Cover Image
David B. Barnes

I put quarters in the parking meter and looked around City/County Plaza. Old oaks and poplars stood over younger maple trees, providing a perfect balance of shade and sun. There were green wooden benches aplenty scattered over well-manicured grass. People were enjoying the pleasant mountain air of an early June morning. Some were most likely nervous about a court appearance; others were trying to decide whether or not to skip court completely. This morning, I had an appointment with the District Attorney. He and I were close friends, and I knew for a fact he hated the kind of case I was bringing him today. Use of force cases by law officers had become more numerous. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was the agency of choice to conduct the detailed examination of facts surrounding such cases. As Special Agent in Charge of this District, my years following leads and writing investigative reports were behind me. Now, one part of my job is delivering this investigative file to the D.A.

     Our agents follow information wherever it leads and can't allow personal bias to influence an investigation. They investigate like Joe Friday, "Just the facts." The report in my briefcase was a completed investigation of a white cop shooting a young black man after a traffic stop.

     I passed through the metal detectors and the phalanx of deputies inside the courthouse, nodding to a couple. I made my way through the ocean of cops, lawyers, witnesses, arrestees, and hangers-on. The din of conversation was a low rumble. As I waited for the elevator, a lawyer buddy sidled up and gave me a nudge with her shoulder. I looked down at her and smiled. She was tough, smart, and married to a good friend.

     "Hello, Sherlock. Who are you falsely accusing today?" she asked with a scowl, which quickly transformed into a wide grin.

     "Well, well, if it ain't the famous mouthpiece from Fleecem and Cheatem, Esquire. Which of the innocent flock are you misrepresenting this morning?" I asked.

     "Just the typical miscreant; nothing really interesting. But you've had quite a pile of stuff lately. Murders all over the Western District and more than a few police use of force cases."

<  2  >

     I nodded.

     She looked at my briefcase and then up at me. "Is that the most recent one?"

     I told her I was on my way to give it to the District Attorney. She wished me luck and was off. I rode to the fifth floor and went straight to the office. The receptionist was on the phone but buzzed me in and waved hello. The office administrator let me in the rear door to the D.A.'s office with a smile and another wave.

     There he was, sitting behind his desk that was piled inches deep in various investigative reports, court filings, and pink telephone message slips. I noticed the majority of the papers were light blue. Those were SBI investigative reports. I was getting ready to add another four inches to his stack. Judging from the conversation somewhere, a cop was catching a whole load of bad juju from my buddy. He had a very low tolerance for cops who cut corners. The guy on the other end was going to need a Valium when he hung up. Any chance my friend's mood would be good drained away through the telephone line.

     He finally finished his call and stood to stretch, looking at me less than pleasantly.

     "Want some coffee?"

     I shook my head and lifted the partially consumed cup I had. He pointed to the door and went out of his office into the common area nearby. When he returned, he had a fresh cup and dumped a glazed donut wrapped in a paper towel on my lap.

     "There ya go," he said, "You are a cop after all… Gotta love Duck Donuts."

     I mumbled agreement as I took the first bite. With the donut clenched between my teeth, I opened my briefcase and lifted out a large pile of blue paper. He turned his chair away from me and faced a large window with a view of Sunset Mountain.

<  3  >

     "Is that the recent cop use of force report?"

     I told him it was and that I could read the summary or we could talk about the facts it contained. I dropped it on his desk.

     Without turning around, he asked, "Is it bad?"

     "Aren't they all? This is bad, but no one got killed."

     The phone on his desk rang, and he answered. It was his secretary, and when she hung up, he said he had to take the call.

     The call was from the Administrative Office of the Courts for North Carolina; budget stuff appeared, so I walked out to the main hallway to people-watch. It was a personal hobby.

