In re Michael Brown and Eric Garner

In the wake of the two black deaths above, relations between American police and African-Americans have plummeted to a new low -- in part because of anti-police rhetoric from the likes of far-Leftist Bill de Blasio.  De Blasio has since tried to pull his horns in but the damage has been done.

Conservatives have cautiously exonerated the police involved in the deaths above but blacks have become fired up by the Leftist pot-stirring and two NYC police have now died as a result.  So I feel moved to say what little I can that might help the situation.

What I want to do here is to offer a couple of anecdotes in support of the view that civility towards the police will generally engender civility from the police.  When the Ferguson and NYC police were both confronted by two huge and un-co-operative blacks, the result was always going to be perilous but could have been much ameliorated by a more civil response from the blacks concerned.

My contact with American law enforcement is very minor but I do think my contact with the California Highway Patrol -- not exactly a much praised body of men  -- is instructive.  My contact occurred in the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter's reviled 55 mph speed limit still applied on American highways.  I was bowling along a Los Angeles freeway in my hired Ford Pinto at about the speed I would have used in Australia  -- 65 mph.  And I had with me my then-wife, a very fine Scottish woman aptly named "Joy"

A CHP patrol detected me and pulled me over.  The trooper approached me very cautiously, sticking close to the side of the Pinto and standing behind me instead of beside me.  He was obviously very tense.  But when he found that I was unaggressive and perfectly civil to him, he untensed rapidly.  The fact that I speak with an accent that Americans usually perceive as British may also have helped.  It helped explain my unawareness of California rules.  (For the phoneticans, my accent is Educated Australian).  We had a perfectly genial conversation at the end of which he waved me on my way without even giving me a ticket.

White privilege?  Not exactly.  Because something similar happened recently to me where I live in Brisbane, Australia -- a place where blacks are too few to influence policy.

I was approached by a Queensland cop when I had unwittingly made an illegal turn.  And Queensland cops are not exactly fragrant.  There are many bad apples among them.  Even the police Commissioner was sent to jail for corruption not long ago.

So the cop was initially brusque and supercilious with me.  When I showed that I was listening to him carefully by asking him to repeat something I had not understood, however, he became much more relaxed and we had a fairly genial conversation.  He saw it as his duty to give me a ticket but we ended up with him wishing me a Merry Christmas and pausing other traffic to facilitate my driving off.  Once again a civil and co-operative approach from me got exactly the same back.

These are only anecdotes but I think they feed into a general perception of what might have saved the lives of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  There is an old saying that people are a mirror of ourselves.  There is a lot of truth in it.

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