No matter what verdict Judge John P. O’Donnell hands down in the trial of Cleveland cop Michael Brelo (who jumped on the hood of the car of the two unarmed individuals, Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, and fired 49 shots as part of the infamous circular firing squad of 13 officers that fired a total of 137 shots), Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty — and justice — comes out the winner.
While there certainly is strong sentiment on both sides — those wishing for a conviction and those predicting an acquittal — in the end the case shines a glaring, hot spotlight on how policing is carried out in Cleveland, and, more importantly, how Cleveland cops erect a blue wall of silence around wrongdoing. In spite of the fact that over a dozen cops from Cleveland were at the scene of the killing, none of them are willing to come forward with the truth … which is going to eventually lead to the crumbling of the blue wall.
Police officials can’t continue to demand that if a citizen “sees something they must say something,” not when rank and file officers refuse to follow that dictum.
Of course there will be a celebration at the Zone Car, the West 58th Street cop hangout and union headquarters when O’Donnell finds Brelo not guilty (yep, you read it here first folks) but the victory will prove Pyrrhic, since it will further strengthen the resolve of those — the Department of Justice, social activist protestors, and perhaps even those hiding down in the bunker at City Hall — who are seeking to once and for all change how policing is carried out in America.
Indeed, from this point forward, every time a cop gets off anywhere in America when the facts and circumstances clearly point towards culpability, the hue and cry will grow as never before until the stench left by cases of police brutality rises so high virtually everyone in the country begins to gag.
The Genie is finally out of the bottle on the issue of police killings, and the media is on every case like a pack of hungry pit bulls on a soup bone. Cases that formerly flew under the radar are now making national headlines, further embarrassing our nation on the world stage and making a mockery of our vaulted notion of “exceptionalism.”
A new story out of Oxnard, CA details how a group of cops got tattoos of guns on their left shoulder whenever they shot someone, and they could proudly add smoke coming out of barrel if the shooting resulted in death. And this is not the first time information of this kind of sick behavior has been made public; sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles county were caught doing the same thing a few years ago, but that story didn’t gain very much traction. My, how times have changed.
The fact is, most Americans are decent, fair-minded folk … people who are mortified by injustice and wrongdoing; what the cops have previously been able to do is portray each and every incident of police brutality as an outlier, a “mistake” that will never happen again.
The problem bad cops face now is the public is awaking to the fact these cases are not isolated, and no matter how much bigots and racists attempt to justify the killings, opinions are changing, and changing swifter than anyone might have imagined even a year ago.
Could anyone have imagined how swiftly public opinion would shift in terms of acceptance of the rights of members of the LGBT community a few years ago? No.
But the media — keeping the spotlight on the continued protests for gay rights — caused a seismic shift, and the same media will eventually cause those sitting on juries to not automatically find cops innocent of wrongdoing every time. When that begins to happen cops, realizing that they can and will be held accountable in a court of law, will begin modifying their rogue behaviors … but they won’t begin to change one second before.
That’s why it was so important for McGinty to indict Brelo, since, even if he loses the case the outcry — the stench and pall the noxious verdict will cast across the land — will reignite passions, reenergize activists, and renew calls for a cessation of the madness of police brutality … all of which will bring the country closer to the realization of Unitarian minister Theodore Parker’s famous 1845 quote that: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com.