After the fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri, abuse by officers in New York City and now an apparently senseless shooting by a police officer caught on video in South Carolina, there’s a video-fueled frenzy about police brutality that leads too many people into the assumption that that’s standard operating procedure for law enforcement.
It isn’t. When it occurs, it should be prosecuted vigorously.
What should get more of a focus — because it is much more common — is what officers have to deal with, and that’s been demonstrated in the shooting in Jefferson Parish that has aroused a righteous indignation in Sheriff Newell Normand.
Amid a blaze of gunfire Wednesday, the single victim was Desmond Willis, 25, who authorities said opened fire first on pursuing officers. Witnesses back up the account, Normand said.
For the sheriff, it’s a clear-cut case of a drug dealer known to residents of Pebble Walk and Kensington Gardens communities.
The dead man was reported to have several weapons and a small amount of marijuana in his car, and the shootout occurred after a daylight chase that ended in an alley between a hotel and an office building. It’s not the profile of a “throwdown,” in which officers could have conceivably planted the weapons on the scene, as some of Willis’ relatives allege.
Nor are the violent lyrics and glorification of cop-killing on Willis’ YouTube videos signs that the victim was the choirboy his relatives described after the fact.
The men and women of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office have a tough job. As Normand said, it’s made much tougher when neighborhoods don’t help officers identify the bad actors.
“If you know this is going on, call 911 and tell them you want to remain anonymous,” Normand said. “Give us the information, so that we can get in there and be intrusive and shake it up and get these guys before they get you because your life matters. Act like it.”
That’s good advice, and we hope that more neighborhoods take it.