The Phillly Blame Game#
by Melody Brooke, MA, Conflict Coach, Motivational Speaker

Blame, blame whose got the blame?

There was a story on CNN this morning about a dozen police officers beating 3 bound “suspects”.   This was apparently caught on video so there is no question of what they did. Community leaders are going at it trying to place the blame.  Some are blaming it on race, saying the police officers beat them because they are black.  Local appear to agree because they claim this happens all the time.   The police claim that stress is to blame. The officers involved had just lost one of their own that had been slaughtered on the streets on Saturday. One of their spokesmen claim the murder set the officers up to lose it on the men they were arresting. 


When we understand that fear is always underneath these outbursts it changes everything. The men they arrested had just opened fire on a crowd and this is why the police arrested them in the first place.  I can only imagine the adrenalin rush going through these officers after having witnessed this kind of an attack. Granted, they are supposed to be well trained enough to avoid such a travesty, but fear is a primal reaction that often has nothing to do with how we have been trained or even what we believe to be appropriate behavior. 

Odds are, the men they arrested were behaving the way they did out of fear as well.  I don’t know if they were gang members, but they likely were.  Gangs operate entirely out of fear.  The whole basis of belonging to a gang is fear.  The members are recruited out of fear.  When someone is being recruited the gang terrorizes them into joining, then terrorizes them to keep them from leaving.  Yet being a member of a gang puts them at risk for attack by opposing gangs, thereby increasing the members fears. Undoubtedly their opening fire on the crowd was motivated by this fear. Perhaps there was gang member from an opposing gang in the crowd who had promised to kill one of the shooters gang members.  

Lessons from Iraq

Perhaps we should be learning from General Patraeus in Iraq.  He understands that you can’t win a war on tribesmen by going in and blasting them to hell.   We have to look at gangs in the exact same way. They are exactly like opposing tribes and if we don’t look at changing the system, in the way General Patraeus is doing, we will continue to have to deal with the kind of horrors highlighted by this attack in Philly.


Compassion means letting go of blame.  And I don’t mean standing by while people continue to hurt each other – we have to take ownership and protect ourselves and others from people who are afraid and out of control.  But we stop the violence with compassion. We take ownership of the need for protection from their violent behavior, but we do it respectfully and with empathy.  We recognize that they are afraid and that they are dealing with it in the only way they know how.  We respect that they are doing the best they can, in spite of the awfulness of their behavior.  We don’t blame them for their fear, we empathize with it and do our best to take ownership of the situation; meaning we try to change whatever it is that is causing the problems.  

How do you see it?

This is what General Patraeus is doing.  We desperately need to apply the same things to the wars happening everyday here at home. What do you think? Should we just round up all the “bad guys” and put them in jail or should we try to understand what is happening in the bigger picture and address the real problems? Comment below.


Thursday, May 08, 2008 11:57:14 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) #    Comments [0]  | 
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