presented by j:

this will be a long one. it has to be.

i don’t particularly like writing about news-breaking controversial subjects. part of that is fear. i’ve been blessed with a very diverse group of friends in my life and there is an angst of, “if i say this, that person will now think this about me,” or “if i say that, this person will respond this way.” a bigger reason, though, is that the older i get the more aware i am that i don’t know everything. (shocking, right?)

after all, social media has completely changed the ways in which news is communicated. (you’re welcome for that wholly un-original thought.) we’re able to technically “know” more and “know” quicker than ever in the history of mankind, but there’s also a lot less accountability in what is being made “known” because anyone and their dog can dip their hand into this big electronic bowl of “knowledge.” and anyone can leave their two-cent comment as anonymously (or not) as they choose with very little consequence.

one of the biggest problems with this, as other commentaries have already pointed out, is how quickly people jump to conclusions regardless of their pre-established viewpoints. the other big problem is the sharing and sharing and sharing of posts that only reflect the viewpoint that individual already holds, rather than a willingness to listen to someone else’s side or story. and that transcends more than the McKinney pool party.

i’m one of those weirdos who likes to take in all sides, even if i know from the article title that i’m going to grossly disagree with the poster. but i also try to have patience to glean the facts from the passion – something difficult to do in this day and age.

and so, a week after the McKinney pool party incident, i find myself with this:

FACTS
1. A verbal and physical altercation broke out during a pool party in Craig Ranch between a white adult, a young black adult, and a white teenager. Most of the attendees of the party were teenagers.
2. McKinney PD responded and, due to the size of the crowd, needed backup
3. Twelve MPD officers were present to bring the location back into control and investigate.
4. Upon arrival of backup, many party attendees fled.
5. One officer, Eric Casebolt, was caught on film during this incident. During this seven minutes of video, he can be seen/heard cursing and yelling at teenagers, giving instructions to stay put to those involved, and now infamously, forcing a teenage girl in a bikini down to the ground and then restraining her by kneeling on top of her back.
6. Casebolt can also be seen in the video to take hold of his sidearm when two teenage boys try to intervene in the above-mentioned moment, point the sidearm in their direction, and then re-holster the weapon after they have run off and after two other officers come over to assist.
7. The teenage girl is black.
8. Casebolt is white.
9. Casebolt has resigned his position as a result of this incident and has admitted to letting his emotions get the best of him after a difficult day on the job.

regardless of where you stand, i hope you can agree with all of the above facts, as i’ve tried to write them sans emotion.

now onto trickier items: the probables. i won’t go into all of them or else this would never end. but there’s lots of things that are probably true but can’t necessarily be proven as fact:

1. Craig Ranch, from accounts, appears to be a pretty diverse neighborhood.
2. Many of the party attendees were probably not residents of Craig Ranch, some probably were.
3. Teenagers, expecting to enjoy a pool party, probably ignored security/rules/authority figures present during the party.
4. The party probably became unruly and out of control due to the amount of people and the fact that, well, it was a crowd of teenagers excited about the start of their summer.
5. The HOA was probably not properly contacted about the use of the pool for a party.
6. Though hard to tell because it happens so fast, Casebolt probably does not have his finger on the firearm’s trigger.

yet trickier:

ACCUSATIONS
1. Racial slurs were used in the inciting fight.
2. The teenagers are to blame for the whole incident even happening.
3. The call to PD was racially motivated.
4. Casebolt had no right to pull his gun.
5. The teenager(s) shouldn’t have been mouthing off, should have respected authority, etc.
6. If the teenage girl had just listened to instructions, she wouldn’t have ended up on the ground, so it’s her fault really.
5. Casebolt’s rough treatment of the teenage girl and his gun-pulling were abuses of police power and racially-motivated.

i personally am still faced with a lot of questions that hopefully will be answered: who started the inciting fight? why did a grown woman feel it was necessary to engage in an argument with much-younger people instead of doing the grown up thing and just walking away/calling the authorities? why did the other two officers run over after the gun-pulling? was it to help out in the situation or because they were worried what Casebolt would do? why did Casebolt have to use so much profanity and yelling in the situation? are there any adults out there who never did anything they regret/anything disobedient in their teenage years? (i’d love to meet you if so.) is it possible to have respect and honor for police in general and yet disagree with the actions of individual policemen?

and now that i’ve gotten all that out, i can get to the conversation that i see absolutely no one having online or in the news:

when did we start to justify child abuse?

yes, i realize i just lost a lot of people with that. and i know some out there will think this is a huge stretch and possibly stop reading here. but having worked in child welfare for the better part of eight years now, i know child abuse when i see it.

