Ross: The Troyer trial and why people see what they experience

Dec 16, 2022, 9:06 AM | Updated: Dec 21, 2022, 2:21 pm
Ed Troyer Pierce County Sheriff...
Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of false reporting. (Photo courtesy KIRO 7 News)
(Photo courtesy KIRO 7 News)

What did we learn from the trial of Sheriff Ed Troyer?

What’s interesting to me is that this whole thing grew out of what was basically a normal day in the neighborhood.

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A man drives house to house tossing newspapers in driveways. It happens in my neighborhood. In fact, I pay to have it happen!

But it’s one of those cases where people see what they’re programmed to see.

To a law enforcement officer, who apparently doesn’t subscribe to a morning newspaper, a car going from house to house to house makes him think: “porch pirate.”

To a newspaper carrier who is black and who’s been followed before by people thinking he’s a porch pirate – he sees headlights in the rear-view mirror, and he’s thinking, here we go again.

To a state attorney general who sees this case making news a few months after a summer of protest over racial profiling – this is another opportunity for social justice.

But to the jury – after seeing all the evidence – they decided that it was what it was. A misunderstanding.

The kind of thing you should learn from, but that no one should go to jail for.

And now that the trial has brought out most of the facts, I could argue we could also look at this as a happy ending.

This had all the makings of yet another national nightmare – forty cops converging on a potential officer-in-trouble-call involving a white officer and a black suspect, except this time, everybody got out alive. Not happy, maybe, and with some major legal expenses, but alive.

De-escalation worked.

Reasonable people can see things very differently as we heard yesterday on the Gee and Ursula Show when Gee Scott discussed this case with Spike O’Neill:

Gee asks Spike why would Troyer be following the driver.

“Why was he following him?” Gee asked.

And Spikes answers:

“Because he was, according to Troyer’s testimony, going from driveway to driveway to driveway in the middle of the night,” Spike said. “What could possibly be happening? He’s going from driveway to driveway, to driveway, to driveway. Have you had any burglaries in your neighborhood?”

And there it is: what you see depends on what you’ve experienced. What you’re afraid of.

I feel like the country has this vein of emotional lava flowing just below the surface. And as long as our go-to reaction is “when in doubt think the worst” – I predict more eruptions.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: The Troyer trial and why people see what they experience