Former detective defends cops in heated clash: ‘I’m looking at a trail of dead black people’

A CNN debate over police devolved into a shouting match Tuesday night when political commentator Marc Lamont Hill went up against a retired New York City police detective – and tried to overpower logic with emotion.

Hill’s match-up with former Detective Harry Houck started over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man in Baltimore who died last week of still-unexplained spinal cord injuries suffered while in police custody.

But the argument spread quickly to cover the current controversy over allegations of widespread police brutality against black men. Hill maintained the Baltimore case – where six officers have been suspended – is just the latest evidence of police violence against blacks .

“I’m looking at a trail of dead black people at the hands of law enforcement!” Hill exclaimed at one point.

Houck’s argument was based more on facts than feelings. He pointed out repeatedly that Hill was choosing facts to fit the premise of his argument, not drawing a conclusion from evidence as it appears.

White police officers don’t have more contact with blacks because they’re racists, he said. It’s because of their job.

“Who commits most of the crimes in New York City?” he asked.

Hill didn’t want to hear it – and even brought out the tired “hands up” argument, the “don’t shoot” hoax that starrted in Ferguson, Mo., last fall.

“If every black person in America committed a crime, they still shouldn’t be murdered by police with their hands up,” he said.

But Houck had the numbers on his side.

“There are far more instances where white officers are involved with black criminals, that’s why the numbers are so high,” he said. “They’re not out there murdering people like you said.”

And that’s the thing. Talking heads like Hill – or opportunists like Al Sharpton, or politicians like President Obama — can milk an individual tragedy like the Michael Brown shooting or Eric Garner case for personal gain, but what they end up doing is numbing the rest of America to indifference.

If black activists are puzzled when a genuine case like the police shooting of an apparently innocent man – the recorded shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. – doesn’t draw the outrage they expect, they can ask themselves who’s to blame.

And talking heads like Hill.


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