     Courthouse regulars walked by encased in their private world, looking only straight ahead. Lawyers I knew to be incompetent pricks pranced by like kings. Lawyers I knew to be more than good at their job walked by talking to clients or other similarly competent lawyers. Several of them nodded to me as they passed. Cops in uniform or in plain clothes marched by. It was a carnival of people who maintained some kind of line between those who flaunted the rules of society and the rest of us.

     I looked for a trash bin to toss my empty coffee cup but never found one. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my friend motioning me to return to his office.

     He had loosened his stylish two-tone blue striped tie and unbuttoned his collar. His suit coat was neatly hung on an old wooden coat rack, and he'd rolled up the sleeves of his starched white dress shirt. He was ready for business.

     "I told the staff not to let anyone in, including phone calls, unless it was the President or the Governor." No smile. He just sat down.

     I also sat and waited for him to get comfortable. It was more of a mental settling than a physical one. He and I both recognized that there were times in our jobs that were unpleasant. To get through those times, we needed to be as calm as possible going in. It would most likely become turbulent as time passed. When he appeared to me to be ready, I started.

<  4  >

     "I'm not going to review the date, time, or formal stuff because you already know that. You really need to stop coming to scenes like that, by the way.

     As I started again, he stood and took his position behind the desk, looking over part of downtown and up at Sunset Mountain. He put his hands in his back pockets and stood still as if he were made from granite.

     "The young man driving the car got shot twice. One was a grazing wound on the outside of his left shoulder. The other penetrated his deltoid and passed through. That one didn't do any lasting damage, either. The girl riding with him wasn't wounded."

     "The driver was conscious when the EMTs arrived, as was the girl. The driver was calm, and the girl was screaming. She continued doing so until a person driving by recognized her and stopped to help. He was the pastor of the First Avenue AME Church. He stayed with the girl till more cops got on the scene. The EMTs got the driver's arm bandaged and the deltoid wound covered and took him to the ER. The girl went with a Sergeant to the P.D. detective office and waited for us to arrive." I took another bite of the donut and then returned to the topic at hand.

     "We first talked with the cop, Bost, at the scene. His story then and later stayed basically the same. He was on routine patrol and didn't have any calls for service backed up. He decided to check the warehouses and parking lots along Butler Street. There had been some car and building break-ins reported over the past month or so. As he was in between warehouses he observed a dark colored Toyota with tinted windows driving slowly, traveling west on Butler Street. Bost was patrolling with his headlights off, and he didn't turn them on when he first pulled onto Butler. He followed for several hundred feet, trying to determine if the driver was drunk because of the slow speed. He saw that the right taillight wasn't working. Using his mobile data terminal, he ran the tag. The car registration came back to Marcus Lee of the city. At that point, he turned on his headlights but didn't attempt to stop the car. It maintained a fairly steady speed but was having trouble traveling in a straight line. After about half a block, Bost turned on the blue lights and chirped his siren. The Toyota continued for about a hundred yards before pulling over. Bost noted on his MDT that it appeared some kind of argument or at least a heated discussion was going on in the car. He said his initial reaction was that the two occupants were arguing."

<  5  >

     "Once the Toyota stopped, Officer Bost got out of his patrol car and approached the Toyota. Per Standard Operating Procedure he placed his hand, palm down, on the trunk deck and pressed so his palm and fingers made full contact with the trunk."

     "He heard a female voice from in the car screaming and yelling. When Bost approached the driver's window, it was halfway up, and the driver was turned to face the female who was in the front passenger seat. Bost asked the driver to look at him. The driver initially looked but then turned back to the female, who was now calm and sitting still."

     "Bost again asked the driver to turn to face him and asked for his driver's license and registration. The driver demanded to know why he'd been stopped, and almost immediately, the female passenger was yelling again.

     The driver became agitated and appeared to be angry. He refused to show any ID and started to open the driver's door. Bost told him to stay in the car and keep the door shut. Bost said that the driver began squirming around in the driver's seat."

     "Bost told the driver to remain in the car and told him to show his hands. The female passenger was yelling unintelligible words throughout."

