I’m a former LEO (Law Enforcement Officer). Granted, it was in the Navy while in Jacksonville, Florida, but that actually emphasizes a point. Even as a LEO in the Navy, I didn’t have access to the tactical equipment that police use now. I didn’t drive an APC or wear tactical gear or respond to a peaceful protest with shotguns, assault rifles, and snipers on rooftops. I responded with my badge to protect and serve my fellow sailors and their families, as well as civilians and retirees who were on the base. The militarization of our police should scare the shit out of everyone, regardless of your political affiliation.
There are good police out there. I know them. I’ve worked with them (in the Navy as a liaison for mass casualties with local law enforcement and as a civilian working in jails). There are also bad police out there. The problem is that the bad police get all the press, so we suffer what is called confirmation bias when it comes to our view of police. All we see are the bad cops on display in viral videos as they engage in police brutality, over-aggressive tactics, and generally treating the civilian population like dog shit. And so we think all police are bad because that’s all we see.
But think about this for a second. Every day the police interact with the general population thousands and thousands of times across the United States. Out of those we see an incident or hear of an incident every now and then. I wish I had the actual numbers to come up with a hard statistic/figure for the number of bad police incidents compared to the overall number of police/civilian interactions that happen without John Doe getting his head bashed in or thrown to the ground because he dared ask the police a question. Just remember to not let confirmation bias cloud your judgment. Call out bad cops, but also recognize there are good cops as well, who genuinely want to serve their communities.
That being said, mob mentality works not just for the mob protesting an injustice or rioting after a team wins the playoffs (or loses), but it also works on police. Police responding to a riot or a peaceful protest with the possibility of becoming a riot, can easily fall into the mob mentality. There’s a lot of psychology going on here, so much so that psychological studies on police have been done to determine why police behave the way they do. Ever hear the phrase “contempt of cop?”
When that mob mentality breaks out with a police force that is militarized, then we create a recipe for disaster. That disaster is playing out in Ferguson, Missouri. It is at times like these when officers with a moral compass must make a stand and speak out. It is times like these when officers in the chain of command must question the orders of their superiors. It is times like these when every officer must be aware of the psychological effect of mob mentality, “contempt of cop,” and other psychological forces that come into play to exacerbate the interaction of police and protesters and “possible rioters.”
As a former LEO, as a taxpayer, as a citizen of this country, I am greatly ashamed of the behavior of the police in Ferguson, Missouri. I am greatly ashamed of the leadership in that city and county, who have decided that the best way to respond to a tragedy is to create a new one and attack the citizens of their city and county. I am greatly ashamed that nothing is being done to stop the police brutality being inflicted upon those citizens by either the Governor or the federal government. The constitutional rights of Missouri citizens are being violated and no one in government seems to give a rat’s ass about it.
It is time to end the militarization of our police forces under the idiotic guise of terrorism. Terrorists are not going to strike Ferguson, Missouri, so why does their police force have an APC? Any why the fuck are they wearing camouflage in an urban environment? We can see you guys, because your green camouflage doesn’t hide you against the brick building and the yellow-painted house.
It is also time to make sure all police are educated and trained on how to spot when mob mentality begins affecting them during crowd control situations. It is also time to train police on how not to exacerbate a situation. I was trained to deescalate a situation and to bring calm and peace whenever possible. Is that training no longer provided? Why is it so hard to realize that when you use violence against a non-violent crowd, you are going to piss them off and make them violent? It’s that fucking simple.
One more thing: the media needs to sue the hell out of Ferguson for violating the Freedom of the Press. There is enough damning evidence that the Ferguson PD actively shut down media, arrested them, shot tear gas and rubber bullets directly at media, and dismantled media equipment once the press ran away.
All of you swore an oath to uphold the laws and constitution of the United States (and the State of Missouri) and you are all failing to uphold that oath. Shame on you. Shame on you for making your fellow officers look bad. Shame on you for failing to use your moral judgment and question the illegal and unconstitutional orders handed down to you by your superiors. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame.