Officer shooting in Ferguson: Black and blue lives both matter

By Adrianne Glenn / Columnist

Last week, Twitter user @DanDevaneGOP, a proud conservative according to his Twitter bio, tweeted, “show your support by using the hashtag #BlueLivesMatter for the hero Cops shot at the #FergusonShooting.” @DanDevaneGOP is just one of a tidal wave of Twitter users who have turned to the hashtag to voice their support of “blue lives” in Ferguson. 

After 20-year-old Jeffrey Williams allegedly shot two Ferguson police officers on Thursday, he was charged with first-degree assault in connection with the shooting three days later.

Some Twitter users have utilized the hashtag #BlueLivesMatter as a play on the existing #BlackLivesMatter to highlight the recent officer shootings. This shifts discussions of Ferguson to include the importance of police officers’ lives. While it is important to include these blue lives in the discourse, it is paramount that we do not forget the black lives affected in Ferguson. 

The recent U.S. Department of Justice’s official civil rights investigation on Ferguson revealed the disproportionate amount of negative attention black citizens receive from police authority in Ferguson. It is exactly the hard evidence we need to give credence to widespread racial discrimination and start mending it. 

According to the report, black residents made up 93 percent of arrests and 85 percent of traffic stops in Ferguson. They were also two times more likely to be stopped and have police search their vehicles despite being 26 percent less likely to be caught with contraband than white residents. 

According to the 2010 census, the demographics don’t correlate with the findings of the report. 29.3 percent of citizens were white, and 67.4 percent were black. If blacks are about 67 percent of the population, why do they account for 93 percent of arrests?

The report further indicated that the city depended on money from fines as part of its annual revenue.

“Even as officers have answered the call for greater revenue through code enforcement, the City continues to urge the police department to bring in more money,” the report said. In a March 2013 email, the finance director suggested that court fees were anticipated to rise about 7.5 percent, according to MSNBC. In the email, he wrote, “I did ask the Chief if he thought the PD could deliver 10 percent increase. He indicated they could try.’” 

The police force reciprocated by distributing outlandishly high fines for minor offences. For example, police fined people more than $500 for having high grass or weeds, according to the report.

Additionally, Ferguson police dogs only attacked black residents. The records show that the threat posed by the victim of the attack was never proportional to the severity of the attack and that the bites wounded many non-violent offenders. 

Officers faced no repercussions for harassing black residents — unreasonably accusing a minister of being a thief and arresting countless citizens when it was blatantly nonsensical, like when a man was helping his girlfriend who had been in a car accident. 

The officers’ shooting in Ferguson last week was devastating, a grotesque statement made with little consideration for human life. It does not make sense to blame the officers for widespread discrimination against black lives. These blue lives need consideration in the Ferguson discourse, as they are entangled with black lives by association. 

Despite this most recent tragedy, the national discussion must not stray from prevention and eradication of racism. Discriminatory attitudes are what often prompt violence. 

Ferguson is about far more than a single gunman. The shift in attention to this double assault is not unfounded, but the attention must be complemented through citizens’ renewed discussions about race and violence, as well.  Blue lives matter just the same as black lives. The focus should be joint — end the culture in which people target and harass groups, be it black or blue. 

If race relations don’t improve, violence will bubble up inside those affected. The victims of these crimes are not only officers, but everyday people. Whether or not average lives get the attention blue lives do should not matter. What matters is that the discrimination stops, ending the cycle of violence in Ferguson and nationwide.

On that note, Ferguson should no longer employ quota standards that seek to raise revenue through racial profiling. The Department of Justice’s report should fuel positive change.

The ramifications of the Civil Rights Report alongside Jeffrey Williams’ assault of two officers are further evidence of this vicious cycle. 

Until we realize that all black and blue lives matter the same, our country will remain bruised — black and blue.

Adrianne Glenn primarily writes about social and cultural issues for The Pitt News. 

Write to Adrianne at [email protected].