The shooting of St. Louis police officer Norvelle Brown last week and the arrest today of those allegedly involved in his death is a tragic, graphic — and, ultimately, accurate illustration of life in some urban neighborhoods. Three young men who should have been somewhere else, with two guns they should never have had, encountered a young St. Louis police officer who was doing exactly what he should have been doing. In a few seconds that will be examined and re-examined by their families, friends, lawyers, and, likely, jurors, four lives were changed forever.
There’s plenty for a City and its residents to think about.
There’s too many guns out there. Too many young men and women have too little preparation for the lives we expect them to lead. Too few parents know or care where their children are at night. There’s not enough hope and too few economic opportunities to go around. Apathy and fear hinder many attempts to make neighborhoods better and safer.
But there’s also Norvelle Brown, from the very same neighborhoods, who graduated from high school and earned a badge and a good job patrolling by his own choice the streets on which he was raised. And those people involved in his killing were quickly identified by an outraged community and taken into police custody. Norvelle Brown himself spent part of his free time coaching and mentoring other young people from the neighborhoods who will also graduate from high school and go on to productive careers and lives as good parents. And hundreds of other men and women like Norvelle Brown do the same things.
What decision put four young lives into the same alley — with guns that night, instead of into a gym or a library? Whatever it was, we all need to do some things very differently in the future. Let’s take every opportunity to get guns off our streets; let’s spare no effort to improve schools for our kids or to involve more parents in their children’s lives; let’s identify more and better economic opportunities for City residents; and let’s nurture the strong, swift community resolve against criminal behavior that Officer Brown’s death engendered.
If we do not, then nothing changes — and life will stay the same.