     "The driver suddenly opened the driver's door and started to get out. Bost drew his service weapon and fired two double taps, four rounds, striking the driver twice."

     "Bost approached the driver, who was half in and half out of the Toyota. He assisted the driver to a prone position on the street and called for an ambulance and EMTs. He reported a 'shots fired and one person down' radio call."

     "Good Lord! Was a weapon recovered from that Toyota?" the DA asked.

     "No weapon," I replied.

     The DA sat in his chair and stared across the desk at me for a bit. He shook his head and turned the chair away from me.

<  6  >

     Finally, he said, "I gotta think for a few minutes here."

     I nodded and looked out the window. He sat down and turned to look at the same scenery. But the mountains provided no answers.

     I thought back to my time in uniform. That was years ago. The job had changed, but I knew being afraid was the same. I remembered a night when I was working alone and stopped a guy for suspected drunk driving. He had pulled right in front of me from the bar parking lot. His car was weaving from lane to lane, so I lit him up with the blue lights and stopped him. I walked to the driver's window, which was completely down. I asked for his license and registration. The driver turned and pulled a revolver from a bag he had beside him. I had received no formal training telling me what to do in this instance. My training officers had pretty much neglected to give me advice on something like this. They just said over and over, "Make sure you have to shoot before you pull the trigger."

     So, I reached in and pulled the guy through the open window and punched him in the side of the head; that made him drop the gun. I rolled him over on his front and cuffed him. He and I then rode to the county jail.

     When I worked cases for the Bureau before this last promotion, I was in the weeds with my team of four agents. We arrested people, searched houses and cars, and conducted interviews with suspects and witnesses. We were afraid sometimes, but we learned to shove that fear down and not let it govern what we did or how we did it. It was the same when I wore a uniform.

     I didn't take many chances at getting shot while searching or arresting someone. We were careful. No, I think cautious is a better choice of a word. Looking back, it seemed that most times, we could slow bad situations down enough to avoid gunfire. There were times when slowing down wasn't possible. Those were the times most like what Officer Bost faced. It seemed that those kinds of encounters were increasing. The question was, why?

<  7  >

     I looked up and my friend was looking at me. He raised his coffee cup and took a sip.

     "One of the problems with meetings like this is the damn coffee gets cold too fast."

     I nodded and asked, "Why don't you put a coffee maker in here?"

     I laughed at his answer, "I'd just drink too much of the stuff."

     He stood and asked if I wanted another cup. I declined. He returned in a few minutes and, as he sat behind his desk, asked me, "Do you know what the girl was all riled up about?"

     "Not from her. She declined to be interviewed."

     "I should have asked this earlier. What are their names?"

     "The driver is Anton James, and the passenger is Charice Patton. Both are 21, and neither has any record. Anton is a student at UNC-A, and Charice just finished cosmetology school in Charlotte. The car he was driving was borrowed from a friend. "

     "Are they boyfriend and girlfriend?"

     "They are not. Anton says he offered her a way home when he heard her ride had already left a party they were attending."

     "We asked what had her so upset, and Anton said he wasn't sure other than she didn't like that the cop stopped them. One of my agents asked what was going on inside the car just before Anton was shot. He doesn't recall anything going on."

     "Did Anton say why he didn't comply with the cop's request? Why he didn't roll the window down? Why he was turned away from the window and then suddenly turned toward it? Any reason at all?"

     "He said he wanted to know why he was being stopped. When the cop wouldn't tell him, he decided it was due to disrespect. My personal opinion is the girl, Charice, yelling and screaming didn't help one iota."

<  8  >

     "Was he intoxicated?" The D.A. asked.

     "Blood alcohol was .03%, so not even close."

     The D.A. looked at me, not speaking. He ruffled some papers on his desk and shook his head just a bit.

     "I guess it really doesn't matter. Neither Anton nor Charice had a weapon. Anton was shot twice. He'll recover, correct?" The D.A. asked.

