The Fergurson Riots And The O’Brien Syndrome

fergusonThe 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.

ferguson aIts 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.

Ferguson fA 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.

ferguson gGerson 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.”

Our senior senator  from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren tweeted: This is America, not a war zone. The people of #Ferguson just want answers. We all want answers.” 

ferguson e 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”

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old ManOur 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.” 

ferguson police gWe get it. Peaceful demonstrators. Cops dressed and acting like soldiers in combat. Those are the sound bites all over the news. If the American people buy into it, we’re surely a nation of fools.

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.

Riot police stand guard as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MissouriLet 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.

Ferguson 1 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.

ferguson dYes 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?

13 thoughts on “The Fergurson Riots And The O’Brien Syndrome

  1. Matt,
    Good Sunday morning to you.
    Something I stumbled upon and thought you might find interesting..

    The California Supreme Court has ruled that the silence of suspects can be used against them.
    The state Supreme Court in a 4-3 ruling said the defendant needed to explicitly assert his right to remain silent — before he was read his Miranda rights — for the silence to be inadmissible in court.
    The defendant was doing 67 in a 35mph zone and slammed into a mother and her two daughters, killing one daughter and injuring the mother and other daughter. He was placed in a cruiser for some time following the incident, but was not arrested or given Miranda rights until later in the day.
    Prosecutors are using his lack of verbal expression of remorse following the incident as evidence of his guilt.
    -AP Fri Aug 15, 2014

    Sounds like a slippery slope to me.

    1. Rather:

      There’s a civil adage that silence is consent. It comes from the contract law where someone says to another I’ll paint your house for a thousand dollars, the other smiles back and says nothing, and the painter does the work and the guy owning the house said I never agreed to pay him. That’s also handled under another theory “quantum meruit.” In the civil law when someone should speak up they are required to do so if the other acts upon the silence.
      But you are right to point out that is not part of the criminal law. A person always had the right to remain silent before the days of Miranda and nothing negative could be inferred from it. The California court must be comprised of a ton of dumbbells if they suggest Miranda shifted the burden on a defendant to making a denial before he receive the rights. That definitely is the slippery slope because it would encourage cops not to give the Miranda warnings and if the guy knew his rights he would be losing them by remaining silent.

  2. You are correct on the Police work done in MO. They acted with restraint, preventing any deaths or serious injuries. They quelled a riot.The victim appears to be a robber, bully and fleeing felon. That seems to put the affair in a different light. The media has almost no interest in the thousands of young blacks killed by other young blacks but turn this into a national story. Some people have little regard for the property rights of others.. Business is essential for the well being of the nation and small towns like Ferguson. Protecting property is a must. Why did BHO get in the middle of this? Was it to distract the public’s attention from the foreign policy calamities the country is facing? Was it a political calculation to energize his base? Is he a cop basher? It seemed so in the Cambridge Police matter. Maybe here too. 2. Bill’s insights on Gov Patrick are important. Patrick’s family and the law firm stand to reap huge financial gain by representing the current board at M B. There seems to exist an obvious conflict of interest. Was there a conspiracy to violate the state’s ethics laws? Rev. Turner got three years from the Feds for one grand. What penalty will be imposed here? Or will Wyshak bag the case? 3. You speculate about Henry being charged for fraud. That will never happen because he owns the Globe which just gave an award to Ortiz inoculating him from charges. However the Mayor may be a target for questioning the Probation witch trials. It was a serious breech of etiquette to doubt the propriety of the Double Entente’s ( Globe and DOJ ) actions. Doesn’t he know he’s supposed to follow the orders of the broadsheet?

