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BR citizens disserved by catering to racist myth

This week provides a reminder of how a few Baton Rouge-area politicians and administrators buckled to political correctness reminiscent of the city’ racist past.

During this time, the city has hosted the Southeastern Homicide Investigators Association 2018 Training Conference. The group seeks to educate on a range of issues involving homicides, with the conference covering areas such as cold cases, DNA searches, serial killers, and mass shootings.

However, although having announced the event as one of its centerpieces, the conference canceled a presentation headed by Betty Shelby, now of Oklahoma’s Rogers County Sheriff’s Office. She would have given her perspective on her experience, when with the Tulsa Police Department, of unfortunately mistakenly shooting to death an unarmed man at a traffic stop.

Brought up on manslaughter charges, she won acquittal. The man, on hallucinogenic drugs at the time, appeared incoherent, unresponsive to commands, and reached into the car in a manner that could have meant he was reaching for a gun, so Shelby pulled her trigger.

Since then, she also has volunteered classes on how officers cope with such a situation if they ever find themselves in that lamentable position. Her role would have been to given insight valuable to conference attendees so they could decide what they might do in the same situation had they been the lead investigator of her incident.

But local conference organizers, listening to District Attorney Hillar Moore III and Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul after receiving a letter from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense and Education Fund (which made some selective omissions in recounting the incident), yanked the invitation to Shelby, her husband, and another officer. NAACPLDF objected to her appearance, alleging that it valorized a careless officer who “perpetrated” homicide on a black person; Shelby is white.

Moore, an elected official, claimed this wasn’t “the right time and place” for her to appear, because of tensions still reverberating from the fatal shooting of a black man believed armed by a white officer in 2016, followed weeks later by a black assassin killing three law enforcement officers and wounding another three. State and federal authorities declined to indict the officers involved in the shooting incident, concluding that they had engaged in inferior policing but didn’t break any laws.

While the sensibilities outlined by Moore comprise a legitimate concern, the educational value of that kind of presentation more than balances. As the organizers astutely noted, “We realize now there are people around the country who do not understand why we would present this case. The fact is, every homicide investigator at our conference is one phone call away from one of these types of investigations. ... We want our members to talk about these cases and feel confident they can do what they are called to do: make the right decisions for the victims each and every time.”

That imbalance favoring her participation particularly is multiplied when considering the politicized nature of the NAACPLDF contention. Bluntly stated, the organization wouldn’t care at all about this if Shelby had shot a non-black individual. It cares because it can mold the event into its allegation imagining some kind of war against blacks conducted by presumably racist police and communities backing them, as a means to achieving a larger political agenda.

It’s an entirely false and disingenuous narrative that having Shelby speak normalizes this alleged pattern, and therefore reflect badly on the host city that allowed it. All recent research refutes the notion that police shooting are racially biased. Further, a randomly selected black man is overwhelmingly unlikely to be victim of police violence, and, in the rare instances (much less likely than being struck by lightning) it happens, at rates not significantly different from those experienced by white men.

Worse, caving in to political pressure with the excuse that, in essence, the area isn’t “ready” for that kind of presentation hauntingly echoes a refrain of six decades ago, when places like Baton Rouge reputedly weren’t “ready” for integration. Back then, you weren’t supposed to challenge the myth of white racial superiority; now, you aren’t supposed to challenge the myth of racist communities tolerating police misconduct towards blacks.

That Moore gave in to this supposition doesn’t make him a racist, but only a political coward by submitting to pressure from those with a vested interest in propagating the myth. Hopefully, these people in that grouping don’t include area politicians and their appointees, which disappointingly would show greater fealty by them to an ideology than to the notion of doing their best to serve the people.

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