     "Yes, to both."

     "You know, my agent friend, this stuff isn't just happening here. It's everywhere. It's not quite an epidemic, but it's just about to become one."

     He stopped speaking and picked up the stack of blue paper I had just delivered to him. He thumbed through it and slapped it back on his desk.

     "I know there's no opinion in this report, but do you have one as to why this is going on so frequently?" The D.A. seemed genuinely puzzled.

     "I've thought and thought about this for a good while. Part of the answer to your question is that cops and young blacks seem to be anxious about getting shot…wary or on edge. But it's not that simple. Brother, it's the most complicated issue in my world and do I ever have a basket load of complex problems. Sometimes, I get a horrible headache trying to figure this thing out."

     The D.A. picked up his phone and punched the intercom number for his secretary.

     "Mrs. Wells, will you please find Jerry and ask him to join us? Then do not allow anyone other than him back here. Do not transfer any calls until I give you the all clear: not the Governor, the President, or my wife. Thank you."

     "Shoot, if we're going into lockdown, I'm going to get more coffee. Want some?"

     He was skimming the report I'd given him and waived me off. I went to the coffee maker and got a fresh refill. As I was returning, Jerry came through the door from the hallway.

<  9  >

     "Well, well," I said. "If it ain't the great Jerold McMaster. Were you on the way to a fantastic lunch with some secretary, or were you going to the Y to lift?"

     Jerry and I had known each other since we were sixteen or so. We met caddying at a local golf course. As the sole white boy in the caddy pool, I was looking for a friend. We became good friends after he pulled me from a creek I fell into with a guy's clubs over my shoulder. He eventually went into the Marines, and I went to college. He became an attorney, and I became a cop. Nothing changed our friendship.

     "You're just jealous and probably racist; me being a black man and all."

     "Holy crap! Are you African American? I never noticed."

     "Dude, I've told you a hundred times I'm not African. I'm a black American. I've never even been close to Africa. What's this sudden summons to the bosses' office about?"

     "Get some coffee, and let's go in. I only have the energy to do this once."

     We went in and sat down. The D.A. looked up from the blue paper and said, "Jerry, you now have a new addition to your regular duties. When the SBI brings a use of force investigation to the D.A.s office, I want you to read through it. Get with the man here and then give me a summary and an opinion of what should be the next course of action."

     Jerry looked at me and then back to the D.A. He nodded, and that was that.

     "O.K. Now that that's settled, he and I have been going over this latest police-involved shooting investigation. We're getting away from facts and into theory. I want your input."

     Jerry nodded again, and I began where I left off a few minutes earlier.

     "As I said, I've thought about this a lot over the past few months. Let me start with the cop side. When a recruit goes through the basic school, and cops on the job go through the in-service training every year that the state requires, specific parts of that training involve the use of force. Let's skip the parts of that training that don't relate to firearms use."

<  10  >

     Both nodded, and I continued.

     "Do you know what I mean when I say the term action versus reaction?"

     From the looks on their faces, I saw an explanation was required before we could go deeper.

     "It's a theory that teaches no one can react faster to a threat than a person who has already decided to act. If a cop has their weapon out of the holster, has their finger on the trigger, is pointing that weapon at a person, and that person also has a weapon and has decided to use it, the cop cannot fire first. It's physically impossible. The time it takes for a cop to see the adversary's gun, realize it's about to be used, go through all the requirements of using the weapon, and respond, it will always be too late.

     Cops are taught to be ready for that circumstance every time they encounter a citizen, any citizen. As an example, if I stop Jerry for a traffic violation and approach the car to ask for a license and registration, I have been trained to watch for tells that Jerry is going to cooperate or if he's going to resist. I'm trained to be the first to respond or act. That means I'm going to shoot if my training shows me that Jerry might be getting ready to shoot me.

     I won't wait to see a gun. My training has taught me that it's too late. I'll be reacting, and, again, the training says that means I'll lose."

