Left And Right Unite In Criticizing Ferguson Police Response | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Left And Right Unite In Criticizing Ferguson Police Response

Play associated audio

The police response to this week's protests in Ferguson, Mo., has been criticized on both sides of the aisle as heavy-handed.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon — a two-term Democrat — ordered an overnight change in police tactics. He brought in state troopers, who walked side-by-side with demonstrators.

"This is a place where people work, go to school, raise their families and go to church. A diverse community. A Missouri community. But lately it's looked more like a war zone, and that's unacceptable," he said at a press conference Thursday.

Missouri's Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill also complained about the police posture in Ferguson earlier this week. There's a history of mistrust between the mostly African-American residents of the St. Louis suburb and its nearly all-white police force. McCaskill says it didn't help when officers responded to protests in camouflage and armored vehicles.

"When police come out and take a stand and wear and have equipment that makes it feel like somehow the people who are protesting are assumed to be the bad guys, I don't think it helps take the tension out of the situation. I think it puts more tension in it," she said.

Some conservatives were also alarmed to see local police departments adopting tactics and tools traditionally used by the military. Since the 1960s, Republicans have been known as the party of law and order. But GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky argued in an essay for Time magazine's website, "there should be a difference between a police response and a military response." His point was echoed by conservative blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com.

"No one is denying we need strong police forces. But the police force isn't supposed to be a para-military organization," Erickson says.

Missouri State Troopers seemed to take that to heart last night as they marched alongside the protesters rather than ordering them off the streets. Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who's African-American and grew up near Ferguson, steered the new approach, saying the change in tactics is just the beginning.

"There's things that have to happen after this is over to make us all better: training, diversity, having more minority officers in our communities, more women on our police departments. So all of that needs to happen," he said at a press conference Friday.

Some conservatives, on the other hand, suggest a different fix. Erickson, the RedState blogger, sees paramilitary policing as just another symptom of big government run amok.

"Conservatives are concerned with what happened with the IRS and the EPA going after small businesses. They should I think also necessarily be concerned about small government in local communities feeling emboldened to behave badly," he says.

Nixon says his immediate concern is maintaining peace on the streets of Ferguson. Ultimately, though, he says both Missouri and the U.S. will be judged on whether the events this week that touched such a nerve lead to any lasting changes.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Woman Uses Art To Come To Terms With Her Father's Death

Artist Jennifer Rodgers' father was hospitalized for seven months with sepsis before he died. She used the creative process to try to comprehend his suffering and her loss.
NPR

'Into The Wild' Author Tries Science To Solve Toxic Seed Mystery

Jon Krakauer has long been haunted by how Christopher McCandless died in the Alaskan wilderness. In a scientific journal, he and a chemist show that the seeds McCandless consumed can contain a toxin.
NPR

5 Things You Should Know About Ben Carson

The pediatric neurosurgeon, who entered the presidential race Sunday night, performed pioneering operations on conjoined twins and hasn't held public office before. Here's what you might not know.
NPR

The Promise And Potential Pitfalls Of Apple's ResearchKit

Apple's new mobile software platform is designed to help collect data for medical research, but concerns have been raised about privacy and informed consent.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.