One of the lessons learned from the Ferguson disaster — and now the Staten Island disaster — is that grand juries do not like indicting police officers. This is a pretty obvious flaw in the criminal justice system because it exposes how arbitrary the indictment process actually is. Prosecutors can get an indictment of a ham sandwich if they want to, but they do not do their job when police officers are the suspected criminals. Ooops.
In Ferguson, there is a more interesting lesson. Whatever the legalities of the shooting are, there can be no debate that the policy have a community relations problem. They are perceived as a threat rather than a service provider.
How does one address this conflict between community and police? One does not do it by being defensive and thin skinned. If the police cannot reach out themselves to the community, somebody will have to do that or the problem will fester. If we let it fester, we should not be surprised that the next explosion will be much worse than what we have seen so far — and that aint pretty.
Sadly, it is a bit difficult to see who will do this facilitation. Politicians are the most obvious candidates, but they seem to be lining up on one side or the other. Community leaders? They are too emotionally committed to one side of the story.
I don’t know who else will do this. But at least I hope that you can see the vacuum. Seeing the vacuum is a first step to filling it.