Scandal Tackles Police Brutality In Episode That Echoes Michael Brown Case

Some thought "Scandal" should not have gone there.

After taking a week off for the How To Get Away With Murder season finale, Scandal was back last night with a take on the Michael Brown/Ferguson case. Here, a young Black man, Brandon Parker, was shot and killed by a police officer after a confrontation. After the incident, the young man’s father, Clarence Parker (played by Courtney B. Vance), armed with a gun and a lawn chair, sets up a vigil above his child’s body desperate for an explanation.

When Clarence opens fire in the middle of the street, the police look ready to act. Olivia, working for the police department after she promised Jake that she was home resting, quickly reminds Police Chief Connors that bystanders, mobile devices at the ready, will beam images all over the world of a bereaved father under attack by the authorities while standing over his dead son.

Liv convinces Clarence to cooperate by promising that AG David Rosen would oversee the investigation. Unfortunately however, Rosen refuses at first.

Unsatisfied Parker doubles down with the support of surrounding protesters.

When a young passionate activist Marcus Walker shows up, the situation escalates. And not just from an optics standpoint. He has an issue with Liv, accusing her of restricting her visits to that part of town to times when she craves “chicken and greens.” After Prada-shaming her — Walker says her handbag costs as much as his apartment — he refuses to work with her towards a resolution.

“You’re about getting a White Republican president elected twice. Excuse me if I don’t think you’re a down ass chick,” he tells her angrily.

“You and I want the same thing. You just want to take the path of most resistance. It’s not smart,” Liv tells him. He doesn’t want join forces out of principle.

“No Olivia. Your Black card is not getting validated today,” he tells her, before walking away.

Secondarily, because we all need a breather, Fitz is looking for a new VP now that Andrew Nichols, in the words of Cyrus Beane, is a “pumpkin.” But Fitz has to keep a promise to Mellie to choose someone who, when election time rolls around, has no chance of winning, giving FLOTUS the chance to get a promotion to the Oval Office. They ultimately have their hearts set on a Sen. Susan Ross of Virginia, who’s seemingly lacking in finesse and political know-how. But we know how Shonda Rhimes likes to toss in the twists and turns. So you can bet Sen. Ross isn’t exactly what she appears to be.

Back on the street, the situation is made worse after a knife is found on the victim. Clarence is convinced it didn’t belong to his son and ultimately he’s proven correct. The knife was planted on Brandon after the police discovered that they’d just gunned down an unarmed man. The episode ends with the officer who fired the deadly shots under arrest.

Scandal generates a ton of tweets each week. But this episode, because of the topic, brought out a lot of divided responses that apply to the issues of police brutality and race in the real world. Prior to arrest, the officer who fired the deadly shots gives a speech in which he calls the largely Black population that lives in the area he patrols “those people” and rages against the lack of respect that he gets from them on a daily basis even as he risks his life to protect them.

Mr. Parker talks of the lengths he went to “get his son to 18” years old, such as putting a University of Maryland sticker on the back of his car even though his son wasn’t a student there. He didn’t want the cops to think his son was “a thug” if he were ever pulled over. Even after all of that, he laments, Brandon ended up “dead on the cold street.”

Some viewers felt it was too soon for the episode. Others praised the show for using its platform to give voice to these issues. Some thought the take on it was naive. Others, that weight was given to points of view that don’t deserve it.

Whatever your feeling, the episode was an affecting one with some powerful performances. And, in our opinion here, anything that gets people to talk about these divisive issues, that forces us to look at our neighbors through fresh and more understanding eyes, is a positive. Pop culture done well has a great ability to do that.

As far as the PR elements of the episode are concerned, Liv’s approach to the situation was in opposition to Police Chief Connors. While he called for a more aggressive approach to the protesters and organized a media black out (which prompted Liv to cross the police tape in defiance) she advocates for a search for the truth. By delivering the real story, the police department would regain credibility with the people they serve and show that they’re taking responsibility for the tragedy that occurred.

Sometimes simply advocating for the truth is the best PR advice a practitioner can offer.