7 Eyebrow-Raising Quotes from Darren Wilson's Interview with the New Yorker

August 3rd 2015

Kyle Jaeger

Almost one year after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by former police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, the New Yorker has published a profile of the infamous cop. In passages recounting the fatal shooting of the unarmed man, Wilson maintains his innocence and seems to suggest, as he has in the past, that was unfairly victimized by the media and that communities across the country do not understand the complexity of police activities.

Wilson was exonerated of any wrongdoing after a Justice Department probe determined that, contrary to several witness reports, Brown did not have his arms raised at the time of the shooting and that the officer acted in self-defense. That conclusion has been contested by many, leading to widespread protests and debates over racial bias in policing.

The New Yorker feature has also faced criticism by some who feel that the magazine should not have given the ex-cop a platform to defend himself when emotions over Brown's death are still raw and anger directed at Wilson remains strong—to the point that he has had to move to the outskirts of St. Louis and keep a low profile in his daily life. But the story does offer exclusive insights into the mind of the 29-year-old man, and these seven quotes speak to that oddly-timed perspective.

On working for the Ferguson Police Department.

Wilson told the New Yorker that working in a "tough area" is considered a good move for an officer who wants to quickly advance their career. "If you go there and you do three to five years, get your experience, you can kind of write your own ticket," he said. But joining FPD was a "culture shock," Wilson added. He recalled an early conversation with a superior at the force:

"Mike, I don’t know what I’m doing. This is a culture shock. Would you help me? Because you obviously have that connection, and you can relate to them. You may be white, but they still respect you. So why can they respect you and not me?"

On the problem of racial bias in policing.

Though he rejected the idea that prejudice informed his actions as an officer—on the night of Michael Brown's death or on any other time he was on the clock—Wilson acknowledged that the city he formerly served was patrolled by a majority of white police officers in a mostly Black community.

"I never looked at it like 'I'm the only white guy here.' I just look at it as 'This isn't where I grew up," Wilson said. "When a cop shows up, it's like, 'The cops are here!' There's no 'Oh, shit, the white cops are here! If you live in a high-crime area, with a lot of poverty, there's going to be a large police presence. You're going to piss people off. If police show up, it's because it's something bad, and whoever's involved can't figure out the problem for themselves."

Wilson said that there are two, opposing perspectives when it comes to race in policing.

"Everyone is so quick to jump on race. It’s not a race issue... There are people who feel that police have too much power, and they don’t like it. There are people who feel police don’t have enough power, and they don’t like it."

On his experience serving Black communities.

After leaving his job as a cop in Jennings, Missouri, Wilson explained that he did not want to go back to a "white area" because it was dull and involved less activity.

"I liked the black community," he said. "I had fun there... There’s people who will just crack you up.”

On a "typical exchange" he would have as a police officer in Ferguson.

"'Why you running?' 'Because I'm afraid of getting caught.' 'Well, what are you afraid of getting caught for?' 'I don’t know.' 'Well, there's a reason you ran, and there's a reason you don't want to get caught. What's going on?'"

As he described this apparently average encounter, the language Wilson used struck the author. He remembered one incident in particular, involving the arrest of several kids who were caught damaging property. Usually he would let the kids go, Wilson told the New Yorker. But in this case, he said that it was clear their mother would not be able to get through to her kids.

"They ran all over the mom. They didn’t respect her, so why would they respect me? ... "They’re so wrapped up in a different culture than—what I’m trying to say is, the right culture, the better one to pick from."

The author pressed Wilson on his questionable use of the term "different culture." The ex-cop attempted to clarify, saying that he meant "pre-gang culture, where you are just running in the streets—not worried about working in the morning, just worried about your immediate gratification." This, he went on, is "the same younger culture that is everywhere in the inner cities."

To some, this quote alone serves as a testament to Wilson's racial bias.

On Michael Brown.

The New Yorker's Jake Halpern asked Wilson if he thought Brown was truly a "bad guy," or if he had just found himself in a bad situation.

"I only knew him for those forty-five seconds in which he was trying to kill me, so I don’t know," he answered.