Washington Post: Ferguson Police Response Demands An Investigation
And an act of Congress? Here’s the Editorial Board
FROM THE chief of the police department to the president of the United States, government officials on Thursday promised a different approach to the racially charged unrest in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. But the situation demands a lot more than a stand-down by assault-rifle-toting police. It might require an act of Congress. (snip)
That was justified in light of what Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. termed “unnecessarily extreme displays of force.” Nothing justifies looting or assaulting police, but law enforcement officers in Ferguson did not need to respond to mostly peaceful protests by deploying armored vehicles, pointing sniper rifles at civilians and tossing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets liberally into crowds. These tactics have been an affront to a community that needs to be heard, not suppressed.
Nor does the cause of public safety excuse the documented abuse of several journalists, including The Post’s Wesley Lowery, whom police detained for “trespassing” in a McDonald’s, and an Al Jazeera film crew, which was tear-gassed.
Our objection to the brandishing of tools of war in a crowd-control operation raises the further question of whether police departments have obtained too much military hardware from the Defense Department. Police officers with the wrong attitude can do a lot of damage with a nightstick or a pistol. It would be a good idea for the Pentagon to reconsider whether a local police force should ever need, say, a mine-resistant armored vehicle. Congress, too, could take more control of the equipment-transfer policy, in place since 1990.
Now, there are couple interesting issues to deal with. First, Congress should definitely rethink the 1033 program, whereby tons of military grade equipment ends up in the hands of local law enforcement without the necessary training. One of the problems in Ferguson was that the police were responding to all the violence during the protests, and surely went overboard with their toys. They might have gone overboard without all the toys. How many police forces are really prepared for riots? If you were one of the police, how might you act in the face of multiple lawless nights? If we really want to point fingers, we need to point them at the higher ranking officers, who should have de-escalated the police response.
It is interesting that when it is the media being targeted, the Post is suddenly concerned with the militarization of the police, something many on the Right have been noticing for years.
Let’s consider something else, which needs to be debated: what about the initial response from the citizens of Ferguson? As the WP wrote “Nothing justifies looting or assaulting police, but law enforcement officers in Ferguson did not need to respond to mostly peaceful protests by deploying armored vehicles, pointing sniper rifles at civilians and tossing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets liberally into crowds”. Remember, it wasn’t the Ferguson police who started this. It was the riots, looting, robbing, violence, vandalism, etc, which brought the police out. Molotov cocktails being thrown at the police. Think about it: how might you have responded if you were a Ferguson police officer? From the comments
I wonder what the Post’s position would be if a crowd had decided to trash its building and the police could only stand by.
Good question. I’ve read many comments and heard them on the radio from citizens in Ferguson, who are thrilled that the police were attempting to protect citizens and their property from those who took advantage of the situation.
While we are investigating the police response, we also need to be investigating the citizen response. It may not be popular, it may be called racist, but the leaders in the Black community need to dig deep and discuss exactly why so many in their community immediately turned to violence, which caused the police response. So many are forgetting that it wasn’t the police who caused the riots and violence, the citizens brought the police out. And that still doesn’t excuse the police response.