teenagers, lest we forget, are still children, especially in the legal sense. for example, a 17-year-old girl trafficked into a prostitution ring would be considered a victim of child sexual abuse and child prostitution.

some will argue that Casebolt did not physically abuse the teenage girl, but i’m sorry – when a girl is crying out in pain, calling for her mother like that – that’s not an act. others would argue he only took action for the sake of safety. but, again, i’m sorry – an unarmed teenage girl in a bikini is not going to be any real threat to the safety of an experienced, strong, armed man.

and physical abuse is not the only form of abuse. there’s also:
-verbal abuse (threatening, cursing at, yelling at, or otherwise berating a child)
-emotional abuse (demeaning a child, in-humane treatment or language)

i know the arguments: “but she was mouthing off! she was refusing to comply with an officer of the law!”

yes, that is true. when did mouthing off become punishable with a physical restraint?

teenagers mouth off. it’s a fact of life. every teen parent knows this. teenagers get in trouble. another fact of life. i mean, think of all the good sitcom moments we would be without if teenagers were perfect.

but according to much of what i’ve seen in social media lately, it’s apparently okay to physically restrain a child for backtalk. it’s apparently okay to verbally abuse children for becoming unruly.
but in my experience of working with teenagers, yelling at them or using profanity at them never led to compliance or mutual respect and understanding. i’ve always stolen had a saying for those who work with/care for foster teens:

Be the thermostat. Not the thermometer.

in other words, regardless of a teenager’s actions, it’s an adult’s job to set the temperature of the situation, to maintain cool and calm no matter what. but if you get amped up to match the teen’s anger/frustration/profanity-spewing, it never ever ever ever ever goes well. the thermometer explodes.

Casebolt, unfortunately for him, became a thermometer. and to be honest, while i am deeply troubled by how he treated that girl, i also feel really, really sorry for him. how many successful cases did he deal with calm and collected? how many other crises did he have to confront that day before being called to that scene? in fact, we now know that he dealt with two suicide attempts earlier in his shift that day – one that ended tragically and one that made him that family’s hero. and now his life will never be the same. and that makes me sad for him.

but the fact remains that if i had ever done with any of my foster teens what Casebolt did, i would have been fired. granted, my job was not as law enforcement, but there are laws that must be applied evenly across society, especially when it relates to children. you don’t get a special pass from child abuse laws because you’re a policeman, teacher, Senator, minister, janitor, or Fill in the Blank.

some may argue i don’t know what i would do in a situation like that. well, yes, actually i do, because i’ve had to restrain a black teenager attacking another child – not just mouthing off. and when a regular restraint failed because he bit me and broke the skin, only then was i forced to take him down to the ground. once he was calm about 1-2 minutes later, i was able to release him. i had to go to the ER for the bite i sustained and thankfully, with an antibiotic and a bandage, i was fine.

so i guess my real problem is that no side in this debate is talking about child abuse. there’s lots of talk about black rights, police rights, but i’ve yet to read a sentence about child rights.

what happened in Craig Ranch revealed a lot about how our culture feels about children:
1. my child’s safety is more important than someone else’s child’s safety
2. teenagers do not have a fully human status. they’re not children. they’re not adults. they are an “other”
3. it’s acceptable to make a child more accountable for their mistake than an adult for their mistake (hence, the “blame the teens” argument)

the activists on both sides appear to be blind and silent on this issue, and i can’t figure out why. do we need to actively fight racism in all its forms? yes. do we need to honor and respect and support our brave men and women in law enforcement? yes. do we all need to show a bit more grace to each other? yes, yes, yes.

stereotyping teens (black or white or purple) as thugs and trouble-mongers robs them of their humanity and distracts from the fact that they are someone’s child – and maybe they need more community support and guidance. stereotyping all cops as perfect beacons of conduct distracts from the fact that any of us can make a mistake that ruins our – or someone else’s – life forever. stereotyping all cops as racist power hoarders distracts from the fact that it’s a thankless job that most of us don’t have to think about much if they’re doing their job well.

in the end, Solomon’s words ring true:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman
(or policeman) stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children (yours or someone else’s) are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Ps. 127:1-3)
oh that we would remember and believe those words.

*while i could go on for another book and a half on the race issues inherent in this type of situation, i don’t want to distract from the issue of child abuse in this post. but becoming the father of a child with different colored skin than mine has opened up my eyes and heart to a lot of things – things that make my heart ache and break for my black and Asian and Hispanic neighbors. i strongly recommend John Piper’s book Bloodlines for perspective on black-white tensions that persist.
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