"Support Darren Wilson," these three words emblazoned at the top of the GoFundMe website in support of the Ferguson, Missouri cop that gunned down Michael Brown said it all. In the span of less than 48 hours, nearly 5000 donations were received, and the site got tens of thousands of Facebook looks and tweets. The beleaguered fund sponsors pleaded to be patient that they'd try to respond to the mountains of emails that poured in in support of Wilson. The funders announced triumphantly that they'd raised three times more than their funding goal.
This was no surprise. The instant Wilson was fingered as the shooter of Brown, the money train rolled into high gear complete with rallies, counter demonstrations, badge-signing parties, and pitches to Americans to flash blue lights on their front porches backing Wilson. The Wilson tout was a virtual carbon copy of the campaign two years ago to rally round Trayvon Martin killer, George Zimmerman. He begged, scammed, and conned his way to soaking thousands of donors out of cash to bankroll his defense and much more. But as with Wilson, no one squawked about the funds, or much bothered to ask just where the money was going and for what. It didn't really matter. With Wilson as with Zimmerman, the money is not the issue or concern. It's the men and their action, and their victim that drive the zeal. The Zimmerman funders were unabashed in cheering him on. They railed that he, not Martin, was the victim of public and media bias and deserved all the support he could get. The sentiment is no different for Wilson from his legion of cheerleaders.
The mix of fear, loathing, and unreconstructed bigotry, are certainly elements in the financial and moral circle the wagons boost of Wilson. But there's more to it than that. A HuffPost/YouGov poll on public attitudes toward the GI Joe, heavy-handed police action in Ferguson found that less than 40 percent of whites said that police use lethal force too frequently and only 40 percent of whites said they did not trust the justice system to investigate police killings. Blacks expressed far less trust of the justice system and support of the use of lethal force. Despite the not surprisingly greater skepticism among blacks about police killings and the fairness of the justice system, public attitudes toward the police are a far different matter. In a Gallup survey that measured overall confidence in police, the police topped out among the three highest-rated institutions out of 17 tested in terms of whites' confidence, behind only the military and small business. Among blacks, confidence in the police, though lower on the scale, still ranked seventh on the list.
In the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, support for the police soared. Big and small municipal police departments were egged on by a compliant Congress that passed section 1033 of the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act and with grants from the Department of Homeland Security grabbed at the Pentagon's give away of a dizzying array of battle field weapons, armor and vehicles. Civil libertarians frantically sounded the alarm that the rush to boost police firepower ignited a frightening expansion of virtually unchecked police power in which law enforcement agencies under the guise of fighting terrorism had an intrusive license to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens, target U.S. citizens, arrest witnesses for recording police actions, use GPS to track your every move, and use surveillance drones for domestic spying. Aside from the protest of the civil liberties and civil rights groups, and some congressional Democrats, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, there has been no mass outcry against any of these national security state measures.
The longstanding police love fest is nowhere more evident than in the near impossibility of convicting cops that overuse deadly force. On the rare occasions that charges are brought against officers for deadly force, juries are loath to convict. Despite overwhelming evidence that police do profile minorities, lie, cheat, and even commit crimes, jurors still are far more likely to believe the testimony of police and prosecution witnesses than witnesses, defendants, or even the victims, especially minority victims.
This is not solely a product of the deep-seated conditioning of the public to respect and even revere authority in order to maintain a lawful and orderly society. Generations have firmly believed that police are the solid line between peace and anarchy in society and anything less than iron-clad public and institutional allegiance to that authority is fraught with peril. To those critics who question that authority, police officials have a standard retort: When your house is broken into or you are the victim of a mugger, who do you call?
Wilson is the beneficiary of the aura of tradition, respect, and dependence that the police engender in Americans. This ensures that the men and women like him that horribly abuse their authority will always have the cheers of countless numbers.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.