Three Cheers for Full Disclosure

In the wake of last Saturday’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there have been repeated demands for the release of the name of the police officer who fatally shot the unarmed man. 

No investigation of the shooting has taken place, and there are wildly differing eyewitness accounts of exactly how the tragic incident unfolded. In other words, as of this moment only two people on Earth know exactly what happened that day. One of them is dead, and the other has been placed on administrative leave and has yet to make a public statement.

But now, in the face of considerable public outcry, the name of the officer involved has been released. Thanks to the Internet, knowing a person’s name and the general vicinity in which they reside, anyone with a computer can find out where the person lives, their place of employment, the names of their family members, and, if they’re willing to work a little harder, their Social Security number, credit card information, and the PIN code for their ATM card. 

So I take the officials in Ferguson who decided to yield to public pressure and release the officer’s name figured, “Look, this is a racially charged case in which an unarmed black man was killed by a white cop under circumstances yet to be determined. National media attention, almost universally sympathetic to the victim, has been wall-to-wall, 24-7 since the shooting. Riots, looting, and additional altercations between police and the public have taken place, including some 50 arrests. So, let’s go ahead and release the cop’s name-- hey, what could go wrong?” 

Those demanding the release of the officer’s name cited concerns such as “transparency” and “full disclosure.” (Ironic, as most of them are also passionate defenders of the Obama administration. Now that’s funny.) 

So here’s my question to those of you who demanded to know the officer’s name: what useful, specific purpose would be served by the release of that information? My question to those who released the information is, what would you have us do with this information? 

I have an idea. Maybe the people demanding the officer’s name wanted to find his address so they could send him congratulatory fruits baskets, or muffins, or a Pepperidge Farms sampler pack to thank him for risking his life to keep their community safe. Or, wait a minute -- what am I, nuts? Cupcakes! Cupcakes are so in right now! Or maybe an Edible Fruit arrangement. Yeah, the fruit’s a little brown by the time you get it but, you know, healthy, right? Because if there’s one thing you can count on it’s that the people demanding the name of the officer involved in this case are deeply concerned about his health. 

Something similar happened after the Trayvon Martin incident. In case you missed it (I’m pretty sure it made all the papers), on a dark, rainy Florida night in 2012 Trayvon Martin was seated on the chest of a neighborhood watch volunteer (George Zimmerman) he had sucker-punched and knocked to the ground. Martin was alternately pummeling Zimmerman’s face (breaking his nose) and smashing his head into the pavement (based on the physical evidence) when Zimmerman, fearing for his life, pulled a small-caliber pistol from his belt and fatally shot Zimmerman. After a lengthy investigation, a jury of Zimmerman’s peers ruled that the fatal shooting was a legal and justifiable act of self-defense. 

Anyway, during the trial director Spike Lee was so psyched to meet Zimmerman, possibly in hopes of making a movie about the case, or maybe just having a beer with the guy, that he posted what he thought (incorrectly) was Zimmerman’s address on the Internet. It turned out to be the address of an elderly couple who had no connection to the case and, oddly enough, received numerous death threats. Hmmm, that’s weird. 

Anyway, thanks God comedienne Roseanne Barr found the real George Zimmerman’s address and posted that on the Internet, a worldwide source of information to anyone with access to a computer or even a smart phone so that they could all send George Zimmerman fruit baskets, muffins, edible arrangements, or, hey, just show up at his house with balloons, a marching band, clowns, a couple of six-foot party subs, and a case or two of beer and have a PARTAY! You know, to congratulate Zimmerman on his efforts to keep his community safe and see how he was recovering from his injuries. 

Now that the name of the Ferguson officer’s identity has been established, he’s just a few clicks away from receiving the messages of support and comfort he needs at a time like this. Then again, the next random nut ball who’s decided, thanks to the court of TMZ and MSNBC, that the officer in question is a murderer, he might want to prepare himself for visitors with an entirely different agenda.


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