Free societies require more of police than turning tough situations into militarized zones

posted at 10:11 pm on August 13, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

There’s a lot of bad going on in Ferguson, Missouri right now. Let me start with the shooting, several times over, by police of an unarmed young man. It is not in dispute that he was unarmed, though we will find out more during an investigation about whether there was some kind of assault or aggression on Michael Brown’s part. Then, there were perfectly warranted and within-the-purview-of-American-freedom protests, marked by the opportunism of the Rev. Al Sharpton, of course, but not to be dismissed because of it. Then there was rioting and looting, resulting in the burning of at least one convenience store. Then there was an extremely heavy-handed police response to said looting, which I of course concede must be dealt with, featuring riot gear, armored vehicles. And now, the arrest of several journalists.

I have written about the militarization of police before and police abuses and mistaken shootings and SWAT raids, and recommended to you both the reporting and the book of Radley Balko, who covers this issue. The state is big and powerful and violent and can hurt you, whether it’s the FDA, the state prosecutor, or the local police force.

Now, it’s not that the journalists in question are super-citizens who have more rights than the rest of us (though, certainly, the coverage of them will suggest it). They are canaries in a coalmine. If national journalists are arrested at a McDonald’s in Ferguson for what can only be described (and has yet to be described by police, mind you) as some sort of reach of an infraction, how are the regular citizens in this now militarized zone faring?

I understand the need to address looting and rioting, and quickly. I understand that law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to do that. But perhaps when a police force, which must work with local communities to be successful, has already shot an unarmed person thereby inflaming the emotions of said community, they should approach the policing in the immediate aftermath with an overabundance of caution. Using rioting as an excuse for police abuses is just as problematic as using the original shooting as an excuse for looting.

And, here’s the thing. We ask more of law enforcement in a free society and we should. We don’t accept that everyone in a community must be under the gun because some of them committed crimes. Or, that journalists should be arrested while trying to cover that community. We have a system that allows for going after the accused while respecting everyone’s rights, scribe or no. Stipulated that we ask cops to handle challenging, dangerous, delicate situations like riot and looting in Ferguson or manhunts in Boston. Because this is America, we ask them to do it while preserving the rights of innocent bystanders and even those who may be engaging in crime.

We ask more of police in a free society than creating militarized zones out of tough situations. This requires more bravery, more risk, more patience than being a cop in a society where cops can do what they like when they like with impunity. As a result, many Americans have great respect, sometimes reverence, for law enforcement. But when an official response, even to a tough situation, looks like martial law with federally issued no-fly zones, the state isn’t honoring its part of agreement in a free society. We should be willing to demand that they do, even in the face of immense danger. The deep respect many Americans hold for law enforcement should be a function of a free society asking more from those men and women and getting it, not a reason to excuse them when they give us far less.

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SirGawain on August 14, 2014 at 9:42 AM

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Would you like a milkshake with that straw?

CW on August 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

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. . . . . . . . : )
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I’ll give him (her?) a little time to reply with some ‘commenter usernames’ for the “straws”.

I’m pretty sure most of us here haven’t chosen a “side” in this event. We’re just wanting all the facts to come out, BUT we aren’t DEMANDING it now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now,……….
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From all accounts I have read up till now, a nearly perfectly peaceful and calm vigil was taking place, but exploded into rioting.
I’m thinking some agitators (possibly from outside the community) who really don’t personally care any more about Michael Brown than they do about any “crackers” in the suburbs, initiated the rioting, just for the sake of the rioting.

How close am I to the truth ?
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And once rioting starts, DOMINATING BRUTE-FORCE is all that’s left, on the part of the government.

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 11:58 AM

This. MKH is right that the militarization of our police is a big problem. Too many stories about police behaving with impunity is troubling.

lucyvanpelt on August 14, 2014 at 11:19 AM

It’s hard to figure why a city of 20,000 feels it needs it’s own standing army of unqualified army-wannabees. Then again, I’m still trying to figure why the Fed government thinks the Police Chief-Mayor-Justice Of The Peace (and head dishwasher at “Fred’s Eats”) needs MRAPs in East Buzzard Lick, IA.

If it’s so out of hand, set a curfew and call in the National Guard.

whatcat on August 14, 2014 at 12:01 PM

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 10:17 AM

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Cognitive dissonance or needs to go back and read 80% of the comments. More MRAPs! More camo! We want more more more!

SirGawain on August 14, 2014 at 10:20 AM

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Uh uh … the “burden of proof” isn’t on me, it’s on you.
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Put up or shut-up.

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 12:02 PM

That’s just it, you clearly do not understand. You’ve never been trained, or found yourself in such a dangerous situation and been told to deal with it. Instead, you talk about if from the safety of your own home and then tell people online that you understand it, but you obviously do not.

There is nothing dangerous about this situation. The police are just terrified and escalating things out of control. There is only 1 dead so far and the police caused that.

Before you mouth off about me not understanding I’m a combat arms MOS member of the Army. I’ve had people try hard to kill me. No one is trying to kill the police.

Ragnar Danneskold on August 14, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Where were the shopowners in protecting their investment/livelihood?
Every shopkeeper should look to how the Korea-town merchants in Los Angeles responded to the “insurrection” in the wake of the Rodney King cop-trial. Not only did they keep the mob at bay, but the press too.

Another Drew on August 14, 2014 at 12:04 PM

lucyvanpelt on August 14, 2014 at 11:19 AM

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whatcat on August 14, 2014 at 12:01 PM

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RIGHT-ON … but I hear tell that too many “conservatives” here at Hotair are all FOR the “militarized Police”, as long as they only rough-up inner-city black folk.

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 12:08 PM

RIGHT-ON … but I hear tell that too many “conservatives” here at Hotair are all FOR the “militarized Police”, as long as they only rough-up inner-city black folk.

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 12:08 PM

I don’t know if that’s so, but if anyone does have that mindset they should also ponder their own ox being gored. Especially since conservative groups are on the Feds and many state’s terrorist-watch lists.

whatcat on August 14, 2014 at 12:25 PM

I wonder how many of the rioters are not from Ferguson, but from East St Louis (which is in Illinois, not MO, and is one of the most frightening places in existence outside of the third world according to locals)? If I were the new guy in charge of keeping the peace in Ferguson, that would be one of the first things I would look into.

I am all for law and order. I am also all for ensuring law and order applies to the police. And for securing the rights of the people. So, get this investigation going, make it as open and fair just as possible, and if the guy went over the line, hammer him.

(It is really hard to see how the shooting is justified. I don’t think anyone‘s account doesn’t involve the officer shooting him after there ceased to be a threat. And that’s really hard to justify in any circumstances.)

And, keep the damn MRAPS out of Ferguson (and everywhere else).

GWB on August 14, 2014 at 12:39 PM

Yeah, but the Redskins really need to change their name.

Galtian on August 14, 2014 at 12:44 PM

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 12:08 PM

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I don’t know if that’s so, but if anyone does have that mindset they should also ponder their own ox being gored. Especially since conservative groups are on the Feds and many state’s terrorist-watch lists.

whatcat on August 14, 2014 at 12:25 PM

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I don’t believe it is so, but maybe SirGawain will produce some evidence that proves otherwise.

Still waiting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Mary Katherine, you are a seriously awesome addition to HotAir.

Professor Blather on August 14, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Two very squishy articles by MKH (the Andrew WK thing, and this one), and anything by Rothman. This blog is becoming impossible to read. If/when AP leaves, it’s done.
bofh on August 13, 2014 at 10:43 PM

Mary Katharine Ham always has been a big nothing. Overrated and apparently more concerned with appearing acceptable to liberal media colleagues than anything else. She is a more natural fit for MSNBC.

And look at how she responds to commenters who disagree with her:

Exactly, and if you bad-mouth her or question her motives, you’ll get deleted or banned. Have as much respect as the Romney camp has had for her. It’s a far better way to honor her son’s memory than lashing out at her because she happens to like Obama or not like Romney.
Mary Katharine Ham on October 10, 2012 at 3:14 PM

bluegill on August 14, 2014 at 1:44 PM

I wonder how many of the rioters are not from Ferguson, but from East St Louis (which is in Illinois, not MO, and is one of the most frightening places in existence outside of the third world according to locals)? – GWB at 12:39 PM

This.

In any metro area, you can have a flash mob of looters or rioters suddenly appear. They give a worse impression of the town and its people and they often congregate via online services.

