The facts are always wrong: Val Demings is very impressive.
Today, she's a member of the House, representing Florida's 10th congressional district. Earlier, she was chief of police in Orlando, a major American city located in the South.
We're going to guess that people have always found Val Demings impressive. We get that impression from a story in her column in yesterday's Washington Post:
DEMINGS (6/31/20): I joined the Orlando Police Department when I was 26 years old—a young black woman, fresh out of an early career in social work. I am sure you can imagine the mental and physical stress of the police academy. Not only exams and physical training, but the daily thoughts of, “What am I doing here?” as I looked around and did not see many people who looked like me.Val Demings was 26 in 1983. (Today, she's 63.)
But I made it. I was elected class president and received the Board of Trustees’ Award for overall excellence. I proudly took an oath to the Constitution and to protect and serve. I was on my way to fulfill my dream of “saving the world.” Of course, I went straight to the midnight shift, but I loved the job. I truly felt like I was serving my community, responding to calls from people in distress.
Way back then, she was elected class president at the Orlando police academy. If such assessments were fashionable, that might be seen as a very large sign of progress way back then.
Demings was "a young black woman" in a Southern jurisdiction. Beyond the racial dynamic, she was entering a profession which had always belonged to the men.
She says that when she looked around, she didn't see "many people who looked like [her]." She doesn't say whether that means that there were few black women, or few black recruits at all.
Personally, we aren't fans of that rapidly trending "looks like me" locution. Personally, we think it may be more constructive to say that we all pretty much look alike, what with the two eyes, the nose and the mouth, and the ear on each side of the head.
We think it may be more constructive to emphasize similarity rather than to keep insisting on perceived difference. That doesn't mean that Demings isn't impressive, because she plainly is.
All the way back in 1983, a bunch of guys at the Orlando police academy were willing to notice this fact. If seeing the glass half full was more fashionable today, this might look like a marker of long-ago progress.
That said, current fashion favors seeing the glass as shockingly empty. This leads us to ask if, in one particular matter, Demings has done the right thing.
We refer to a major break from tradition which has been occurring in the past week. That break from tradition can perhaps be seen in this part of Demings' thoroughly sensible column:
DEMINGS: My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved ones. But we must also offer justice through full and swift accountability—not just for their loved one, but for the future.Four officers came to the scene last week when a clerk called police accusing George Floyd of a (possible) crime. One of the four, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with murder and manslaughter.
In Minnesota, we have no choice but to hold the officers accountable through the criminal-justice system. But we cannot only be reactive. We must be proactive. We must work with law enforcement agencies to identify problems before they happen.
As law enforcement officers, we took an oath to protect and serve. And those who forgot—or who never understood that oath in the first place—must go. That includes those who would stand by as they witness misconduct by a fellow officer.
That's where the break with tradition starts coming in.
From Governor Walz on down, has any official in the state of Minnesota not prejudged this criminal case? Starting with Governor Walz, we've seen one office-holder after another announce that George Floyd's death was a murder, full stop, with no possible need for "alleged."
In that way, these officials have broken with two long traditions. They've broken with the presumption of innocence, and they've broken with the insistence that public officials not make public statements prejudging a criminal case.
We were once shocked when Nixon did that. This past week, everyone has.
Has Demings broken with that tradition when she says that we should hold the officers (plural) "accountable through the criminal-justice system?" Beyond that, did she recommend, in the passage we've posted, that all four officers should be charged with crimes, not just the current one?
Judgments on those questions may differ. But given the current state of play, it's hard to imagine any politician arguing for the older way, in which office holders were never supposed to prejudge criminal cases.
Did Rep. Demings prejudge the case against the other three officers? If she has, could that mean that she has failed to do the right thing?
On those questions, opinions will differ. That said, we the people have been howling for the necks of the three officers who haven't yet been charged with a crime.
Full disclosure! It doesn't seem obvious to us that the other three officers should be charged with a crime. One thing does seem perfectly clear:
As we the people continue to howl, it's unlikely that you will ever see a serious discussion of that question. Or of anything else, of course!
Tomorrow morning, we're going to take you through the official document in which Chauvin was charged with murder and manslaughter (the "statement of probable cause"). We're going to guess that you might be surprised by some of what that document says.
We'll start with a statement Chris Wallace made on yesterday's Fox News Sunday. He joined the mob that's out for blood—and as he did, it seemed quite clear that he hadn't yet read the official criminal complaint.
Do you watch CNN or MSNBC? If so, you heard accounts of this case, all last week, which are contradicted by statements made in that official complaint.
These contradictions don't come from Chauvin's defense attorney; they come from the man who has charged him with murder. When we read that official document, we were surprised—but in another way, not surprised—by some of the things we read.
The facts you're handed are always wrong. It's been this way for years.
Also, this statement by Demings: We liked Demings even more when we read this unusual statement in the passage we've posted above:
I was on my way to fulfill my dream of “saving the world.”In the summer of 83, Demings was dreaming of saving the world! We had that goal at 26 too. It was a difficult burden.