The New York Times editorialized on Ferguson, Ohio with the sub-heading “Abusive Police Tactics in Ferguson Will Only Delay Justice.” News about it was featured in every major newspaper across the country. There is a national wringing of hands.
What happened is a young black man was killed by a cop under circumstances that are still unclear. After his killing riots broke out. The police moved in. Some were heavily armed; most dressed as every day cops. Some in the media said it looked more like a military take over than a police department.
Ferguson is part of St. Louis County. It is located to the northwest of the City of St. Louis. It is surrounded by four major highways each one coming to within a mile of it: Interstate 70 runs to its south; interstate 270 to its north; interstate 170 to its west, and state highway 367 to its east.
Its population jumped from 11,500 in 1950 to 22,100 in 1960 and reached its peak of 28,700 in 1970. Since then it has slowly declined. In 1990 it was back to 22,200 the size it was in 1960. Its land area is about the size of Dorchester, MA, a little over 6 square miles; where Dorchester squeezes about 92,000 into its area, Ferguson has a population a couple of thousand less than Dedham, MA which has 10.6 square miles.
In 1990 74% of its residents identified as white and 25% as black. In 2010 the whites numbered 29% and 67% were black. By comparison, Dorchester in 2010 was 37% black, 14% Hispanic, and 28% white.
A conservative columnist for the Washington Post who grew up in what he said was “an overwhelmingly white, resolutely middle-class neighborhood west of St. Louis” described Ferguson as: “about 20 minutes north around Interstate 270, past the airport — was never an intended destination. It was a working-class area that did not figure or matter much in my world. For all I knew, it was a foreign country.”
That columnist, Michael Gerson, is 50 years old. He’s talking abut the time around 1980 when Ferguson was majority white; but as he said it was to be avoided because it was working-class. Gives you a good idea of where that man is coming from.
Gerson joins into what has become the prevailing mantra on the Ferguson problem writing: “But many people I know who differ on these matters shared the same immediate, emotional reaction: The images of tear gas, rubber bullets and sniper rifles from Ferguson don’t look like America.”
Another senator, Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri piped up: “The militarization of the response became more of the problem than any solution.” It is reported in the same article “She said her goal has been to get the police force to stop using “military responses” and “see if we can’t get back to good, solid police work that keeps the protesters safe.””
Another article states: “a militarized police force has been firing rubber bullets and spraying tear gas at residents peacefully protesting the killing”
Our president spoke out. “There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting, There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters, or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Rising libertarian Ron Paul joined in wrote: “There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.”
Here’s why: As the photographs on this page show the demonstrations weren’t exactly peaceful: the police confronted a riot. How then do we expect our police to act in a riot? Shouldn’t they have the tools to protect themselves? Were all the police dressed as military? Take a look at other photographs on this page and you’ll see that most weren’t although some were. You’ll find those showing the police in military gear get the most emphasis.
Let me give you one thought to ponder at this time since I’ll have more to say later on Ferguson. I call this the O’Brien syndrome. It is when something is done well the person suffers for it.You might have heard it expressed as: “no good deed goes unpunished.”
It is named after John O’Brien the probation commissioner who has been convicted of racketeering. The results of O’Brien’s alleged crime was an improvement in the function of the probation department. Crime significantly decreased under his leadership.
In Ferguson, the results of the police action is that they acted boldly and at times in an authoritative manner. This show of force was such that no one was killed or seriously injured. Have you heard anything about that? Does the military go into a city and exercise such restraint? Didn’t the police response bring about a good result?
As for the New York Times editorial board, it’s nice to sit in that New York City high rise and criticize police but when your out in the street trying to keep order things change quickly and decisions are made fast. What may appear abusive in your safe office is sometimes life saving in the field.
Yes. Senator Paul, there was a difference between the police and military response since no one died. And Senator McCaskill, the police did keep the protesters safe but it would be nice if you had some concern for the safety of the police.
Yes Senator Warren, this is America. Ferguson looked like a war zone not because of the police but because of the rioters. There have been other riots in America but in almost all there was a loss of life or serious injury.
You want answers? Here’s one. The police acting in a restrained manner responded appropriately as the circumstances dictated and prevented greater damage, injury and death. How about giving them a little credit?