Smart politics. PDs are in a precarious position right now, criticized universally by the left for what happened last night in Ferguson and by many on the libertarian and libertarian-ish right, future presidential candidate Rand Paul among them. If that heat stays bipartisan, legislation to end federal provisions of military weapons to local police might happen. The fastest way to short-circuit that bipartisanship is to frame the argument as one between Obama and the police, knowing that Republicans will be more inclined to side with the cops if O’s on the other side. And so:
“I would contend that discussing police tactics from Martha’s Vineyard is not helpful to ultimately calming the situation,” director Jim Pasco said in an interview with The Hill.
“I think what he has to do as president and as a constitutional lawyer is remember that there is a process in the United States and the process is being followed, for good or for ill, by the police and by the county and by the city and by the prosecutors’ office,” Pasco added…
Pasco said both police and members of the public are entitled to due process but said he is not convinced police have used excessive force in Ferguson.
“I’m not there, and neither is the president,” Pasco said. “That is why we have due process in the United States. And this will all be sorted out over time. But right now, I haven’t seen anything from afar — and maybe the president has — that would lead me to believe the police are doing anything except to restore order.”
I’m assuming Pasco would have grumbled about Obama’s criticism regardless of where he delivered it, but mentioning Martha’s Vineyard is a nice touch too. You take his point: It’s easy to judge cops when you’re clinking champagne glasses with Vernon Jordan on the 18th hole, not in the thick of it with people who are throwing bottles at your head. If you missed Obama’s statement earlier, though, catch up now. He did say that there’s no excuse for police to use excessive force, but he prefaced that by emphasizing that there’s no excuse for using violence against the police — and he pointedly failed to say, when mentioning Michael Brown’s death, how Brown died or who it was who shot him. It was the vaguest, most banal “we all need to behave better” oatmeal, but Pasco still saw an opportunity in critiquing it.
Incidentally, it’s also apparently the position of the Department of Justice that St. Louis County PD has used “excessive force,” which explains why there are no fewer than six(!) DOJ departments now on the ground in Ferguson according to BuzzFeed. I think the feds have chosen the term “excessive force” carefully: They’re not accusing the police of brutality, which suggests beating people, just of using more force than they really need to to control the crowds.
In any event, as Ed noted earlier, the St. Louis County police are no longer on the case. The Missouri Highway Patrol is in charge now. Here’s Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon making the announcement, and reading it fast enough that it sounds like he’d rather be anywhere in the world except there.