     Both men were staring at me. I could tell two things from their looks: each one was startled, and each one didn't like what they'd heard.

     "Do you know why a cop places their hand on the trunk of a car they just stopped?"

     They both shook their heads.

     "It's because if a cop is shot and dies, that print on the trunk can prove that car was at the scene of the shooting."

<  11  >

     The D.A. was first to speak, "I want the cops to be safe. I want them to be able to do their jobs without undue fear. But I want all of our citizens, whatever their skin color, to be safe too. With what you just said, it seems the cops are being taught to be afraid, and some of our citizens are scared because some cops are taking actions based on what might happen and not on what is happening. Is that what you just said?"

     "Not exactly. They're taught to be aware and to be vigilant. They're also taught to go home at the end of a shift."

     Jerry asked, "If a young black man gets stopped and argues with the cop does that start the ticking time bomb of use of deadly force by the cop?"

     I said to Jerry, "It shouldn't start any clock. It should just put the cop on notice that a problem might occur. But the cop should also be able to be a calming factor too. If I see a cop running radar, I get nervous. When I worked undercover, I got stopped a few times and was really nervous. I was always armed and hardly ever had an ID that showed I was a cop. But I never thought I'd get shot."

     "The media has rightfully aired dash cam and body cam videos of police use of force. The ones I've watched and the videos included in our investigations tell me most of the uses of force we investigate are legal. But that doesn't feed the bulldog for most cops. They want the use to be legal but also be necessary."

     As I talked, I watched both of my friends. The D.A. finally turned toward his window again. Jerry turned to look at me and then looked at his hands that were folded in his lap.

     Jerry was the first to say anything after I stopped.

     "Are you saying that the cops' training is making them afraid? That's not what you're saying, right?"

<  12  >

     "No, that's not it at all. The training is there to make them aware of potentially dangerous encounters they may experience. I think it's the very reporting of these events that's making the cops more than aware of potential problem contacts. I think they've come to expect an issue every time they stop a certain type of driver. I think they're becoming overly cautious to the point some of them are really scared."

     "A young black driver." The D.A. was still facing the window, but I could tell by his voice and the slump in his shoulders that he was more than a little disturbed by this conversation.

     "Yes." It was all I could think to say.

     Jerry stood and asked, "You got more theory on folk other than cops?"

     "I do."

     "I've tried, as best a white man can try, to understand how it feels to be a black male being stopped by a police officer. Simply put, it can't be done completely. It can be done to a point with earnest thoughts and some critical thinking. But after all of these mental gymnastics, I put myself through, it may just boil down to some basics. First, though, I looked at history to help find some answers." I turned to Jerry.

     "When you were in high school, do you recall being taught about the slave patrols that operated before and during the Civil War?"

     He nodded, as did the D.A.

     "What about convict leasing?"

     Neither man seemed to know exactly what I meant, so I explained.

     "After the Civil War, some states passed laws directly targeting black citizens. These laws were part of the Jim Crow laws. There were laws preventing travel without permits. There were laws about alcohol consumption. There were laws defining petty offenses that were used to incarcerate primarily young black men. These men were then leased from jails and prisons to companies who used them as cheap labor. Railroads were built using these men. Large buildings went up using this kind of labor. Sounds a bit like life before the Thirteenth Amendment, doesn't it? Anyway, the common denominator in these events besides young black men was law enforcement. Sheriffs' deputies and posses made up the slave patrols. After the Civil War, big-city cops, small-town cops, and sheriffs' deputies made the arrests that put the young black men in jail so they could be leased out. The badge was not a sign of help and fairness."

<  13  >

     Jerry looked sad, and the D.A.'s face got redder. I plodded on.

     "A couple of months ago, I began wondering how much of this history was adding to the problem of getting black men and women not to trust cops. The only thing I knew to do was to ask questions. I quickly discovered that me being a white cop wasn't going to get me many answers. So, I called on some black criminal justice friends and acquaintances that my wife and I had. I asked them the questions. Then I asked them to ask others and get back to me.