    1. NC:
      1. The ironic thing is all the politicians got mad at the chief of police who pointed out that just before he was killed he had robbed a store. They wanted to sell a story about Saint Michael. Right now they have made up a story that his last words were “don’t shoot I’m unarmed” which goes along with their chant. The way things are going is we’ll have another holiday in August named after him which isn’t such a bad idea since it is a long time from July 4 to Labor Day.
      I like to think of the reaction of Holder and Obama after Todashev got killed by the cops compared to this. Then they were absent from the scene. What makes this news worthy is a riot followed. I guess the president had to say something about it but no one is addressing the real issue which is not the killing of Brown but the killing of a culture. He’s also under pressure to stick up for the black man as happened in the Cambridge incident and the Treyvon Martin case in Florida.

      2. I’ll have to look more into the conflict of Patrick with his wife representing one part of the dispute; seems to me he should have taken a hands off attitude. But I haven’t heard anyone on “T’s” team complain.

      3. The mayor is getting the message. He took a walk on the Billy library issue. Seemed he could have supported it happening but feared the Globe. I was joking about Henry being in trouble; he’s the one who causes trouble for others. He controls Wyshak with the Globe connection and as long as Ortiz thinks she can get political support from the Globe when she runs for senator after Warren is elected president he’s protected from the US attorney.

  3. Matt, I agree: the police acted appropriately under the circumstances; the police see their duty first as to communicate, respect, serve and protect the public. In doing so, they also have a duty to protect themselves, protect local businesses and protect innocent bystanders and passersby. Apparently, MIssouric, both local and state police, have done a good job in quelling the Riots. Apparently the shooting of an unarmed 18 year old was coincidental with reports of an armed or strong-arm robbery, threatening life and limb. The facts are murkier than the leftists like the fake Indian Senator Liawathatha pretends they are. There’s much political grandstanding.
    2. Matt, also a brief follow up to my post on Market Basket and the Governor’s ill advised and likely illegal interference in that private conflict. I posted this on facebook today, after Robbie indicated he liked the original post. So this is a follow up asking people to put things in context and think more broadly about the FEDs, the Probation Case, and other misguided Federal Prosecutions of late: “Fred the Fed Wyshak and federal judges sent a bookie’s wife to one year in prison for doing nothing more, as I see it, than being a wife and co-signing her husband’s tax and business returns, and dropping his car off at a garage. She was a Nurse at MIT and most remotely connected to any illegality. The Italian Catholic bookie’s wife who is Irish Catholic from Boston, was threatened with a dozen years in prison. Yet Fred the FED and his cohorts and crony judges conspired to let a federal wife, Congressman’s Tierney’s wife (Congress pays Fred the FEd’s and the Federal judges salaries) off the hook for being caught red-handed laundering 8 million dollars in her brothers’ illicit offshore gambling empire profits. The Feds first recommended probation for the multi million dollar laundress, then the Federal judge gave her a measly one month in prison. The Moakley Federal Courthouse has become corrupt, to the core, and the fair and equal administration of justice cannot be found in those “Halls of Justice.” What a joke. What a travesty. And don’t bet on Fred the FED the newly appointed head of public corruption to do anything about the Governor, his wife and Ropes and Grave. Why? Because likely they’re Harvard affiliated and not Irish Catholics or Italian Catholics from Boston who graduated from Boston College or are affiliated with Boston College. Has the FRed the FEd and his ilk in the Boston Federal Courthouse ever prosecuted a French Canadian affiliated with Harvard or a Yankee affiliated with Harvard or anyone from Harvard or anyone from the FEDERAl Government working in Boston, besides the South Boston lad, JOhn Connolly, who has been acquitted of any involvement in any murders both in Boston and now in Miami, and has never been convicted of taking any money for himself or even charged with taking a dime for himself. The Press and FEDS only quote the lying testimony of slimeball serial killer serial predator serial perjurer Steve Flemmi, and never state the jury verdicts when they talk of John Connolly. The game’s afoot with the FEDS and Press: go after the Southie-type people, Irish and Italian , And persecute a young Jewish man from MIT and threaten him with 50 years in prison for copyright infringement, a tort.”

