Look at the photos above, two of them show police officers in a way that most of were taught how police should act. Respectful, protecting the rights of people, asking questions and building a bridge of communication between diverse groups. Two of them look like something you would see in an occupied, militarized zone. Yet they both are from the same place and are taken within a few days of each other. This is Ferguson, MO where 50 of the 53 cops are white and a majority of the city officials are white as well.
Sat 08/9/2014 Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer, he was unarmed, it was broad daylight and he was in the middle of a suburban street https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wt8yEGacIs . A crowd gathered, police called for crowd control and within hours there was tear gas and rubber and wooden pellets being fired at people who were exercising their rights to protest. The heavy-handed occupation style treatment lasted for a little over four days. Hundreds of cop cars were called in, armored vehicles and cops in full military gear were on the street. For what reason? There was some looting on the first night but after that the only ones using force were the police.
Pastors, government officials, teachers and innocent bystanders were gassed and shot at for no reason whatsoever, people were arrested and held without charge.
Media was targeted and then it was later stated that the police didn't know they were a news crew. http://boingboing.net/2014/08/14/video-of-ferguson-police-gassi.html (which is highly doubtful) .
What was the point of all this? The police have received millions in surplus military gear over the years. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/09/us/war-gear-flows-to-police-departments.html?_r=0
It started in the 90s when criminals were becoming more heavily armed and in cities with a high drug crime rate. I can see it as a needed response to when criminals can get their hands on armor piercing rounds. Now, if the situation in Ferguson had been a hostage situation, a school shooting. a terrorist threat or something along those lines I could understand a heavy handed approach, it wasn't. It was a town reacting in grief and shock to a cop killing an 18 year old kid with little reason to, The police department's actions made the situation much worse and destroyed what little trust the people may have had. The cop who participated in the shooting was sent on administrative leave, no one from the city came out and took any type of responsibility for what happened. They did not seem to care that there was a death, instead they stalled, threatened and intimidated the citizens for days.
It almost seemed that since the departments have all the high end toys they immediately took them into the field without any actual cause.
It was only when St. Louis PD pulled out and there was an intense amount of scrutiny did the approach shift. The Governor put the Highway Patrol in charge and immediately the tenor of the situation changed. How much of that tenor shift had to do with the fact that the man in charge of the Highway Patrol was black? How much of it had to do with the fact that he was using common sense instead of either fear or ego?
Surprisingly there is no agency that tracks how many police shootings happen every year so what numbers you do see vary widely but here is one estimate. "Though the U.S. government does not have a database collecting information about the total number of police involved shootings each year, it’s estimated that between 500 and 1,000 Americans are killed by police officers each year. Since 9/11, about 5,000 Americans have been killed by U.S. police officers, which is almost equivalent to the number of U.S. soldiers who have been killed in the line of duty in Iraq."
Most of the reports do agree that since the police became more militarized police brutality and shootings have increased. With the increased use of cell phones to record these incidents we may find it is even worse than we know.
I was alive during the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots and watching the events unfold in Ferguson one realizes that the cops have learned nothing from that disaster or from the Civil Rights protests in the 60s. Overwhelming force is not part of the Constitution, our right to protest and take part in Civil Disobedience is. When those rights are trampled it is no longer about the original incident that set off the protest, it becomes a Constitutional Issue and we as an entire nation and the world gets involved.
People from Palestine - , Chicago , New York , and at least 90 other cities protested in solidarity with what happened. This could have all been avoided if the cops acted as they should have and not as a occupying force.
Perhaps this time they will learn.