     I was shocked to learn that out of ten or fifteen people who were asked about slave patrols and convict leasing, only two had ever heard of either. None had thought much at all about law officers having any part in these practices. None of them said that's what went through their minds if a cop stopped them.

     I pointed at the D.A. and asked, "What do you think made the majority of these people uneasy or fearful if they got stopped by a patrol car?"

     "I'm not sure," he replied.

     "Television and word of mouth. The news reports we agree are needed, and then the stories told about those encounters make the reality. The news is bad enough, but when stories get told, they tend to grow in intensity as they get repeated. A story with a basis of truth but has been enhanced becomes gospel. Hence, ACAB: 'all cops are bastards.'

     "The stereotyping by both cops and young blacks is equally wrong. But it's making what could and should be a routine stop into a potentially dangerous situation. One side for sure has a weapon, and the way it's going, the other side is likely to have one as well." I stopped talking and looked at Jerry.

     "I think this is as far as I can go."

     Jerry was nodding his head. "You can't go further because you're not a black man. I've been listening and, at the same time, remembering. Talking about history of law enforcement or the criminal justice system as a whole regarding the past treatment of blacks is useless in this cop and young black driver issue."

<  14  >

     "I barely recall learning about slave patrols, and I don't recall anything about the leasing of black prisoners for cheap labor. When I was growing up, the talk was about the Klan and the police in Birmingham and Selma. But these kids now don't know of that stuff. If they do, it's a minimum of information…just a wisp of the past."

     "Like any modern young person, they get the majority of their information from social media. We know not to put much credence there because the info on a social media platform is constructed to attract get clicks so somebody makes a buck. It may or may not be accurate. The kids just want to see what's out there on Instagram or wherever. Then they talk about it, and more people watch. What they see and hear on social media and what they hear from their friends becomes their reality."

     "For some of these folk, a cop, especially a white cop, is just looking for a chance to shoot. If they're not looking, they're so scared they'll shoot at nearly any movement inside a car."

     The D.A. looked at me. I shrugged and nodded.

     "What in Judas Priest is going on with the cops and these young people? If training is the problem, change the damn training. Good Lord!" The D.A. was furious.

     Jerry stood and turned his back to the D.A. and me. He spoke at first like he was in church. He spoke quietly, not a whisper, but like he didn't want to say the words that began coming out.

     "But that's not all of the problem. Some of these young men live by what they call Respect. Sometimes, they think it's all they have. There's no good paying jobs for them. Money comes to them however they can get it. They quit school for a whole bunch of reasons. Respect is the one thing of value that's within reach. But the downside is if somebody, in some way, shows disrespect, it's then a matter of honor to reinstate the loss; through violence in many cases."

<  15  >

     "Some of these young people are saying they want Respect when they really want others to fear them. Those are the ones, in my opinion, who have the highest chance of an armed encounter with someone, including law enforcement."

     "A cop pulls one of these guys over and says Sir in a manner that is provocative; the driver imagines Disrespect and starts trying to reestablish the lost valuable. The more he argues and yells, in many cases, the cop argues just as powerfully. The cop sees Respect due him being flaunted. Eventually, somebody's temper lets go, and then somebody's gonna get hurt or worse. As soon as the driver's license is requested, words start flying. An inexperienced or fearful cop responds in kind, and here we go."

     "There are members of the civilian population who just plain hate cops. Whatever hurt they can do, or whatever trouble they can cause for cops, will be the day's plan." I stopped talking and smiled a wry smile at each man.

     "Then there's the cop who causes the Respect dust up intentionally or at least by their inability or unwillingness to maintain a levelheaded professional attitude. Sometimes, these cops are simply racist. That adds another layer of potential inappropriate attitudes, which can cause problems. Odd thing to me is the racist cops aren't necessarily white."

