The Take: The Collision

Michael Brown and the case for creativity.

We ask our law enforcement officers to perform some of the most difficult jobs in our high society. Protect and serve. Keep the peace.

Those duties carry a wide breadth of responsibilities, nearly all of which were on display in Ferguson, Mo., this week.

There’s certainly nothing in a a police training manual that describes how to placate a community dealing with 150 years of racial tension. There’s nothing that allows officers to undo the misdeeds of one of their coworkers; nothing they can do to take back the words of an incompetent police chief.

The law enforcement community, and every decision making community, could use a healthy dose of creativity to stoke a depreciating set of problem-solving skills.

Creativity has a connotation of being unconventional or unorthodox or down right rebellious. Instead, creativity is purely the process of finding something else, exactly what Ferguson needs right now. Something else. Anything else.

Creativity can mean resourcefulness or utilitarianism. It can mean brains or brawn. It can be a combination of any or all of the above.

As a society, we ask law enforcement officers to handle our toughest situations and to do it in the public eye, knowing their every move will be evaluated ex post facto.

It’s our society’s civic duty to examine our own methods of decision making and the processes we use to solve problems. What defines our “common sense?” What can we do to be better citizens and neighbors?

I’m not asking for forgiveness for Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson a week ago, or for the officers who trampled and assaulted citizens’ first amendment rights.

I am, however, asking for patience and understanding. None of those officers want to see teens dead. None of them want looting or violence or racial tension for that matter. Do you? The men and women we ask to patrol our streets are people too. They’re tasked with handling a wholly uncomfortable situation on their own on the fly.

In Ferguson, is an overreactive police force representative of its community? Is a militarized force indicative of a dangerous environment? I don’t have answers to those questions. But I can tell you what’s been and being done to quell unrest in Ferguson is and has been unsuccessful, even when Gov. Jay Nixon stepped in to impose a curfew.

It’s time to go back to the drawing board in Ferguson and for government and community leaders to get creative to restore calm.

Were tear gas and a curfew really the best Missouri officials could come up with to keep looters off the streets?

We should reward the creative thought process and instill it in those we ask to solve our problems: from Little League coaches to parents to police officers.

Maryland police officer Josh Kim drew national acclaim this week when he kept a man from jumping off Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge on I-95. Kim harkened back to his high school football days to keep the man from taking his own life.

He threw his weight at the man’s knees like a linebacker stuffing a ball carrier at the line of scrimmage to gain leverage and keep from being hoisted over the barricade too.

“I had six months of police training, but they can’t give you every scenario,” Kim told The Washington Post.

The law enforcement community calls Kim’s creativity going above and beyond the call of duty. What if that conduct were standard protocol?

What if officers carried that same fast-acting resourcefulness and problem solving skill just like their holstered gun? What if Darren Wilson hadn’t been so quick to the trigger? What if Jay Nixon and his law enforcement staff had shown more compassion and restraint?

It’s ironic that at his death, Michael Brown was a day away from beginning community college, an academic regimen designed to help teenagers solve problems like mature adults.

The question now: How should adults solve problems?

Brown’s death is so momentous because it presents an allegory for so many of our social ills and our inability to cure them. We’re addicted to convention and protocol that are no longer effective.

It’s time to step outside our comfort zone. We’re best as a society and a government when we think, when we tinker and when we thoroughly examine our problems and the resources we have to solve them.

It’s time we go find the solutions.


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