Since the shooting death of unarmed 18 year-old black male Michael Brown by a white police officer on August 09, the local police wasted no time in turning a small Missouri town into a scene worthy of a Hollywood filming crew.
CNN’s Jake Tapper reported the following live from Ferguson on August 18th: “I want to show you this, okay? To give you an idea of what’s going on. The protesters have moved all the way down there… they’re all the way down there. Nobody is threatening anything. Nobody is doing anything. None of the stores here that I can see are being looted. There is no violence.
Now I want you to look at what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri, in downtown America, okay? These are armed police, with – not machine guns – semi-automatic rifles, with batons, with shields, many of them dressed for combat. Now why they’re doing this? I don’t know. Because there is no threat going on here. None that merits this. There is none, okay? Absolutely there have been looters, absolutely over the last nine days there’s been violence, but there is nothing going on this street right now that merits this scene out of Bagram. Nothing.
So if people wonder why the people of Ferguson, Missouri are so upset, this is part of the reason.”
Multiple police officials have spoken out against the tactics used in Ferguson, including former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper. Chief Stamper oversaw police actions during the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle.
“The biggest mistake in my 34 years of law enforcement was that we used a military response to a domestic situation, a military tactic that was absolutely unnecessary.” Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Stamper went on to explain how the use of military hardware actually went on to “heighten tensions.” This coincides with results from a study at the University of California, Berkeley.
Lead researcher for the UC Berkeley Deciding Force Project, Nick Adams, recently explained to California’s KFBK radio station: “We’re finding police have a lot of capacity to set a tone. When police show up in riot gear, you get a different kind of interaction then when they show up in their regular uniforms.”
In 2012, the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin published a piece titled Crowd Management, written by Boise, Idaho Police Chief Mike Masterson: “Officers must avoid donning their hard gear as a first step. They should remember lessons learned from the 1960s civil rights movement and Vietnam protests. Police should not rely solely on their equipment and tools. Experience shows that when used as a primary tactical option in public order policing, dialogue is invaluable.”
Chief Masterson went on to state: “Avoiding anonymity and promoting accountability are essential. By ensuring police officers assigned to crowd control are identifiable, with names and badge numbers clearly visible, agencies prevent their officers from becoming anonymous agents. Obscurity or depersonalization of officers encourages negative crowd behavior and leads to unaccountable actions.”
Apparently Officer Go Fuck Yourself never read Masterson’s piece:
Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery also could not get a name or badge number from his arresting officer. He also couldn’t get a reasoning behind his arrest.
However, things quickly changed once Missouri Highway State Patrol Captain Ron Johnson was appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to take control.
“We are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we’re in this together,” Captain Johnson told reporters. Johnson removed the military hardware from the streets and walked beside the town’s protesters, finally forming a community of one between law enforcement and citizens.
In one day, the Ferguson native brought peace to the town using the tactics described by Chief Masterson. It also took one day to destroy it.
During a Friday, August 15th press conference, the public believed Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson would finally shed light on the Brown shooting.
In what I can only summarize as one of the most irresponsible actions I’ve ever seen during a police press conference, Jackson instead linked Michael Brown to the robbery of a convenience store.
It would be during a second afternoon press conference that day when Jackson would further explain Brown was initially stopped by the officer who would kill him for walking down the street, not as a robbery suspect.
Outside of Darren Wilson being identified as Brown’s shooter, details relating to the shooting itself were largely ignored.
“This robbery does not relate to the initial contact between the officer and Michael Brown,” the Ferguson chief added. Which makes the Ferguson press conference appear as nothing less than a character assassination of the dead.
Concerned about the rising tensions within the town, the Department of Justice recommended Chief Jackson did not release the convenience store surveillance tape. You can guess what decision he made.
Jackson just didn’t stir the pot with his actions; he threw the still steaming bowl in the community’s face.
“I would liked to have been consulted about that,” Capt. Johnson told reporters, responding to Jackson’s announcements.
Jackson’s actions ultimately led to a re-introduction of the hard hats and streets once again covered in gas that night.
How did we get to the point of our police looking like a faceless military force? You can thank the Department of Defense Excess Property Program (also known as 1033).
The 1033 program allows local police departments to request and receive surplus military equipment from the defense department. For free.
The Missouri Department of Public Safety describes the purpose behind the 1033 as: “for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.”
There is no formal government-training program for this equipment once local police receive it.
President Obama has ordered a review of the program since the events of Ferguson.
In 2007, the United States made a deal with the Israeli government to give $30 billion in military aid over a ten-year period. This breaks down to $3 billion a year. One alternative to 1033 would be to sell the equipment to Israel, rather than offer it to the nation’s law enforcement agencies.
According to The Jewish Federations of North America, “nearly 75% of these funds are used to purchase U.S. defense equipment from American companies.”
In 2013 alone, the 1033 program gave $449,309,003.71 worth of military equipment to law enforcement. Since 1997, local law enforcement has received more than $5.1 billion in military equipment.
As a supporter of local law enforcement and a proud son of a former police officer, our nation would benefit from more of this: