Friday, August 15, 2014

Welcome to Ferguson, Missouri! "A Playful City USA."

Ferguson Missouri has been thrown into the spotlight both at home and around the world following the fatal shooting of a young man, who was supposed to be settling into college this week.

What perhaps was the most disturbing message, from the Chief of Police in Ferguson, was his admonition to not to demonstrate after dark.

"Disperse well before evening hours."

To many, including older residents, that sounded eerily like a reference to Sundown Town.

Without question, we all abhor civil unrest, looting and vandalism. And nobody begrudges cops being armed with helmets, shields, and batons for self protection when facing an agitated crowd.

But the over the top law enforcement response, confronting citizens wearing left over military gear,  more appropriate in Afghanistan or Iraq, no doubt escalated the angst of Ferguson. I was stunned to see cops aiming their weapons at unarmed citizens!

Like a woman interviewed on MSNBC said, "How are we supposed to feel about freedom of speech, when we have a machine gun aimed at us?"

Ferguson or Iraq?

All of which poses a larger question concerning the increasing "militarism" of police departments.

Many combat veterans have since pointed out that the SWAT officers are more heavily armed and outfitted than they themselves were while patrolling the streets of Iraq or Afghanistan, characterizing cops as "untrained wannabes."

Actions calling into question of the veracity of the Ferguson Police Department include:

•  Sunday night, in a video captured by CNN, a police officer yelled a derogatory phrase at protesters;  "Bring it, all you fucking animals! Bring it!" the officer said in the exchange.

•  The cops showed up with a heavily armed SWAT team. Members of this police force in a town of 21,000 carried 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine. They wore body armor, stood in front of an armored vehicle known as a BearCat, and would have been mistaken for soldiers if they weren't wearing "Police" patches.

•  Failure to release the name of the cop who shot Michael Brown, under the lame guise of "protecting" his life and family, infers the cops "circling the wagons," with more than five days to construct "their version" of events, resulting in the slaying. Fortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed Sunshine Law requests, which stipulates that records of public governmental bodies be made open to the public.

•  Failure to release the complete autopsy reports. Again, suggesting the Ferguson PD are "circling the wagons," giving them ample opportunity to construct their version of the fatal event.

•  At one point, requesting the FAA prohibit air traffic activity over Ferguson Missouri until August 18th.  An action seen by may observers as an attempt to hide police activity in the investigation. Ostensibly, there had been shots fired at a police helicopter, prompting the ban. But an FAA investigation found that report false, and the restriction has been rescinded.

•  Placing intimidating armored vehicles on display, complete with snipers deployed on the roof. Are they to be used to mow protestors into the pavement? Worse, several video and still images show cops playing around with automatic weapons, aiming them over the crowd. God forbid an accident discharge!  

The Lenco BearCat  (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck) has been embraced by several DoD (Department of Defense) and DoE (Department of Energy) Security Forces and, because of its affordability, low maintenance expenses, ease of use and superior armor level, are increasingly the replacement vehicles of choice for up-armored Humvees. It may also be equipped with our optional Mechanical Rotating Turret with Cupola (Tub) and Weapon Ready Mounting System, suitable for the M60, 240B and Mark 19 weapons system. (From Lenco catalog.)

•  On top of the BearCat, we see a dude playing with an automatic weapon. One wonders, is he "reliving his memories of gunning down people in Fallujah or Afghanistan?"

•  Also on the roof,  what appears to be a Long Range Hailing Device (LRAD), Model 300X.

"In a situation when a SWAT team deals with a rioting mob, the device allows the SWAT team to broadcast sound files containing warning messages. If the crowd does not respond to the verbal messages, the LRAD operator can activate the deterrent tone that can be as loud as 142 dB. 

"When used correctly, neither the LRAD operator nor nearby personnel nor peripheral bystanders will be affected by the LRAD 300X. Sound behind the LRAD unit is over 40 dB less than the on-axis forward output because of the high directionality of the LRAD. The LRAD is safe at aperture when used appropriately. We provide training to customers to ensure they understand the safety ranges and operating requirements." (From LRAD catalog.)

Your Tax Dollars at Work!

So how do police jurisdictions get their hands on military grade weapons and vehicles? Courtesy of the US Government! Your tax dollars at work!

The Department of Defense (DoD) makes this hardware available to law enforcement agencies through its Excess Property Program (1033 Program).  The 1033 Program, which has the motto "From Warfighter to Crimefighter," provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations.

St. Louis County, which encompasses Ferguson, is part of the program. St. Louis County law enforcement agencies received twelve 5.56 millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Department of Defense between Aug. 2, 2010, and Feb. 13, 2013.

