On the morning of Jan. 6, WBEZ radio reported that two New York City police officers had been shot while responding to a robbery. The newscaster added a reference to the killing of the two New York City  police officers, Officer Wenjian Liu and Officer Rafael Ramos, on Dec. 21, 2014, by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, and in so doing suggested that the shooting of the officers by robbers was part of the conspiracy against police officers. Other newscasters did the same.

Consider the source. 

It seems that today’s newscasters are focused more on sensationalizing incidents and getting people “worked up” than just reporting the facts. Mr. Brinsley, a mentally unstable man, shot his on-and-off girlfriend in Baltimore before driving to NYC and shooting the officers, a fact that received little commentary but certainly reflected the mental state of Mr. Brinsley.

The killing of Officer Liu and Officer Ramos, who were just sitting in a squad car, was painful, frightening and senseless. Family members of Mr. Brinsley talked about his history of criminal behavior and mental instability and their inability to get help for him, a familiar lamentation about someone who commits a heinous crime. It makes one wonder how it is decided if a person is or is not a threat to society and needs to be confined or not.

Although I have no problem with people rallying and marching in support of police officers, I was irritated that newscasters and others chose to present the police-support rallies as protests against the rallies opposing police brutality and an unfair justice system because they felt the anti-police brutality rallies were to blame for crimes against police officers. Even the Reverend Al Sharpton, a prominent leader of the anti-police-brutality-and-unfair-justice-system rallies, stated that “…we do not believe that all police are bad, in fact we have stressed that most police are not bad.” (New York Observer)

It is presumed that the police officers who killed or participated in the killing of the two black men – Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9 and Eric Garner on Staten Island on July 17, 2014 – were (are) not mentally unstable and were employed as police officers to “serve and protect.”  Perhaps, the question is “Serve and protect whom?”

Because the justice system (the grand juries in the Brown and Garner cases) failed to indict officers involved in the killing of men of color (not just Brown and Garner), it reinforced the painful history of injustice for people of color in America. I might agree with Rev. Sharpton’s statement about the majority of officers being good officers, but one must remember that police officers obey and answer to a higher power, and I don’t necessarily mean God. Consider the source of guidelines for police behavior: police chiefs, police supervisors, police unions, city/county/state officials and individual personalities.

Jan. 19 is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day to celebrate and commemorate Dr. King’s leadership in the pursuit of equal rights for all Americans.

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...