The thin blue target
There have probably been better times to be a cop, possibly some worse, but has there ever been a more tense and dangerous time than now?
Police are under fire, literally and figuratively, as years of simmering racial tensions have boiled over since the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and subsequent viral videos of shootings of blacks in cities around the country.
Just 10 days after a sniper opened fire and killed five Dallas police officers monitoring a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, a gunman fired on officers Sunday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three and wounding three others. That some of the law enforcement victims were black apparently didn’t matter to the shooters, both cut down by police. What mattered was the color of their uniform.
“I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me,” Montrell Jackson, a black Baton Rouge officer murdered by a former Marine from Missouri, who was also black, wrote in Facebook post just two weeks before his death. “In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”
And now, it seems, there are some who have decided to take what they see as justice into their own hands. The latest spree of violence comes after two highly provocative videos of shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge that have inflamed tensions around the country. Two videos captured the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge earlier this month as he lay on the ground after being subdued by police. Less than 48 hours later, a live Facebook feed by the girlfriend of Philando Castile tracked the aftermath of his fatal shooting after he informed police he was legally carrying a gun as he reached for his wallet.
Both killings and the widely watched videos have riven the nation along political, cultural, and ideological lines, driving wedges between blacks and whites and, more importantly, black and blue. Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump has seized on the issue to tout his “law and order” bona fides while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who has aligned herself more with victims of police violence, called for more dialogue, more training for police, and wider use of body cameras among law enforcement.
Trump has pulled no punches, laying the blame squarely at the feet of President Obama for the increase in police shootings, despite the fact the country’s first black president has repeatedly pleaded for respect for the police and the jobs they do even as he called for an increase in awareness over the concerns of blacks over being profiled.
The shootings have left police in every city on edge, making de-escalation of tensions in the heat of summer a challenge. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans has abandoned single-officer patrols and ordered all police to double up. He also announced a deal with the police union to launch a six-month pilot program to outfit 100 officers with body cameras.
The bigger unsolved issue, though, are the grievances by members of the black community who say police who kill are rarely held accountable and while the vast majority of shootings may be justified, those that are questionable are lumped in with all the others without transparent investigations.
That appears to be the heart of the problem on both sides, making sweeping generalizations where the reality is much harder to pigeonhole. As someone is not a criminal just because of the color of his or her skin, a cop is not a racist – or a killer – just because he or she wears a uniform.
“We’re all dominated by fears and our prejudices,” says Chelsea Whitaker, a former point guard for the Baylor University women’s basketball team and now a black detective in Dallas. “We’ve got to do better. We can’t just jump to ‘What this white person did is racist’ or ‘What this black person did is criminal.'”
Climate activists arrived yesterday at the State House after a 43-mile march to protest plans for a new natural gas pipeline. (Boston Globe)
An affiliate of the Islamic State has compiled and published an apparent hit list that includes 264 mostly rank-and-file government employees in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)
Calling out several of the black leaders who took part, Kevin Peterson says last week’s televised forum on race relations in Boston was a missed opportunity to get beyond the usual airing of grievances. (CommonWealth)
Freshman Boston city councilor Andrea Campbell is reorienting the work of the public safety committee she chairs, beginning by renaming it the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, to emphasize work on prisoner reentry, police-community relations and a broader set of issues related to public safety. (Boston Globe)
East Boston’s longtime community health center finds itself in the middle of a debate about neighborhood gentrification. (Boston Globe)
The Board of Selectmen in Barre cannot conduct any business, including scheduling a special election to fill an open seat, because there is only one member after one selectman was recalled and another resigned under threat of recall; a quorum requires two selectmen. (Telegram & Gazette)
Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party platform both pivot away from the education reform agenda pushed by President Obama and his longtime education secretary, Arne Duncan, as they sound themes friendlier to the teachers unions who have been at odds with the Obama approach. (CommonWealth)
The shunning by top Massachusetts Republicans of the Republican National Convention has turned state Rep. Geoff Diehl of Whitman and other unknowns into Bay State bigshots in Cleveland. (Boston Herald)
Voters are deeply dissatisfied with the two major party choices for president, according to various measures by different polls. (Boston Globe) But they are hardly flocking in large numbers to the Libertarian Party alternative: Joe Battenfeld says the ticket is not gaining much altitude and Bill Weld’s addition to it as Gary Johnson’s vice presidential running mate has landed with a thud. (Boston Herald)
Howie Carr is angry that Charlie Baker is not joining him in Cleveland for Trumpfest. (Boston Herald)
Jeb Bush pens a plea for Republican Party virtue amidst the swamp of Trump. (Washington Post)
The man who who spent 18 months with Trump and ghost wrote his bestselling The Art of the Deal is horrified by his rise, thinks his control of the nuclear codes could very well lead to “the end of civilization,” and says if he were writing the book today he would title it “The Sociopath.” (The New Yorker)
Worcester delegates might want to keep this in mind: The last time a Republican convention was held in Cleveland, in 1936, the Worcester mayor died of a heart attack in his hotel room. (Telegram & Gazette)
Yvonne Abraham wishes one of the qualified candidates might win the low-visibility race for Suffolk County Register of Probate, but fears serial office-seeker Steve Murphy — most recently voted off the Boston city council — has the inside hack track in a contest that will probably turn entirely on name recognition. (Boston Globe)
Proponents from both sides of the marijuana ballot question sat down for a mini-debate and continued the arguments you’ll hear for the next four months: Pot is a gateway drug; no, it isn’t. Legalizing and regulating marijuana will reduce youth access; no, it won’t. (Keller@Large)
The Globe, which is moving its editorial and business operations downtown, has reached an agreement to sell its Morrissey Boulevard plant. (Boston Globe)
A bill pending before the Legislature would give school districts more flexibility to teach English language learners in their native tongue rather than just English immersion programs. (Wicked Local)
A Middleboro guidance counselor and softball coach, who is also the wife of the former school superintendent, has been charged with failing to report a rape and witness intimidation after two students told her they had been sexually assaulted by the same person. (The Enterprise)
The Globe spotlights life along “Methadone Mile,” a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in Boston that is a haven for drug addicts looking for a fix and those looking to shake their habit.
A Globe editorial says the MBTA’s cash counting operation should be outsourced and the T’s pension fund should be folded into the state retirement system as part of efforts to bring efficiency and cost savings to the authority.
More than 100 cities and towns in Massachusetts have imposed water restrictions in the midst of a dry summer that has left water levels far below normal and triggered drought warnings from state officials. (GateHouse News Service)
Plymouth closed its beaches over the weekend after a great white shark was spotted off the shore. (Patriot Ledger)
Monarch butterflies could be a threatened species by 2019 because of a loss of habitat through the use of pesticides that is killing milkweed, which they need to lay their eggs and feed. (Telegram & Gazette)
A 15-year-old boy who mistakenly knocked on the wrong door of a house in Chicopee was allegedly shot and killed through the door by the homeowner, who now faces murder charges. (Boston Herald)MEDIA
Rupert Murdoch’s sons, who have made sweeping changes since being given the reins to run their father’s media empire, have largely left Fox News alone but have now launched an internal investigation in the wake of a sexual harassment suit filed by a former anchor. (New York Times)