There was a time, a very long time, when stories about police beatings and killings were either buried or whitewashed, and so I did what I could to tell those stories because they were happening, needed to be known and represented critical problems that needed to be fixed. There were a few others who did the same, but not too many. And not too many cared.
It was a time when America was in fear, of crime, of terrorism, of whatever bogeyman was the worst thing possible that had to be stopped or the sky would fall. So the few of us were lone voices in the wilderness. Times change. Boy, do they ever.
Now, it’s all the rage, and not only are such things the obsession of the media and the passionate, but the stories are ubiquitous. Usually exaggerated, often misleading and, occasionally, outright lies, but you can’t miss them. And the reaction is often explosive, literally, even when the factual story isn’t “cops did wrong.”
Two Los Angeles County deputies were sitting in their car outside a metro station in Compton yesterday when someone walked up and started shooting.
Update: The gunman walked up on the deputies and opened fire without warning or provocation. pic.twitter.com/cBQjyKkoxJ
— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) September 13, 2020
The story would have been huge a few years ago. Perhaps the shooter had a beef with one of the cops, and that’s why it happened. But that doesn’t seem likely. More likely, the shooter just targeted two random cops for being cops.
That’s not a sane act, and the rage that’s being widely promoted against police in general is the sort of thing that a person suffering from mental illness might seize upon to engage in such an act of violence. It’s not that there shouldn’t be rage against police for what they do to harm others, but blind rage, like blind faith, feeds the violence. Twisted minds don’t think to be better, but use blind rage to justify being as bad or worse. There are a lot of twisted minds out there, they’re having their moment.
Like this reply to the twit containing the video of the shooting, posted one minute later.
It’s not wrong that the police use the release of video to their tactical advantage, concealing it when it might not show something flattering and revealing it with amazing speed when it serves their ends. But is that really the first thing that comes to mind upon the shooting of two human beings for no apparent reason other than their jobs? Is there really such a compelling need to pile criticism upon an attempted execution?
The answer is obviously “yes,” for some. And there’s a fairly good chance that many reading here will join that chorus, and add their voices to rationalize why no chance to dunk on cops should be missed.
Back when so few of us were telling the stories of bad things cops do, the needless damage to the guilty and innocent alike that just shouldn’t happen in our glorious nation, it was valuable to raise the facts, the issues, the points, that others failed to mention. But now that everyone is telling these stories, shouting them from the rooftop of the New York Times building, there’s little reason to do so here. You hear the stories of cops gone bad. You hear the stories of lives ruined by police callousness, violence and deceit. You can’t get away from the stories, even when the cops didn’t actually do anything wrong but the stories somehow make them the bad guys anyway.
But acts are neither good nor bad because the cops did them. They’re bad because the acts themselves are bad, and shooting two deputies sitting in a car is bad even though the shooter isn’t a cop but the victims were. And still, you can’t find it in your heart to care. At least not too much. At least not without the caveat about how cops are still the villains of the moment, so even though these two cops didn’t deserve execution, cops still get what they deserve.
Yet, the juiciest part of the story of two deps being shot came afterward, and it’s got longer legs to capture public interest than the mere attempted execution of two deps in a car in Compton.
UPDATE: #LASD claims my colleague @josie_huang violated 148PC – that's obstruction of justice. They are not giving any details. They're taking her to the Century Regional Detention Center now. This kind of treatment of a respected LA journalist is disturbing. @SPJLA https://t.co/Q6NsOJc0UJ
— Frank Stoltze (@StoltzeFrankly) September 13, 2020
Unsurprisingly, the local media is outraged that a reporter was arrested, and not just any reporter but a Woman of Color, as Asian women are described when not seeking admission to Harvard. Huang was arrested for obstructing officers, although there are no details available yet.
Deputy Morgan Arteaga, a sheriff’s department spokeswoman, said Ms. Huang had been arrested on charges of obstructing officers.
Being a reporter sometimes means pushing the envelope to get a story. Being a reporter doesn’t mean whatever you’re doing isn’t obstructing officers. There have been instances lately of reporters indistinguishable from hostile crowds but for the word “press” on their backs, believing that gives them a free pass from their actions.
But there are no facts here as yet to suggest Huang engaged in such conduct. Maybe she just didn’t move back when an angry cop told her to, and he took out his frustration at the shooting on a reporter doing her job.
The fury of the moment is no justification for the cops taking Huang to the ground, if she was just doing her job. The fury of the moment is no justification for shooting two L.A. County deputies for doing their jobs either. The fury of the moment is the bogeyman that’s making us react so very badly, so mindlessly and foolishly, to whatever is happening, and since so few are telling that story, it’s the one I choose to tell.
Update: Protesters blocked access to the hospital where the deputies were taken, shouting “We hope they die.”
Update 2: An explanation has been given by the police for the arrest of Jose Huang:
(1/3) # Century Sheriff’s Station Watch Commander reports the following:
After deputies issued a dispersal order for the unlawful assembly of a group of protesters blocking the hospital emergency entrance & exits, a male adult protester refused to comply & cooperate…
(2/3) During his arrest, a struggle ensued at which time a female adult ran towards the deputies, ignored repeated commands to stay back as they struggled with the male and interfered with the arrest…
(3/3) The female adult, who was later identified as a member of the press, did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person. Both individuals have been arrested for 148 P.C.
Update 3: LAistas posted a story contending that all of the allegations against Huang are false. Notably, the video of her arrest shows a lanyard around her neck with what would be expected to be press credentials, making one of the allegations against Huang clearly false.
Update 3: Josie Huang has provided a twitter thread including the video she shot, which shows what preceded the arrest. While it’s possible she was closer to the arrest than cops found appropriate, it was clear she did not interfere and they did not give her an opportunity to back away before seizing her.