Robert Ehlert: We need to restore our faith and patience in justice

Wait for it ... justice.

Can we? Haave we lost or misplaced our patience for justice? I hope not. A nation that can’t give justice the time of day threatens our future more than any chaos created by angry, looting, pointless mob actions in American cities: Baltimore, Ferguson, Tulsa or New York. At these and other cities it looks like justice itself is on trial.

Before justice has a chance to play out after some tragic confrontation between police and citizens, the default seems to be to light our cities on fire and mix it up with law enforcement.

Some of us don’t seem to have the poise and patience to wait for one of the basic benefits in our freedom package: justice. For much of the day Thursday, Baltimore was on edge expecting answers because somebody made the mistake of guessing that all that needed to be known in the tragic death of Freddie Gray would be known and shared today, May 1. Instead, the Baltimore P.D. just simply turned over its investigation to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby. “We ask for the public to remain patient and peaceful and to trust the process of the justice system,” Mosby said.

If we learned anything from Ferguson it is you can’t put justice on a schedule. All levels of law enforcement right up to the Department of Justice were in Missouri seeking the truth, and the final summations did not come in days, or even weeks. It took months of patience.

Martin Luther King Jr. had more than a dream. He had a sense of justice and the patience to wait on it. Was there anybody more long suffering, more often denied, more often betrayed by the principle of justice — which he held up above even his own life? Justice guided him as injustice stalked him.

I just returned from several days in Brooklyn, N.Y., and I twice passed through the intersection at Myrtle and Tompkins in what is known as the Bed-Stuy district. That corner is haunted by the Dec. 3 daytime assassination of two NYPD officers murdered by a deranged man who later took his own life in a subway station. His motive is linked to social media posts about Michael Brown (Ferguson) and Eric Garner (New York), who were killed after altercations with police: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours ... let’s take 2 of theirs.” Nearly 100 Baltimore police officers have been injured since Monday during the unrest.

Too many American cities have a terrible problem with race relations and policing. Too many Americans are taking justice into their own hands in the immediate hours that follow what has been a mind-boggling string of incidents pitting police against people of color.

Idaho and every other state, Boise and every other city, have an object lesson to learn before such trouble visits them — or before summer travels take us to places where it already has: Justice must be given time, justice must be transparent, and then justice must prevail. No matter how obvious or stacked the evidence — no matter what so-called “eyewitnesses” say during cable TV interviews — we have to place our trust in those with access to the whole body of evidence. And we must stand together to decry and thwart the injustice that tries to take control.

Wait for justice? Yes, but that is only the beginning.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman’s editorial page editor. Reach him at 377-6437 or follow @IDS_HelloIdaho.