Here's a video stream of police breaking up an apparently peaceful protest in Ferguson, MO with tear gas and rubber bullets tonight.
A few hours before this action, two reporters from national outlets were roughed up and arrested at a McDonald's in Ferguson for taking pictures of the police.
Note: Everyone is well within their rights to photograph or film police.
And who can blame them for wanting to? Cops these days are flashing some pretty sweet swag. They're practically begging to have their highly dramatic pictures made.
Police departments all over America are armed to the teeth with advanced military equipment as well as imbued with an increasingly militarized sense of mission.
What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures? The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.
Consider today's police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.
If you browse online police discussion boards, or chat with younger cops today, you will often encounter some version of the phrase, "Whatever I need to do to get home safe." It is a sentiment that suggests that every interaction with a citizen may be the officer's last. Nor does it help when political leaders lend support to this militaristic self-image, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in 2011 by declaring, "I have my own army in the NYPD—the seventh largest army in the world."
Unfortunately local political leaders revel in these images. Here is a famous photograph of a former New Orleans Mayor and Chief of Police brandishing weapons acquired for NOPD via one of the federal programs outlined in that WSJ article.
Public officials often score political points comparing the law enforcement situation in New Orleans to a "war zone." A few years ago State Rep. Austin Badon told a public forum he wanted to see NOPD "kicking in at least four doors a day."
Media personality Norman Robinson recently advocated "stop and frisk" in response to a shooting on Bourbon Street. The Louisiana State Police, in town in response to that same incident, stopped and assaulted local musician Shamarr Allen. John Georges's newspaper thanked them for their service.
On Monday a New Orleans Police officer shot a 26 year old man in the head during a traffic stop but did not report the shooting.
At a hastily called news conference Wednesday evening, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas described the matter as an embarrassing oversight. He said police had prepared a news release on the incident Monday, and, for some reason, did not send it out.
“I personally authorized a press release,” Serpas said. “Clearly it fell through the cracks.”
“I’m very disappointed and angry,” he added. “We normally put this information out right away.”
The NOPD has been dogged for years by questions about the possible overuse of deadly force by some officers and its failure to fully investigate some of those incidents. The federal consent decree the department signed with the Justice Department in 2012, which mandates a series of reforms, had its roots in a series of poorly investigated shootings and beatings by police in the days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
On Thursday NOPD are expected to evict a homeless encampment from under the Calliope Street overpass. Thursday night they will conduct another of their signature traffic checkpoints.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, on Thursday August 14, 2014, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M. Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc.If there happen to be any shootings during the traffic enforcement operation, let's hope someone remembers to write them down.