     I agreed with Jerry and added, "Too many cops are going to Taser and then 'gun' too fast. One cop who had shot and killed a guy told me if there had been a way to get three extra seconds before he felt like he had to act, things would most likely have turned out differently. In hostage situations, we always try to slow everything down. If events slow, then people are less likely to continue to allow tempers and rash judgments to rule outcomes. But there seems to be no way to slow one of these situations down once they begin to go off the rails."

     The D.A. fiddled with his tie, then looked at both of us. He didn't say a word for a few minutes, dropped his tie, and gave a big sigh. He picked up the report and dropped it back on his desk. It made a soft thud.

<  16  >

     "But there's other problems too," I said. "Sometimes cops forget what part of the criminal justice system they are. The courts are the part that metes punishment. But some cops have decided to enter the punishment arena. Rodney King and George Floyd come to mind, but there are other examples. In many cases, the suspect takes a trip to the E.R. and then to jail. Later, the suspect might make a complaint to the cop's department, and then their Internal Affairs takes it up as an administrative matter. There may be days off or temporary suspension in the offing for that cop. But rarely does it go beyond an internal review. Then there's the issue of pretextual stops. Cops using traffic stops to search for guns and drugs are a part of the problem, too. Traffic stops should be for legitimate reasons. I have a hard time understanding how so many happen anyway. When I talk with police chiefs with sizeable towns or cities, they constantly complain about the rise in calls for service. They tell me their cops each get three or four calls behind during a shift. How do they have time for traffic stops unless they're part of a traffic unit?"

     "Well, that certainly was informative," the D.A. said. "But the only result I see here is that things are going to remain the same or get worse. I feel for the cops and damn sure want them to be safe. At the same time, all of our citizens need to be safe and feel safe, too. There's simply no fix that I can see. Cops' training has to change. People getting stopped have to understand that it's for a legitimate reason, so they'll comply. Cops must keep in their lane and let the courts set any punishment. Racism is a disease without a cure."

     Jerry and I sat quietly in our chairs. I was looking at the oak floor, and Jerry was looking at the front of the D.A.'s desk. What was there to say? A hard transformation will most certainly come. My nearly thirty years wearing a badge told me the future would be like the past in that way. Nothing in the law enforcement world stood still. It always changed, but it was a slow process. This time, there was a huge hurdle. How could cops feel safe? How could blacks feel safe? Nearly every time change had come during my tenure as a cop the courts had to step in to make that change. These were times when cops overreached their authority. Miranda and Escobedo were examples. So was the case: Tennessee versus Garner in 1985 that finally prohibited shooting a fleeing felon except under circumstances so unusual that it rarely happened anymore. What I can't imagine is how the courts would fix this more recent problem.

<  17  >

     The D.A. stood and looked at us both. He picked up the pile of blue paper and somberly said he was going home.

     "I'm going through this with a fine-tooth comb. The District Attorney's Office is the last line in the criminal justice system before the court. The cards are always going to fall where they fall: no favors and no hidden anything. I realize I can't stop these damn things from happening, but I can for sure make certain if they do occur, everything was within the letter of the law. Cops being scared, pissed off, or badly trained isn't my concern. People who haven't been dealt good cards in this life have my sympathy and will get help when it's legal and right. But Respect and Disrespect on the street aren't my concern either. People hating people will never disappear. I wish I could fix this, but I can't." He pointed at each of us. "And you can't either. The longer this goes with no remedy, the more complex it'll become. I hate looking at something and thinking this is a no-win situation."

     He thanked us and walked out of his office leaving his suit coat hanging where he put it several hours ago. Jerry said he had a conference with a defense attorney. I went back to the District Office to see what goat rope had happened while I was gone.

     A week later, I got a call at 3:00 AM about a trooper and a driver incident. The trooper was on the way to the hospital; the driver was waiting on the Medical Examiner, the SBI crime scene agents, the investigators, and me.

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