Law & Order Season 22 Episode 15 Review: Fear and LoathingJack Ori at .
TV crime dramas often feature the trope of the Black officer who is caught between two worlds.
It's a way of addressing racial tensions between police and people of color, but it happens so often on TV that it sometimes creates additional stereotypes.
On Law & Order Season 22 Episode 15, when Shaw found himself on the receiving end of cops' racism, his decision to take a stand came with a price. Shaw both won and lost, as he got ADA Price to successfully prosecute a white man for inciting violence against Black people but lost big at Internal Affairs.
The original incident illustrated the problem nicely. The cops wouldn't listen when Shaw said he was a cop and offered to show his badge but backed off immediately when Cosgrove -- a white cop -- arrived on the scene with his.
Cop: We thought he was a murder suspect.
Shaw: Why? Why the hell did you think that?
Afterward, friends and enemies in the department focused exclusively on how hard it would make Shaw's life to go forward with a complaint. All those people were wasting their breath, and it was understandable.
Shaw must have felt as if no one cared what he had gone through and were only concerned with how it made the department look. Most people advising him were white; the only fellow Black officer was the Internal Affairs guy who didn't think making waves was worthwhile.
Matthews: Look, nothing really happened. No one got hurt. So why make a big deal out of this? This sort of thing makes us look bad.
Matthews: Police officers.
Shaw was right to move forward with the case. Someone had to stand up against the Blue Wall; while it's never easy to take a stand against powerful people, if no one does, nothing will ever change.
I did have a bone to pick with him, though. As a former lawyer, he had to have known that the defense would use the complaint against him on the stand. Why didn't he tell Price about it ahead of time?
Price's idea about not letting Shaw testify if he knew about this was silly.
Not only did the complaint against Shaw have no relevance to whether De Luca posted photos and lies that incited people to violence, but Price could easily have brought this up in direct questioning so that the defense attorney couldn't use it to discredit Shaw.
Shaw also had to help investigate the murder of another Black man, arriving at the scene moments after the altercation with the patrol officers. I don't know how he turned his anger off for long enough to do his job!
The case turned out to parallel what had happened to him. Dr. Marshall, a well-respected heart surgeon, was killed by a man who believed Marshall was about to mug him and mistook the cell phone in Marshall's hand for a gun.
This setup allowed Law & Order to advance a novel argument.
People often debate whether those who shoot unarmed Black men have a genuine reason to feel afraid or whether they are making racist assumptions about the people they deal with. But Shaw suggested that both might have been true.
Burke genuinely feared for his life, but his fear wasn't realistic. He had PTSD from a previous attack and had been triggered by a false post claiming Marshall was a mugger.
Thus, Shaw argued, Burke was still in the wrong. He attacked Marshall unnecessarily and left him to die in the street; his fear for his life didn't excuse that behavior.
Burke also claimed not to know anything about Marshall's death when the cops first questioned him. He should have asked for his lawyer immediately rather than pretending nothing happened.
His nervous behavior made it obvious he knew something he wasn't telling. Did he think he would get away with covering up what he did?
Shaw's frustration with Price illustrated another aspect of the legal system that doesn't always correspond to justice.
We like to think that prosecutors are heroes who fight against the odds for justice. But in reality, they need a winnable case before moving forward.
Price didn't think the case against Burke or De Luca was winnable, so he didn't want to try those cases -- and from Shaw's perspective, that looked like a white man deciding not to bother prosecuting those who contributed to a Black man's unnecessary death.
Shaw was right that declining to prosecute would send the message that killing unarmed Black men is okay because you believe they are dangerous. But what message would it send if Price brought a weak case, only for the judge to dismiss it for lack of evidence?
Prosecution often is a political game, where the district attorneys have to consider the relative strength of each case and how bringing a specific one to trial will affect public perception of their office.
Those things have little to do with ideals such as justice or fairness, and it's frustrating when a prosecutor decides a case isn't worth the gamble, even though non-lawyers believe that's a miscarriage of justice.
De Luca was an example of someone who used unconscious bias to their advantage, unaware that their behavior harmed others. He wasn't a member of any hate groups and was not actively trying to oppress Black people.
But he knew people would readily believe Black strangers, particularly men, were criminals without evidence. It never occurred to him that posting photos of specific strangers could get those strangers hurt, arrested, or killed.
That said, was I the only one surprised that it was this random guy and not the one dating Marshall's ex-wife? Greg's alibi was that he was uploading data to an anti-crime app, and someone posted a photo of Marshall to a similar app.
It would have made more sense for Greg to have uploaded that photo out of spite when he learned Marshall had been at his home. Someone else targeting Marshall on a similar app felt like a big coincidence.
All in all, this was an entertaining story that had a strong message. Were you angry that Shaw got suspended and the cops who messed with him got a pass? I know I was!
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Law & Order airs on NBC on Thursdays at 8 PM EST / PST.
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.