During Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand's profanity-laced news conference announcing the manslaughter arrest of Ronald Gasser, who shot former NFL star Joe McKnight to death following a Thursday road rage confrontation, Normand had this to say to those who'd complained the arrest was too long in coming: "Tough. I don't care."
Sorry, not buying it.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said Tuesday that former NFL player Joe McKnight approached Ronald Gasser after an altercation in their vehicles when Gasser pulled out a gun and fired three shots, killing McKnight...
One main takeaway from Normand's Tuesday rant, in which he read ugly social media comments calling black public officials who'd stood by his side things like "Uncle Tom Coon" and "rat-ass, faggot punk," is that Normand cares a whole lot about perceptions. McKnight was black and Gasser is white, and JPSO's decision not to make an immediate arrest had sparked some criticism and protests.
In fact, Normand's thin-skinned performance—which was so shocking that MSNBC cut away from its live coverage and apologized to national viewers for airing such language— threatened to overshadow his contention that the department had done the right thing, taken its time to track down witnesses and put together a stronger case than it would have been able to build had it succumbed to public pressure.
But here's the thing: That pressure comes with the territory.
Dozens of protesters gathered at the site in Terrytown where Joe McKnight was shot to death …
So unfortunately, do disgusting internet comments, which are hardly unique to government officials and which are easy to mistake for the sentiments of the public at large. Normand said that it's not fair for politicians such as Jefferson Parish Councilman Mark Spears to be subjected to such abuse, which is a reasonable point. But it's also not fair for Normand to paint everyone who might have concerns with the irresponsible words of a few.
Nor is it productive to suggest people's worries about racial disparities in criminal justice are simply unfounded. The whole country is struggling to come to terms with addressing inequities without tagging good law enforcement officers with a broad brush. Besides, when has that ever worked?
What could work is to block out those outside voices, pursue this case in the fairest, most transparent way possible, and let people judge the results. Normand actually started that process Tuesday, when he shared some details about the investigation that backed up his decision to delay. It's too bad he stepped on his own message.