. I don’t understand how a traffic stop turned into an exchange in the middle of a field. I don’t understand why I didn’t see the officer try to help the wounded man once he was in handcuffs. I don’t understand why Walter Scott threw the object. I don’t understand why the officer moved the object next to Walter Scott when he was cuffed. If lies were already told, how much harder will it be to find the truth? All I can do is watch and hope the correct outcome is reached.

But it’s not that simple.

That video and whatever comes from it does not change the way I have to live my life. It’s not going to change the minds of people—civilians, military or law enforcement—who profile or pre-judge. Those people are not going to disappear and I am not going to pretend like they don’t exist. I have to be careful, respectful, vigilant. I have to be on my best behavior in the eyes (and in the presence) of the law … I just have to. I make no excuses for either side. I understand that this is not a simple problem—this is not just a black and white case. It’s bigger than that. This is an unpredictable and volatile people problem. It can surface without warning and escalate from seemingly nothing.

America has a history of racial prejudice,  that history lingers in the hearts and minds of many. When things like this happen it stokes a smoldering fire in everyone no matter their position or belief. This spurs some to act, others to act out and more to stay frustrated and silent with no viable solution in sight. It’s a perfect problem.

Despite all of this, change is possible. It can happen. It really can, but it requires everyone. Not pointing fingers, labeling or bickering on Facebook. We all have to collectively work at it—continually—looking past the mistakes, wrong-doing and set backs to work towards making things different. What is different? True accountability. True checks and balances. Willingness to fix a broken system, whatever that may require. It’s that … “simple.”