Steven G. Percifield--author

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Steven G. Percifield  Author and consultant
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Ferguson: the one irrefutable truth

A basic tenant of racism is the pre-conceived notion; something is assumed about an individual simply because that individual is of a given race. Based upon the ongoing crisis in Ferguson, MO, there is plenty of racism rearing its ugly head--on both sides of the racial divide.

Very few people were neutral in their expectations of the grand jury deliberating the case of the white police officer who shot and killed a black teenager. Many blacks (and many whites, although a much smaller percentage) immediately took a position on the case: the white policeman had murdered an un-armed, non-violent child. At the same time, many whites (and some blacks, although a much smaller percentage) immediately saw it as a hulking young criminal threatening, forcing the cop to defend himself as best he could.

The most interesting aspect of this is that the vast majority, be they black or be they white, took a position even when they had virtually no information. To some degree, one has to hold the broadcast media responsible. Their reporting of unsubstantiated (by them) rumors regarding the deceased raising his hands in surrender while saying "don't shoot," inflamed millions throughout the country. At the same time another "truth" (he was shot and killed by an officer in the line of duty who felt his life was in jeopardy) didn't inflame anyone; possibly worse, it was met with yawns by those who took the position that "he had it coming."

Two antagonistic "truths," both equally tragic in both their seed and their consequence. But even as buildings still smolder, ignited by the sparks of racism, one irrefutable truth remains: there is very little transparency in the application of power by police. In any confrontation, there will nearly always be two stories: one from the perp(s) and one from the police. And when there is, the entire system from the arresting officer, to the desk sergeant, to the prosecutor will most likely be on the side of the cop--they are, after all, part of the same team; and like any teammates, they stand up for one another.

More transparency (immediately after this incident first took place, the cops of Ferguson clammed up) would have gone a long way towards quashing the angst that eventually translated into riotous confrontation. The ultimate transparency--lapel-worn police video cameras to capture the details of every arrest--might have served to prevent any confrontations.

But many (if not most) police officers are against such mandatory transparency.

I wonder why?

But the people on the street in Ferguson don't; they know the least from their perspective. And without transparency, that's all they have to go on.