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Let’s not jump to conclusions

The headlines from this past week were pretty amazing. It was easy to start wondering: Is this really happening here? Is this Natchez?

The biggest story seemed foreign, almost as if we were reading some kind of Hollywood script.

Two Natchez police officers charged with not only breaking the law, but also doing so in a way that, if proven true, is particularly calculated and disgusting.

The two officers involved are charged separately for their involvement in the same incident.

As the cases are shaken out, the details will vary, I’m sure from the prosecution side of the table to the defense side.

But most of what we know comes in the form of the prosecution’s allegations.

One officer is charged with violating the constitutional rights of arrested men by allegedly beating them while they were in custody.

The other officer faces similar civil rights charges because he allegedly did nothing to stop the first officer.

Both men are accused of later lying to federal investigators.

One of the officers is accused of conspiracy to steal one of the arrested individual’s credit cards.

Again, these guys are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That’s our system of government, and I’m glad that’s our system.

But when such cases occur, it’s human nature to try to make sense of these things by categorizing types of people.

Quickly critics come out of the woodwork and start spinning a few beliefs into generalized “facts.”

In just hours after the charges against the two officers came public two “camps” began to form.

The first were the ones who tried to make this a racial issue. I believe both officers are black and their victims are white.

Nothing in the charges alleged so far indicate any sort of racial tinge to this case. The only thing that seems to have fueled this is that the federal charges involve violating the civil rights of an individual. Civil rights by their nature, however, do not necessarily mean race is a factor.

People of the same race can violate one another’s civil rights.

The other generalization made by some is that because two Natchez Police officers are accused of doing something wrong, they must be guilty and, taking it another step, the rest of the police force is corrupt, too.

That’s a ludicrous jump, but one that dozens, if not hundreds, of people made after the news of the allegations hit the streets.

It’s human nature to try and understand things, particularly troublesome things, but making such great leaps does no one any good.

The great majority of law enforcement officers are good folks, whose hearts are in the right place and who will always work hard to do the right thing.

If a few officers are ultimately proven to be thugs, our community’s perception of local law enforcement should not change.

If a larger problem and conspiracy to cover up that problem comes to light, then all involved should be dismissed and we should rebuild the department from the ground up.

In the meantime, all we’ve heard is the accusation side of this. Let’s not jump to conclusions, but simply handle this as it comes.

Perhaps rather than trying to apply our own understanding, we should remind ourselves that no one is perfect and let the earthly judicial system take its course.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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