When Ethics Becomes Impossible: Captain Johnson’s Ferguson “Solution”

Ron Johnson

Yesterday,  Ferguson, Missouri’s newly appointed police commander, Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, walked with those protesting the shooting of African American teenager Michael Brown.The police shooting in Ferguson this week and its aftermath became an instant Ethics Train Wreck, its carnage seeded by tragedy, local tensions, growing distrust of police nationwide, worsening race relations exacerbated by Democrats and the media resorting to race-baiting to stifle criticism of the Obama administration, as well as such episodes as Occupy confrontations with police in Oakland and the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman fiasco.

Johnson’s actions calmed what had been escalating violence, with community protests spilling over into looting, irresponsible and inflammatory statements being made by both police and protesters, and an excessive, military-style response by St.Louis police that treated sometimes over-enthusiastic demonstrating as if it was Rodney King-style rioting. What Johnson did worked, in other words, and that’s both the best and the worst that can be said about it. Ethically, it was the best available option. When a situation reaches the ethics chaos stage that Ferguson has, however, this is rough utilitarianism at best. Continue reading