Food for Thought

From the St Louis Post-Dispatch on the policing in Ferguson, Missouri:

A “best practices” study published in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin two years ago says it’s generally accepted that “crowd violence escalates if people think police offers treat them unfairly.”

Furthermore, the study says, when a crowd perceives that “officers act with justice and legitimacy,” disorder becomes less likely.

Cops are human beings, and human beings get scared. Their first impulse is to gear-up as if they were patrolling outside Baghdad’s Assassin’s Gate. As in foreign policy, the academic types may say that dialogue and soft power are better, but that defies the average’s cop’s attitudes.

What the public generally regards as “riot gear” — helmets, shields, Kevlar vests — is known in police circles as “hard gear.” Here’s what the FBI bulletin says about that:

“Officers must avoid donning their hard gear as a first step. They should remember the lessons learned from the 1960s civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests. Police should not rely solely on their equipment and tools.”

What we’ve seen in Ferguson is skirmish lines of officers in hard gear and videos of tear gas canisters lobbed onto roofs.

Individual officers generally have shown great restraint. But those images are doing incalculable harm, and not just to community relations in Ferguson. The nation and the world have seen horrible images from St. Louis that suggest that race relations here have a long way to go.

They’re not wrong.

(Links and emphasis from the original.)

 

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