I noticed a lot of high-end pickups involved in the looting video. Like they were outsiders who came in for the looting once it started. The videos didn’t make it look like a suburb with a lot of new pickups on the streets ordinarily. Pickups aren’t popular with blacks the way they are with redneck types.

So a community already victimized by a controversial shooting also had its local businesses destroyed by (possibly outsider) looters and then its name blackened as a famous “ghetto”. The character of the area before this was working-class, about 2/3 were black families. Now their name is mud as a result of this aftermath to the shooting which may not represent the community accurately. But for years to come, the name Ferguson will be a charged name with a history to it. It’s very unfortunate for the suburb.

Toocon on August 14, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Pickups aren’t popular with blacks the way they are with redneck types.

Toocon on August 14, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Just be careful with the generalizations/stereotypes. Pickups are very popular with blacks where I live – possibly just as popular as they are with the rednecks. (And it certainly wasn’t rednecks in there looting in Ferguson.)

GWB on August 14, 2014 at 1:51 PM

…Pickups aren’t popular with blacks the way they are with redneck types.

Toocon on August 14, 2014 at 1:46 PM

Wrong. It’s more an intown vs suburbs deal. Homeowner vs renter.

slickwillie2001 on August 14, 2014 at 2:02 PM

I’ve never seen blacks driving pickups in any numbers comparable with rural folks or the deep South. Or the Mountain West region.

I also wondered if some of those pickups were stolen vehicles, acquired just to haul off loot. What lunatic would drive their own vehicle to a looting riot?

Toocon on August 14, 2014 at 2:09 PM

Two very squishy articles by MKH (the Andrew WK thing, and this one), and anything by Rothman. This blog is becoming impossible to read. If/when AP leaves, it’s done.

bofh on August 13, 2014 at 10:43 PM

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Mary Katharine Ham always has been a big nothing. Overrated and apparently more concerned with appearing acceptable to liberal media colleagues than anything else. She is a more natural fit for MSNBC.

And look at how she responds to commenters who disagree with her :
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Exactly, and if you bad-mouth her or question her motives, you’ll get deleted or banned. Have as much respect as the Romney camp has had for her. It’s a far better way to honor her son’s memory than lashing out at her because she happens to like Obama or not like Romney.

Mary Katharine Ham on October 10, 2012 at 3:14 PM

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bluegill on August 14, 2014 at 1:44 PM

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I don’t care how jealous you two are of MKH‘s status here.
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I DEMAND … that both of you continue coming to this blog, reading all of the news stories that are posted, and posting comments to the aforementioned news stories … INCLUDING THOSE POSTED BY MKH.
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If EITHER of you stop coming here because you don’t like the work the payed staff is producing, then we will retaliate by getting REALLY MAD at you both.

So don’t even THINK about it.

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Pickups aren’t popular with blacks the way they are with redneck types.

Toocon on August 14, 2014 at 1:46 PM

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Just be careful with the generalizations/stereotypes. Pickups are very popular with blacks where I live – possibly just as popular as they are with the rednecks. (And it certainly wasn’t rednecks in there looting in Ferguson.)

GWB on August 14, 2014 at 1:51 PM

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Am I a “racist” if Toocon‘s comment has given me “Sanford & Son” on the brain ? .. Dammit ! … the theme music won’t STOP !

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 2:15 PM

My work on this thread is done.     : )

Toocon on August 14, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Am I a “racist” if Toocon‘s comment has given me “Sanford & Son” on the brain ? .. Dammit ! … the theme music won’t STOP !

listens2glenn on August 14, 2014 at 2:15 PM

LOL!

slickwillie2001 on August 14, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Or rural. There are still a lot of guys around here that do subsistence farming on their little plot. And, of course, all the freelance handymen and landscapers.

GWB on August 14, 2014 at 2:27 PM

The deep respect many Americans hold for law enforcement should be a function of a free society asking more from those men and women and getting it, not a reason to excuse them when they give us far less.

Sorry Mary Katherine. That “deep respect” has been gone for a long time. It started with the 1968 Chicago DNC Police riot when I was a kid and it hasn’t gotten any better. I have NO respect for the police, only fear.

Cops are the most violent criminal gang in the entire US and I’d understand it if the good people of Ferguson start shooting them. Cops are thugs and murderers and it isn’t just some of them, it is all of them because if you are complicit in the coverup of a crime, you are a partner in that crime, and all cops are guilty of covering up for their fellow thugs in blue. ALL of them.

earlgrey on August 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM

and all cops are guilty of covering up for their fellow thugs in blue. ALL of them.

earlgrey on August 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Is there a word for this? You know like we would say someone that said this of any “racial” grouping was a racist? Sheesh.

