1) The very fact that a new approach totally de-escalated the situation shows how wrong the original, hyper-militarized approach was.
2) This set of pictures from successive evenings is worth well over 1000 words:
3) Vox coverage has been phenomenal. An expert on policing conflicts zones:
Trying to intimidate the crowds off the street, especially considering that it’s a protest against police aggression — well, it’s just stupid. It’s going to exacerbate the problem…
ZB: From your description, it sounds like they’re taking military equipment, and using it to do utterly incompetent police work.
JF: That is exactly correct…
ZB: Does there even need to be a huge police presence here? Maybe there was when, say, the QuikTrip got burned on Sunday night. But right now, these are mostly nonviolent protests.
JF: That’s a very good question. I don’t have the answer.
Even with the scattered reports I’ve heard of the occasional Molotov cocktails, or seeing firearms in the crowd, these are things police are trained to handle. There are certainly phalanx things they can do get these extremely violent people out of the crowd. But if there’s just a peaceful protest, I don’t see the utility of what they’re doing.
If they’re thinking about storming something, I get that. But that doesn’t seem to be what the protestors are trying to do.
ZB: If you were put in command of the police in Ferguson today, what would you tell them to do?
JF: I would send everyone home.
4) Former Seattle police chief:
I would also say that if you’re not collaborating with the community in advance of these situations, if you’re not forging joint policy-making and decision-making, then you’re essentially distancing yourself from the community. You’re isolating yourself from the community when you need to be joining with that community and carving out guidelines or rules of constructive engagement, rather than escalating the potential for and the reality of violence in that relationship…
AT: One thing that has surprised me, looking at some of these images, is what seems to be a really widespread use of rifles. That police are not just out in force with rifles kind of hanging at their side, but that they’re actually holding them and pointing them at people.
NS: More likely than not, what you’re looking at are the so-called rubber bullets that are fired from what appear to be military rifles. You may be looking at that beanbag technology.
I think it’s so important to hold those kinds of weapons in reserve, and use them or show them only when you’re dealing with a violent confrontation. Keeping the peace at a demonstration essentially means having police officers in standard everyday uniforms not military garb.
It means doing everything they can to demonstrate the de-escalation tactics and techniques, and not allowing themselves to get hooked emotionally. That requires not just sound policies and procedures and excellent training and supervision, it requires individual maturity on the part of every police officer.
It requires self-confidence — maybe even a dose of courage — to not overreact, but police officers who view themselves as in opposition to their communities have a tendency to view the community as the enemy. In the process they become an occupational force where they are in charge — in the name of control, in the name of public safety, taking actions that actually undermine legitimate control, is foolhardy at best…
The one thing I would say is to reserve SWAT, reserve that equipment and those tactics for active shooter cases, barricaded suspects, armed and dangerous barricaded suspects with hostages. Do not employ those tactics, that equipment on routine drug raids or warrants service, or any other situation where you don’t have what I would consider to be inherently dangerous circumstances.
AT: Would you include crowd control as an inherently dangerous circumstance?
NS: I would not. How often do we hear of political, social upheaval, the demonstrations that accompany the questioning and the concerns about police behavior, that have individuals who are armed within the crowd? If you don’t have that, there is no justification I think for the kind of equipment that we’re talking about.
5) Political Science research shows that who protests strongly affects how police respond. And I don’t need to tell you how.
6) Ezra makes the strong American empirical case that the American criminal justice system is racist. Honestly, to argue otherwise is to stick your head in the sand.
7) Love this collection of tweets from Army veterans calling out the police for their extreme tactics.
8) Twice on FB I and/or friend have been accused of armchair Quarterbacking for raising the issue of an over-militarized police force. Is this some Fox News meme? All of a sudden you need to have served as a police officer in crowd control to have concerns about civil liberties?