The turmoil in the 21,000-resident town of Ferguson, Mo., just outside St. Louis, has captured national attention, in no small part because of the way the police have reacted to the shooting death of an unarmed black man.
It remains to be seen whether the officer shot because the 18-year-old did something that made him fear for his life, or whether he overreacted and fired at the young man, striking him multiple times. What is clear, however, is the reaction by police in the aftermath has made matters worse.
It also raised questions across the country about whether other departments, especially in areas where race could play a role in the reactions of both sides, are trained, first to avoid such confrontations and second, to respond to a resulting conflagration such as the riots that has torn the town and its residents apart.
In the interest of full disclosure, Ferguson is where I lived for a significant part of my youth, and was among the police departments I covered as a reporter in St. Louis during the late 1980s. So I have been avidly following developments, as a journalist and as a townie.
I assigned reporter Tonya Root to contact area departments for information on their training for first preventing such disasters, and for responding to them. It seems like an important question for an area grappling with a situation on Memorial Day that easily could have evolved into something resembling a riot that left many more injured or worse.
We get why police officers don’t want to criticize their colleagues on the so-called Thin Blue Line, but one would think they would want to share the efforts they take to ensure that such things don’t happen here. We weren’t asking them to share policing strategies, just to share their policies and training levels with those they have sworn to serve and protect.
Horry County Police spokesman Lt. Robert Kegler said he couldn’t go into specifics about department policies. Capt. Saundra Rhodes declined to comment. Myrtle Beach also didn’t have anyone available who could comment, but we hope they will share their thinking and approach in the future. Residents deserve to know.
Welcome and welcome back
I hope you saw the report Saturday on U.S. Rep. Tom Rice and his lawsuit against Pres. Obama, and the one on Monday that detailed how the immigration battle is affected farmers in South Carolina.
Both were reported and written by Ali Watkins, the newest member of McClatchy’s Washington Bureau and the reporter assigned to cover the impact of politics in D.C. on the people of S.C.
Note that she may be new to the beat, but she’s has already had her introduction to politics: As a 22-year-old senior in Temple University’s journalism program, and a freelancer for McClatchy, she got a tip about the CIA spying on the U.S. Senate. Working with other reporters, the bureau was able to break that story.
We welcome Ali to our long-distance reporting team and can’t wait to see what she does next. We also welcome columnist Issac Bailey back from his sojourn as a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. He’s been submitting columns to us since earlier this summer, but he’s officially back in the house and we were delighted to welcome him back with red velvet cupcakes.
Callers and commenters have rightly questioned whether we have abandoned our policy of requiring names on all letters to the editor. Let me set the record straight. We have not.
But we have been training new staffers on designing the Opinion pages, which means in some cases the names have been inadvertently omitted. For example, the Sunday essay on Hamas and Gaze should have said it was by James Mackay. When bylines are omitted online, the blame falls on my shoulders. Our system requires special coding to make sure they appear and, well, I sometimes fail to code them correctly.
Bylines or not, we appreciate your readership and value your feedback about our coverage.