12/07/2014 06:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Cops Kill - Will This Time Be Different?



By Mark Green

After white cops kill three black suspects, two grand juries seem steered to no charges. What's different now are huge, national non-violent protests involving tens of thousands yet no demonstrator deaths, unlike '60s race riots. Could this actually be a "teachable moment" leading to change? Maybe yes, Matalin and Reagan agree.

*On Cops and Grand Juries. Mary thinks Officer Wilson in Ferguson did nothing wrong while Ron believes that, at the least, "he was incompetent and scared, as many whites are, of black people; Wilson basically saw a big fat kid and thought he was a demonic Hulk Hogan." But they agree that Officer Panteleo's chokehold and the four-cop takedown of Eric Garner was ridiculously disproportionate to the offense of selling loose cigarettes. Indeed, many conservatives -- including Krauthammer, Beck, Napolitano -- concur with most liberals that the grand jury decision was inexplicable given the video evidence and lack of a weapon.

What do they think of Giuliani ridiculing critics who ignore black-on-black crime, O'Reilly blaming even peaceful protestors in Ferguson for "aiding and abetting" the violence, and Hannity posting photos of the three people he thought most responsible for the Ferguson riots -- Obama, Holder, and Sharpton? Ron argues that such observations "betray their views" about race in America and condemns Giuliani's disregard of similar white-on-white crime since most crime involves people attacking others in their own communities. None of which can excuse excessive force in particular cases. "By O'Reilly's own logic, should we tar all cops as abusive because of what the police did" in Ferguson, NYC, and Cleveland?

As a thought exercise suggested by Mary, we try to discuss the issue of police violence not through the lens of race. The panelists discuss how lots of young people are stopped by cops and, stressed Mary, "young girls are especially frightened." The Host responds: "Guys, with all due respect, I was never arrested as a youth for 'driving while Jewish.' My parents never sat me down and instructed me not to make sudden hand movements in the presence of cops. Come on!" Point conceded.

Given the size of national, peaceful, white-black demonstrations, could the confluence of such publicized killings this month -- including AG Holder's investigation showing a "pattern and practice" of abuse by the Cleveland Police -- actually be a teachable moment, an inflection point? Matalin and Reagan agree that "this time could be different." Mary lauds the kind of passive resistance that "from Christ to Gandhi to King is the only way to make change."

They discuss plausible, serious solutions such as police body cameras, cops who better reflect the racial composition of the communities they serve (unlike Ferguson), independent prosecutors rather than DAs in bed with the police, preliminary hearings instead of secretive grand juries, training that focuses on violence de-escalation, even including karate to avoid fatal encounters. To show what's possible, Ron contrasts a recent shooting of a person waving a knife in the States with a person waving a machete in Great Britain where the police retreated, regrouped, and then took him down with their greater numbers rather than simply and quickly shooting him to death.

Consider NYC. Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly insisted that 800,000 annual stop-and-frisks, disproportionately involving kids of color, was necessary to reduce crime. De Blasio and Bratton have reduced those by 80 percent and still crime is falling. With chief executives like Obama and de Blasio pledging change, there truly could be change this time... unlike how people and politicians have given up pursuing gun safety laws notwithstanding monthly mass shootings.

So 400 years after the arrival of slaves to America and 150 years after the Civil War and fifty years after the 1960s Civil Rights laws, it appears that four malignancies evils comprise the “New Jim Crow” that demand the attention of progressives -- black, brown and white: a “war on drugs” that has incarcerated hundreds of thousands of young men of color; a “justice system” that discriminates de jure and de facto by race; state voter laws that suppress voters to protect the franchise; and a stunning and rising inequality allowed by a tax system that hurts those who earn money from work not wealth. "Everyone's better off when everyone's better off."

*GOP 2016 Moves. Jeb Bush admits "I'm thinking about running for president" but only if he can avoid pandering in the primaries in a way that makes a general election unwinnable. Mary lauds his candor and smarts in explaining how to win, which she regards as simply bringing all aides of her party together. Not so easy, counters Ron. How do you reconcile the Louie Gohmert/Ted Cruz wing and the people Jeb Bush presumably speaks for? Mary claims that Democrats too are split on some key issues... (though it's hard to think of recent equivalents like Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" and "severe conservative" on the Democrats side, although we'll find out if there is one should Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton debate).

Senator Rand Paul announced this week that he'll run for Senate although the law doesn't currently allow him to run for that office and president both. We listen to Bill Maher laud him and Bill Kristol attack him. So is he a plausible nominee and president? Mary says yes and yes because of his appeal to millennials, candidate skills, and inroads among some party traditionalists, like his shrewd concordat with fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell. Ron completely discounts his prospects given his previous position that the private owners of public facilities can refuse to serve African Americans. "Yeah, he's now changed his position but, on something this significant, his original one [four years ago] is probably his real one."

Ben Carson, a renowned physician and an African American, has opened an exploratory committee for president and is currently slightly leading a multi-candidate GOP field (that excludes Romney). Is he conceivably a Republican Obama or a VP nominee? Mary loves him to death but he reminds her of Mike Tyson's comment that no fight plan survives the first punch. And all recent winners have had a lot of bouts before the big one. Ron, again, dismisses someone who's said stupid stuff, like Obamacare being "the worst thing since slavery." Finis.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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