Earlier today, the chief of the St. Louis County police issued what I think he imagined as a call for sanity:
"I understand that the public has a right to be skeptical, and I appreciate that and I would expect that the public be skeptical oftentimes of government or some forms of it," he said. "But I would also ask the public to be reasonable because it takes a long time to make sure we do this investigation the right way."
It is a curious word, this "reasonable." For many people, and the police chief must know this, it is entirely reasonable to be "skeptical" that an investigation will be performed "the right way." That is especially true in this case. The shooting of an unarmed black teenager is something that until very, very recently, there seemed to be no call on anyone to explain. And even in a post-Trayvon Martin, post-Renisha McBride, post-Eric Garner world, there is a sense that when these things happen, power will close ranks.
You could see it happening already today, actually. Asked by an L.A. Times reporter about the shooting at 2 p.m. this afternoon, the chief apparently said he "planned to identify officer in Michael Brown shooting today, if he can reach the officer to notify him." Michael Brown died on Saturday. Already you can see that they are in no real rush, these police officers, to get to the bottom of what happened.
While they have been dallying, reporters on the scene have managed to dig up a significant accumulation of facts about Brown. For example, that he was reportedly pretty quiet, had plans to go to college, liked to make music.
And here is the last message he left on his Facebook wall, earlier this week:
"if i leave this earth today," he wrote to a friend, "atleast youll know i care about others more then i cared about my damn self."
And here is how the others he cared about learned that he was dead:
They saw photos of him lying in the street on Canfield Drive where his body remained for hours. Some joined the crowds of mourners and protesters who had gathered there since the shooting in protest of how Brown had died: black, unarmed and from multiple gunshots.
Investigations are slow, painstaking things, yes. Reconstruction of events will take a while. But there comes a point where "reasonableness" starts to feel like a cover for something. In this case, already, 48 hours in, it feels like things are moving rather more slowly than they ought to be. The FBI has been brought in to "review" the shooting and look into civil rights violations, which is a good thing.
But expecting people to be "reasonable?" Not this time. Not again.
[Image via AP.]