GWB on August 14, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Cops are the most violent criminal gang in the entire US and I’d understand it if the good people of Ferguson start shooting them. Cops are thugs and murderers and it isn’t just some of them, it is all of them because if you are complicit in the coverup of a crime, you are a partner in that crime, and all cops are guilty of covering up for their fellow thugs in blue. ALL of them.

earlgrey on August 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Do I detect some anger here??? Or are you just a serial criminal?

At least you make a great cup of tea.

txdoc on August 14, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Well said and quite correct MK

Whitey Ford on August 14, 2014 at 6:05 PM

1 “…in this case, my sincere feeling is that armoring up in this manner and looking like an offensive force (not a defensive one) has inflamed the situation, not defused it.

2 “And, one of the reasons inner cities have less respect for police is, frankly, because they have more exposure to them and bad apples than the rest of us do.”

Mary Katharine Ham on August 13, 2014 at 10:53 PM

1) I’m thinking not. It’s pissed some people off and led to media claims of police brutality, but I have yet to see the videotape from anyone save one recalcitrant reporter trying to write himself into the story – we know this because he came prepared to film these cops in high hopes of providing us with evidence of that brutal police state. So far, he’s the only one.

Meanwhile these peaceful protesters are throwing rocks, bricks and Molotov cocktails and in addition the cops are reporting hearing shots fired, whether at them or at the crowd. They didn’t send a SWAT team to show up in response to a candlelight vigil, they showed up in response to a *riot.

2) I read somewhere on this thread that some 70% of the people arrested had previous records. Perhaps *that’s why they have more exposure to all of the apples.

I’m writing this and watching people running up and down that line of protesters wearing their colors and masks over the faces like La Raza and hearing about the Black Panthers making their own appearance and that many of those arrests were out of towners that evidently bussed themselves in for a reason. Why would that be, MK? Do you see any similiarities between this, the usual liberal MO, and jihadists inciting a riot in the ME?
If not, I suggest you start paying closer attention and take a really good, long look.

Recon5 on August 14, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Wow, you would think it was an unarmed journalist who was shot. An unarmed, teenaged Journalist.

I think I know far more about the corrupt journalist, they are all corrupt to some extent, than I do about the kid who was killed!!!

The Journalist were questioned and released. So what!? It’s a tense situation. And the press is corrupt they should be treated with suspicion by everyone everywhere.

I don’t blame people for being upset by a kid being killed. But how often does this happen? Are there any statistics about if this is only happening to blacks? Or are there white kids getting killed too?

And one thing I read said that this child/kid had written something about dying that same day on Facebook. Could this have been suicide by cop?

Those are just a few of the questions I would ask.

petunia on August 14, 2014 at 10:51 PM

I have far more respect for the average cop than I do for the average journalist.

petunia on August 14, 2014 at 10:52 PM

MKH,

The only people who created this situation were the protesters. When people are throwing gas bombs its a military situation, those people are criminals.

The reporter who was arrested interfered with the police, trespassed across police boundaries and resisted arrest.

Typical stuff nothing to see here happens all the time.

EricPWJohnson on August 15, 2014 at 12:38 AM

earlgrey on August 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Do I detect some anger here??? Or are you just a serial criminal?

At least you make a great cup of tea.

txdoc on August 14, 2014 at 3:47 PM

I do make a great cup of tea, thank you, and yes I am angry because this happens all to often and it is the government’s and it s corrupt legal system that allow for it:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/15/the-day-ferguson-cops-were-caught-in-a-bloody-lie.html

earlgrey on August 15, 2014 at 11:31 AM

MKH,

The only people who created this situation were the protesters. …

EricPWJohnson on August 15, 2014 at 12:38 AM

This began long before the cops murdered Michael Brown. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/15/the-day-ferguson-cops-were-caught-in-a-bloody-lie.html

earlgrey on August 15, 2014 at 11:33 AM

I know MKH says she doesn’t smoke pot, only supports it’s legalization, but I’d suggest her recent writings and spewings suggest otherwise.

Baggi on August 15, 2014 at 4:49 PM

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