Michael Brown was 18 years old, black and unarmed when a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot him to death after a scuffle in the street. The incident has provoked ongoing mass protests, vandalism, and national calls for an independent investigation and higher standards of police accountability.

The police, citing death threats, have refused to release the name of the police officer who shot Brown. The hacker collective Anonymous has promised to discover and make public the officer's identity anyway. I suspect they will succeed (if they haven't already).

General questions for those who have followed this story:

Do you think the shooting was reasonable under the circumstances?
How do you feel about the police?
Do you trust the police? Why or why not?
Who do the police answer to? Who ought the police answer to?
Are police held too accountable, properly accountable or not accountable enough for their actions?

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@Davis - the "objective" measure people are looking for can only take the form of the law, procedures manuals, protocols, etc. all of which, as Belle has so eloquently pointed out, are written for the (almost) sole purpose of protecting and defending the officials, NOT to define reasonable or prudent behaviour, and CERTAINLY not to protect members of the public. 

In NZ every time anyone dies as a result of police actions, a formal inquiry is launched. This is a good start but when any such inquiry must decide whether an action was reasonable based upon these one-sided criteria, it only serves to re-enforce the attitude among police that "dead men can't testify against you".

In any confrontational situation there are a large number of possible actions and outcomes. One of the safest courses, the one with least chance of a negative outcome for police is to kill the suspect dead. This has to change.

If someone is approaching an officer wielding a knife, I doubt if the first thing on the officer's mind is eliminating a witness. It's "How do I end this threat and not get killed?" That is just the human instinct to self preservation.

The protocols exist because we know officers are put in situations where the officer doesn't have the option of sitting down to think it through.

We don't want officers so worried about consequences that they don't draw or use their weapon when they need to.

We have hours, months, and years to second-guess decisions made, sometimes, in a fraction of a second. This is why the police get such latitude in situations like this.

I could also go with "where the officer disregarded proper protocol."

While we don't want to give cops a 007 License to Kill on the one hand, we also don't want them so worried that their actions, even within protocol, could result in criminal prosecution that they don't use their weapon when they should. We also need to bear in mind that we can discuss their decisions on and on for months and years whereas their decisions are often made under great pressure and without time to sit down and think it all through. This is why I think it's enough to give them a protocol and forgive them just about anything as long as it's done within that protocol.

Agree - as long as the protocols are amended to focus on stopping the threat instead of automatically killing the suspect dead.

Every expert who commented on police protocols after the St Louis shooting stressed that when the officer shoots, it's to end the threat not end a life. The thing is, once they let the man get 8 feet away, stopping and killing pretty much became the same thing. Once again, the real mistake was not shooting him sooner when perhaps just one survivable shot might have stopped him.

At the same time, if you'll view the Mythbusters episode Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight, you'll discover how quickly 20 feet can be traversed. (BTW, the episode predates the two shootings so you'll need to bear that in mind.) Even that doesn't allow mucho time to react.

shooting him sooner when perhaps just one survivable shot might have stopped him

Accepted - OR come up with another option entirely. As Belle described CO protocols - they don't even HAVE (immediate) access to guns yet they can neutralize armed threats. 

Mythbusters episode

Again. they didn't consider situations where cops guns were ALREADY drawn.

We have hours, months, and years to second-guess decisions made

Not everyone does. When the suspect is dead, there's little point in second guessing - no one will learn from a killing - least of all the victim.

I have no problem with police officers drawing their weapons or even shooting if they genuinely feel threatened. My problem is the "shoot-to-kill" protocol. Hundreds die every year that don't need to,

no one will learn from a killing

I disagree. Every week a committee meets in most hospitals to discuss deaths, some of them preventable. They do so in order to do better the next time. I'm not sure why the same sort of thing couldn't apply to police actions resulting in death.

I have no problem with police officers drawing their weapons or even shooting if they genuinely feel threatened. My problem is the "shoot-to-kill" protocol. Hundreds die every year that don't need to.

They have protocols to follow in order to minimize acting based on "feeling threatened." The protocols define what constitutes a threat. for example, someone with a knife within 21 feet.

They've already met your requirements.

The protocols define what constitutes a threat

Yep - that may be the problem. Is the protocol, "if he takes one step toward you after being warned, you may "defend" yourself in any way you see fit". If so, something needs to change. People are sick of young black men dying unnecessarily. 

Here's an example of heroic officers saving a man from himself. This is where I worked. Although it is a "jail" it is really more like a mini prison.



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