    1. William:

      1. I do find myself in the unusual spot of supporting the police but as you know I try to call it as I see it. In Ferguson the cops did an excellent job in not seriously injuring or killing anyone but the media was for the rioters so they get little credit for the good they did rather they got excoriated for it. Imagine if one of the rioters had been killed. They might have locked up the whole police department.
      As for Michael Brown, we don’t know what happened. I have a hard time believing the cop decided it was time to kill a black person and picked out Brown as his victim. I’m afraid though that the net result will be the ultimate cave in to the rioters by the feds indicting him for murder. If that happens we will be a society that is beginning to be ruled by a mob.
      2. Warren is a disgrace since she has become a real politician sniffing the winds and going in that direction. She’s complaining Ferguson looked like a war zone and implicitly is criticizing the cops; if anything looked like a war zone it was after the terrorists attacked the Boston marathon and we had the “shelter in” and hundreds upon hundreds of cops dressed like soldiers wielding AK 47s. She had no problem with that; what has changed.

    1. MS:

      Couldn’t disagree more. Think the police did a good job with no serious injuries or deaths. The media has vastly over-portrayed the negatives of the police role and the cowardly politicians piled on. No torture there. Nothing like that. There were riots. What is one to do?

  4. Great piece Matt, unfortunately down here in the whisper stream we see things differently.
    As you already know I helped organize a conference from 1989-2002
    that looked at crimes committed by FBI agents. It was held at Bates College for 11 year. During that time I was a member of NCOPA. National Coalition on Police Accountability. Founded by Mary Powers in Chicago after the FBI-Chicago Police
    assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton in 1971 Mary Powers recently turned 90 . She was also in the news when she secured the conviction of Chicago Police Detective/Commandeer Ron Budge for hooking up electrical generators to suspects
    genitals to obtain confessions. Yep all the suspects were black.

    We talked by phone recently and she sent me a copy of the new documentary Compelled to Action produced by Peace Productions which explores the cases of Fred Hampton and Jon Budge

    I also want to mention there is a new article on the website Who What Why
    by Russ Baker detailing the ballot initiative to put 911 on the ballot to explain why Building 7 was collapsed by controlled demolition during 911.
    To quote from Vinny the Cheese or was it J Edgar Hoover
    ” when you are the law enforcement agency investigating the crime you just committed you can always get away with the crime”….except in Ferguson , eh?

    1. MS:

      Expected you to disagree but I got to call them as I see them. Yes, the FBI is an exempt authority. Never thought otherwise and will write more about that next week. I’m also not into the 9/11 conspiracy theories; there are after all four civilian jet liners and 19 Al Qaeda people who don’t quite fit it.

      1. Matt:
        I have a new database put up at
        Click on News when site opens and view anything with the word FBI
        No I am not a Mormon.
        As you know I am creating a curriculum to teach law in grades
        What kind of courses would you introduce in grades 1-6?
        The goal is to have seniors have the skill set to pass the bar exam when they graduate from high school.
        If your advice is good I will buy you lunch at Doyle’s.
        or make you a honorary member of the Maine Whisper Stream.

        1. MS:
          My gut would tell me to skipped 1 to 6 on law. Law isn’t quite as simple as you propose although it seems to some that there’s little to it; perhaps the teachings in the recent years with allowing the students to play around for three years with all sorts of electives and then expecting them to cram during the bar review courses give that idea. I know I worked hard in law school for 3 years (well 2 1/2) and came out understanding much more about the law than three relative who graduate 25 years later; I also noticed when I was practicing that the younger DAs didn’t have the overview of the law that I had when they taught equity and property and trust and estates for a full year. I don’t think you can have high school graduates ready to take the bar; plus there should be a certain maturity before people engage in such a practice. After all, being a lawyer in a great sense means you are prepared to take on the troubles of another and if you’re hardly ready to take on the troubles of your own life then you should have that also thrown on your shoulders.

          I’ll check your database. I forget where the Mormon idea came from. Lunch at Doyle’s will have to be delayed until the late fall since I’m having more and more difficulty convincing myself to go into the Boston area. Maybe the next time I’m at Drake’s Island I can take the secret oath for the Whisper Stream.

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