Ferguson Police Turned an Opportunity into a Disaster
As we blogged about in our coverage of a small, mostly white Michigan township who got fed up with its formerly friendly police department being turned into an over reactive , militarized police army, more and more of America’s police departments are transforming into anti-constitutional local armies, reminiscent of German Stazi and Soviet police state units of the WWII era. A lot of white readers and viewers of the events unfolding in Ferguson, MO, will likely get distracted by the fact that this case involves a white police officer shooting an unarmed black teen multiple times, and some will even side by default with the white officer, thinking, “there’s no way an officer will just shoot an unarmed person for NO REASON.” We ask that such readers set aside that layer of distraction and look at the deeper issue particularly the aftermath with small town America looking like a Middle East police state: Do we want our police departments responding this way?
CNN has been showing scenes of overly militarized police officers roughing up and arresting journalists who did nothing wrong at all, other than to not leave quickly enough from a McDonald’s where there was no wrongdoing and no protests! Peaceful protesters were commanded to leave, despite the fact no one called police to break up the constitutionally sound protests. More scenes of military style heavily armed tanks and snipers in Army green looking uniforms in America is quite un-American and civil lawsuits should be brought against the police forces for denying the right to free speech and protest. This kind of protest is exactly what the founding fathers of America had in mind when they drafted the constitution, so to see a small American town turned into a senseless military zone over the violent response of an officer to a teen simply walking in the middle of a street is mind boggling and nightmarish.
The site AddinctinInfo.org said it best:
The story in Ferguson is not unique. If anything it is tragically common. But, somehow, this is different. Somehow, a line has been drawn in the sand, where people are going ‘No More.’
Our police have been turned from Sheriff Andy Taylor to Judge Dredd – Judge, Jury, Executioner. In 2012, police shot and killed 607 people. We outfit our officers with military gear, handing them automatic weapons, and then expect some result other than death to occur.
The actions of the Ferguson police department cannot be tolerated in civil society. The police are public servants, not lords or soldiers. The demilitarization of the United States must begin.
How embarrassing can this get? Just look at how RT (Russia Today) covered it:
Through its 1033 program, the Pentagon offers hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to police forces throughout the US. St. Louis County, which encompasses Ferguson, is part of the program, according to Michelle McCaskill, media relations chief at the Defense Logistics Agency.
“St. Louis County law enforcement agencies received twelve 5.56 millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Department of Defense between Aug. 2, 2010, and Feb. 13, 2013,” a Missouri public safety official confirmed to USA Today.
As RT has previously reported time and time again, local police forces across the United States have benefited from the militarized mindset of the post-9/11, “war on terror” era, as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and funding from the likes of the US Department of Homeland Security have resulted in a mass proliferation of military-grade weaponry.
How the interaction between Michael Brown and the police officer should have gone…
Officer: Hey guys. You know you shouldn’t be walking in the middle of the street. It can be dangerous to you and drivers.
Michael Brown: [No response]
Officer: [Makes a mental note of the interaction]. Did you guys hear me?
At this point, let’s assume Michael Brown and his friend ignore the police again. The officer can either (a) cite them for jay walking, or whatever the equivalent law is for Ferguson, MO, or (b) ignore the offense for now but assume that a lot of people in that particular neighborhood probably walk in the middle of the street. With (b), the officer can then plan a community outreach to go to the neighborhood and hand out flyers about street safety or approach local community leaders and schools (when in session) to educate kids on using common sense in walking in the middle of the street. The idea here is that the alleged offense does not rise to the level of requiring an angry, hostile police response to citizens.
For those who would automatically side with the police officer in question, with the assumption that Michael Brown MUST have deserved this treatment, then the logic of such a conclusion would have to be consistent with the following scenarios involving violent police over reactions:
- Cop comes home after a long day and ignores his wife and goes straight to his man cave or other room to be alone. His wife complains that he is too distant. He punches her, then pulls a gun on her. Did she deserve it because she dared question a police officer? What if the cop later says he was defending himself against an aggressive spouse?
- A cop responding to a school classroom where the teacher thinks a misbehaving child needed someone with legal authority to instill some fear in the student. Once on the scene, the officer allows his emotion to get in the way and after unsuccessfully getting the child to calm down, he uses his tazer gun on the student, causing burns. Was the cop justified because he says the child grabbed for his tazer gun while trying to calm the student down?
- An underpaid cop takes a bribe from a wealthy criminal to look the other way. Is the cop justified because the city underpays him?
- A sexually deviant cop decides to molest a child. Did the child deserve this because a police officer wanted to molest the child?
These scenarios serve to show various ways an officer of the law may behave unethically but some in society may be likely to give them a pass on such behavior. Police strategy should involve community outreach over a long term. Clearly, when you have a situation where over 67% of the population of a city is black, and the police force sworn to serve them is majority white, the temptation to avoid community outreach is likely to be higher as the populace can be seen as “them” instead of “us.”
This situation has been further exacerbated by the fact that Ferguson Police did not release the name of the killer officer. Yet they were quick to publicize the names of the people they arrested. If the killer officer was man enough to shoot to death an unarmed teen with his hands up, then he should be man enough to face the public he serves and let the public know his background.
Fortunately, after a series of very tragic mistakes by the Ferguson Police Dept, the Governor of Missouri and the State Trooper Captain have done the right thing and took over from the Ferguson Police, emphasizing non-militarized community outreach instead of heavy-handed, unconstitutional military responses to the exercise of freedom of speech and assembly. Now will other militarized police forces around the country follow this example?
For more on the sad trend of American police departments becoming militarized zones, please read the following and make your voices heard in your community today: