The March 22 episode of NCIS: New Orleans, “Biased,” featured a white officer shooting an unarmed African American man, and boy, was it a doozy.
The action begins right off the bat, when NOPD Officer Ted Bradley is in pursuit of a burglar, Gerald Young, when he follows Young to a party attended exclusively by African Americans. Petty Officer Third Class Ali Mitchell is there, who Bradley thinks is holding a gun (it’s later revealed to be a phone), and Bradley shoots and kills him. The city is in an uproar, as NCIS Agent Dwayne Pride (Scott Bakula) and his team help with the investigation into if Bradley’s shooting was justified.
The episode predictably features an uptight member of the State Police, Detective Cooper, who is not only no nonsense, but rude to black suspects and their families. There’s also Gene Holloway (Keith David), an African American cop working the case who's supportive of Bradley and acknowledges he fears being regarded as “a traitor to the race” for his support and show of fairness.
Perhaps the most outlandish remarks come from NCIS Agent Quentin Carter (Charles Michael Davis), who laments the experiences of black men to Pride.
Pride: You know, no matter how right you may be, you don't always have to express every thought that crosses your mind.
Carter: Yeah, I'll take that under advisement. But look what I found in Jasmine's apartment. I guess Gerald and Mitchell were close.
Pride: Why would you confiscate that and keep it from Cooper? Please tell me you're not trying to bury evidence, either.
Carter: No, Pride. I figure we should get the complete story before our friends over there jump to all kinds of conclusions.
Pride: So, instead you're jumping to conclusions, ignoring procedure, because you assume that the system is rigged against Mitchell.
Carter: It's not an assumption, okay? It's experience living in this world as a black man. The staties are gonna say Mitchell's a crook. And you can bet the picture they provide the media, it won't be a graduation photo.
Pride: The entire team is working hard to give Mitchell justice. But that is not strategic, it's not how we operate. And if anyone found out, we could get kicked off the case. And that would not help Mitchell. Now I'm forwarding a copy of that photo to Detective Cooper.
Carter: You know, you're so busy trying to remain neutral. There's nothing neutral about this situation.
Pride: New rule. I don't assume to know your experience and you don't assume to know mine. Fair?
Later, during a war-of-words between Carter and Holloway, Carter even asks the other man if “the food taste better in the house than in the field,” for his support of Bradley during the investigation, making a reference to slavery.
There’s also Patton Plame (Daryl Mitchell) who, while watching a press conference given by Mitchell’s mother, explains having an accident which landed him in a wheelchair is “probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” and it has to do with race:
Patton: Hey, hold up, hold up. Y'all need to see this.
Mrs. Mitchell: My son Ali... ...Was a good man. He didn't deserve to leave this life the way that he did. And now they're calling him a thug. A-a gangbanger, a drug dealer. They're saying he got what was coming to him. Why are they doing this?
Tammy Gregorio: God, this woman must be in a living hell.
Pastor: The Mitchell family have been upstanding members of this community.
Mrs. Mitchell: How many unarmed black men have to die before enough is enough?
Crowd: Danziger! Danziger! Danziger! Danziger! Danziger!
Gregorio: Why are they chanting "Danziger"?
Patton: Danziger Bridge. After Hurricane Katrina hit, police shot six unarmed black people waiting to get rescued. Two died.
Hannah Khoury: I never heard about that.
Patton: It's not New Orleans' finest hour. They're not gonna put that on the brochure. But it happens all the time. Hell, I was almost a statistic. Police pulled me over. Said I fit the description of a murder suspect. Had me sprawled on the ground with a gun in my face. That was before my accident, though.
Khoury: Did things change after that?
Patton: Well, people feel sorry for me because of the chair. That accident's probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
Gregorio: Oh, come on, Patton, really?
Patton: Look, don't get me wrong. I miss walking. But the police don't treat me the same no more. It's as if the chair erased my race. I'm no longer seen as a threat.
This leads to quite the showdown between Holloway and Coroner Loretta Wade (CCH Pounder), with Wade bringing up the names of other African Americans killed by police:
Wade: Why can't you consider that Ali Mitchell didn't have a gun?
Holloway: Because the kid had a criminal past, Loretta. He was best friends with the suspect that Bradley was chasing.
Wade: You want to talk about pasts? Your friend Bradley has quite a complaint record himself.
Holloway: He's a good kid, Loretta. A good cop. Why won't you give him the benefit of the doubt?
Wade: Because my CJ could have been on the other side of his gun! Or Danny! Alton Sterling. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner.
Wade: Charles Kinsey, Oscar Grant, Philando Castile.
Wade: Sandra Bland! Stephon Clark!
Holloway: Loretta, I get it! I'm caught in the middle here. If I go too far one way, I'm a, I'm a traitor to the badge. Go too far the other way, I'm a traitor to the race. All I want is to be fair. Stand by a man I've known for seven years. Make it better for all of us.
Wade: I fail to see how standing by Bradley is making it better for anyone but Bradley.
Holloway: When I joined this department, there were still some cops putting bananas in our lockers. Calling us "Gorillas in the midst."
Wade: Then you should understand why the people are upset about Ali Mitchell!
Holloway: Of course I do! But this isn't Danziger. NOPD has turned a corner. I mean, the chief is black, 60% of the department is black...
Wade: Still doesn't mean Bradley isn't biased.
Holloway: I was his training officer. What does it say about me if I could support him in making a racist move like that? He's not that man. I know his heart.
Wade: Maybe you do. But I can't help but wonder if Bradley would have been quick to pull the trigger if Ali Mitchell was white.
Was Bradley actually biased? That’s certainly what many characters, especially Carter, Patton, and Wade, want us to think. Bradley not only genuinely thought that Mitchell was holding a gun, but shows remorse when he sees a recording showing that Mitchell was actually holding his phone.
Holloway and Detective Cooper acknowledge that Bradley likely won’t be brought up on charges nor fired, and say that “honestly there is no justice.” Bradley ends up resigning, however, immediately, which is one of the last scenes viewers are treated to. That and Patton reminding viewers, “One thing for sure. Everybody has a bias, even if you're unaware of it. Things will get better. We just got to just keep pushing. Keep open. Keep real.”