On Tuesday, Aug. 20, during the evening protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown Jr., a publicly released video shows an unidentified police officer pointing a semi-automatic rifle at an attending peaceful protester, while shouting: "I'll kill you." In the released video shot on what seemed to be the most peaceful night since the protests began, the voice of another peaceful protester is heard saying, "Did you threaten to kill him?" a question the accused officer never answered. The officer was then asked for his name, to which he thunderously replied: "Go f--k yourself."
The semi-automatic rifle wielding police officer originally from St. Ann, Missouri "has been relieved of duty and suspended indefinitely," said a spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police Department -- the official public announcement was made on Wednesday, Aug, 21. Knowledge of whether the officer was suspended with or without pay, is not known.
The protests began on Saturday, Aug, 9, the same day the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Since the protests began, clashes between police and protesters escalated beyond control as the areas of protests resembled a war zone between law enforcement and civilians. For eleven days straight police in military gear, armed with semi-automatic rifles and weaponized military vehicles were dispatched into the streets of Ferguson.
Protests during the day seemed peaceful and without incident, however, once night fell, rubber bullets, smoke bombs and tear gas were launched into the crowd who chanted the now popular saying "Hands up, don't shoot!" -- a saying which derived from eye-witness accounts claiming that Michael Brown Jr. had his hands up in the air when officer Darren Wilson shot him to death.
The town of Ferguson, where 67 percent of the majority population are black, has 53 police officers -- 50 are white and only three are black -- a statistic which has further increased tension between the police and its residents. The Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson and Mayor James Knowles, both admit to the disparity, but have expressed to reporters that Ferguson's young African-Americans don't seem to have an interest in law enforcement, or becoming police officers.
"We hire everyone that we can get. There's also the problem that a lot of young African-American people don't want to go into law enforcement," says Mayor Knowles.
Although the ongoing protests of the Michael Brown Jr. shooting suggests that it was a racially motivated incident against the black community -- a simple Youtube search on police brutality renders countless real-life videos of unprovoked police brutality and shootings, showing not only black victims, but also whites and Hispanics.
Ensuring the safety of law-abiding citizens regardless of race, against the rising issue of police brutality and senseless killings of innocent civilians, should be a top priority in all of the United States. Perhaps it's time for state governments in conjunction with the federal government to rethink and focus their police law enforcement training strategies on not only physical and weapons training, but also on psychological training.