These exchanges are occurring from coast to coast in towns and cities that are hardly considered epicenters of violent crime, let alone on par with the foreign war zones where these hand-me-downs — machine guns, armored cars and other made-for-battle items — were originally intended to be used.

Add to that, Military personnel are trained to use these appliances.  What kind of training is a cop receiving?

I don't see anything positive about the increasing militarism of of police department playing Ninja Soldiers. There are reports of cops using this equipment to serve search warrants! That approach is repugnant to most citizens, further widening the gulf between police and the citizens who PAY their wages!

Bill Maher used his closing monologue on the July 18 (2014) episode of "Real Time With Bill Maher" to take a jab at militarized police culture in America. He listed different small towns that use military-style tanks and "toys" in their police departments.

"Once you start dressing and equipping people like an occupying army, they start acting like one," he said. "Every day there's another story in the paper about cops beating innocent people." He noted that police culture isn't just borrowing equipment and machinery from the army, but also a "philosophy of overwhelming force," citing the rise in SWAT team invasions and police brutality. (From Huffington Post.)

And what are the lasting traumatic effects on the children, residents, of Ferguson witnessing an army invading their town?  The militarized police response to protests in Ferguson has driven a rare wedge between two forces that often work closely together – the two largest police departments in the area: the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Louis County Police.

Good News at Last!

Thursday night, Ferguson crowd control was taken away from Ferguson County Police and Ferguson City Police.  Thursday night, under command of  Ron Johnson, of the Missouri Highway Patrol, the demonstration did a 180° turn! Loud but peaceful, with no drama, tear gas, flash bangs, and intimidating SWAT teams.

Amazing what a little love can do, as opposed to a belligerent aggressive force!

Clear evidence that military posturing by cops incites anger, angst, and fear in the citizens. Even as I write this, lawmakers are considering legislation to "disarm" military cop paradigms.

Cops Set an Excellent Example of Law and Order 

Since the "Cops" TV series began airing, many of us have been wary about the behaviors of many of the Boyz in Blue. The part I find most reprehensible is the questioning, without an attorney, in the back seat of the cop car.

Spoiler alert. Do NOT answer ANY questions. It is your constitutional right. Two events stand out in the Ferguson Incident;

•  The Gassing and Vandalism of the Al Jazeera America camera crew.
•  The egregious violation of Civil Right of reporters from the Huffington Post and Washington Post.

Both are graven offenses, committed by cops, violating the civil rights of American Citizens. The cop in McDonald's rousting the reporters represents everything we find reprehensible about violation under color of law.

Not surprising. My deceased wife, who was married to a cop,got tired of him bringing contraband (read drugs) seized in arrests, into their home. The final straw for her was when cops brought her intoxicated husband home, rather than arrest him for DUI.

“At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement Thursday. “The law enforcement response to these demonstrations must seek to reduce tensions, not heighten them.”

The Kent State Massacre

For those who support militarization of cops, you apparently don't know about or remember the horror of Kent State University in 1967. The quintessential example of military response to civil unrest.

Four students were killed. Nine wounded. The result of a military response to anti Viet Nam student protest, characterized by Tricky Dicky as "bums."

We can only hope and pray that Kent State is not repeated, with this incredible arming of cops with military weapons and appliances.

Killed (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
•  Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; 265 ft (81 m) shot through the mouth; killed instantly, with 14 year old Mary Ann Vecchio, kneeling beside him.
•  Allison B. Krause; age 19; 343 ft (105 m) fatal left chest wound; died later that day.
•  William Knox Schroeder; age 19; 382 ft (116 m) fatal chest wound; died almost an hour later while undergoing surgery.
•  Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20; 390 ft (120 m) fatal neck wound; died a few minutes later from loss of blood.

Wounded (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
•  Joseph Lewis Jr.; 71 ft (22 m); hit twice in the right abdomen and left lower leg.
•  John R. Cleary; 110 ft (34 m); upper left chest wound.
•  Thomas Mark Grace; 225 ft (69 m); struck in left ankle.
•  Alan Michael Canfora; 225 ft (69 m); hit in his right wrist.
•  Dean R. Kahler; 300 ft (91 m); back wound fracturing the vertebrae, permanently paralyzed from the chest down.
•  Douglas Alan Wrentmore; 329 ft (100 m); hit in his right knee.
•  James Dennis Russell; 375 ft (114 m); hit in his right thigh from a bullet and in the right forehead by birdshot.
•  Robert Follis Stamps; 495 ft (151 m); hit in his right buttock.
•  Donald Scott MacKenzie; 750 ft (230 m); neck wound.

We have good reason to be fearful of a militarized police force.
Article aggregated from numerous sources

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