With real life frustrating the preferred narrative of some, Louisiana legislators wisely didn’t sign on to the growing hysteria among some of their own regarding police behavior, but instead made a positive step forward.
Earlier this week, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee sent to the floor a resolution to have a House-sponsored committee study law enforcement and policing, presumably in the state. Typically, bills like HR 13 by Democrat state Rep. Ted James would zip through committee and the chamber.
It didn’t because originally in part it read like this:
WHEREAS, the deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers in recent years have raised a number of questions about the treatment of racial minorities within the criminal justice system, as well as about patterns of arrest-related deaths more generally; and
WHEREAS, this behavior will continue to happen unless we examine the systems that allow them to be repeated, and change will begin when system leaders accept responsibility for these types of acts ….
Undoubtedly spurred by the death in Minneapolis police custody of a counterfeiting suspect named George Floyd at the hands of two white and two Asiatic officers, the language gives a nod to the notion that police misconduct is endemic but really focused on black males. The problem, of course, is that the easily-obtainable data show neither a significant amount of police brutality occurring nor a disproportionate amount of this visited upon black suspects (in fact, in a comparative sense, whites suffer death disproportionally more often at the hands of police).
Legislators would act irresponsibly to include in an approved legislative instrument such factually-challenged implications, and fortunately they didn’t. The measure was amended changing the language in the first passage above to:
WHEREAS, the unreasonable use of force, including instances resulting in death, by law enforcement officers in recent years have raised a number of questions about the disparate treatment of different segments of society within the criminal justice system as well as about patterns of arrest-related deaths more generally; and ….
Especially because this is consistent with the experience in Shreveport over the past two months. In April, police were called about a black man disturbing a homeowner. It devolved into a violent struggle that initially brought paramedics to the scene and ended up with the suspect, Tommie McGlothen who had a history of mental illness, unattended in the back of a police car for nearly an hour where he expired.
For weeks the incident gathered little publicity. But amid questions from Democrat 1st District Attorney James Stewart about the incident report and growing pressure from McGlothen’s family, public scrutiny of the event has escalated. This week, video footage hit the media that showed grainy images of the four-minute struggle. Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond has suspended the four officers involved, who have not been identified publicly.
Could this be the Louisiana version of the “racist police terrorize blacks” narrative so many opportunistic leftist politicians and their fellow travelers have peddled, despite the utter lack of validity to that view? And would have backed the original language of James in his resolution?
One problem: one of the officers involved was a black female. There goes that narrative, which is destroyed further by a report of the death from Republican 1st District Coroner Todd Thoma that McGlothen died from “excited delirium,” which can bedevil someone with substance abuse and/or psychiatric problems. While he had injuries apparently from his struggling with police, these didn’t contribute to his death. However, Thoma called the death “preventable” with the proper intervention.
McGlothen didn’t die because racist police took out their animus on him. Evidence to date is he died because first responders including police behaved in a way ignorant of or insufficiently attentive to his underlying medical condition. He didn’t die because of malice towards his being black; he died without malice against him because he was a person with an intellectual disability stemming from mental illness that caused behavior first responders didn’t address adequately.
As such, the resolution’s new wording is spot on. It’s not solely about race and allegedly malign motive, but more broadly about the ability of the police to respond optimally in their interactions with the many different people who comprise the community. Increased knowledge about and training pertaining to them probably would have led to a different response to McGlothen and produced a happier outcome.
Investigating how to bring this about is a worthy enterprise and use of tax dollars by this committee (the composition of which also was amended to reduce the influence of six far-left interest groups given representation on it). As opposed to the wasteful and counterproductive propaganda exercise as envisioned originally by James.