As the police use of tear gas and First Amendment limitations continue in Ferguson, Missouri—the small town wracked by protests following the still murky police killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown—there are a number of reasons to believe this story is just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are 5.
1. Because we only care about policy brutality when we’re forced to care.
Though the largely peaceful protests in Ferguson have unfortunately been tarnished by the actions of a few looters, its citizens have accomplished a rare feat: They have made the whole country care about police brutality.
Let’s face it: Normally, we don’t care enough. While libertarians have been talking about police militarization for years and the black community is well aware of racial bias in the justice system, most of us too easily forget, or are simply unaware of, the many cases of police misconduct that occur on a regular basis.
Here are stories from the last month alone:
- EMTs have to stop four NYPD officers from beating a handcuffed, emotionally disturbed patient on a stretcher
- Six Philadelphia police charged with robbery, extortion, and kidnapping
- Harrisburg, PA police order a man with a video camera to leave the area while they body slam a drunk man
- LAPD officers under investigation for ferociously kicking and punching a woman placed in a holding cell under suspicion of petty theft
- NYPD officer charged with breaking into a woman’s apartment and beating her
Have you heard of any of these? I hadn’t. And without the protesters in Ferguson, Mike Brown would be just another entry on that much-abbreviated list of recent incidents.
2. Because we arm police like soldiers and then wonder why they act like soldiers.
Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.
Following the reports of police violence in Ferguson, President Obama and administration officials condemned police misconduct. But the fact is, they’re complicit: The military equipment, vehicles, and weapons which so often contribute to police brutality are frequently presents from the federal government (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, with minimal proof required that these weapons are in any sense “needed”).
The Pentagon has confirmed that some of the equipment used by police in Ferguson is from their stockpile.
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