Cowardice and Policing

Keeping up the theme, Detective Michael Baylor, last seen in this video brandishing a gun after being hit with a snowball, claims that he drew his weapon because he thought he was besieged by "anarchists" and "got scared."

Baylor attained international notoriety during a snowstorm Dec. 19 when he passed through an Internet-organized snowball fight among residents. Driving home in his Humvee, Baylor's vehicle was pelted with snowballs near the intersection of 14th and U streets NW.

Baylor told investigators he "believed the group were anarchists," according to the report. When a snowball struck Baylor in the face, "he got scared and drew his weapon, keeping it by his side pointed down."

"Fear" is the common defense for officers who abuse the state-sanctioned right to brandish lethal force, excusing everything from the killing of Amadou Diallo to pulling a gun in the middle of a snowball fight. The question, however, remains: If you scare this easy, why are you a cop?

In that vein, it's good to know that Detective Baylor won't be, like, fired or anything. Wouldn't want a cop who feels endangered by snowballls to be bounced off the force. The rough streets of D.C. need men with that kind of mettle.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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