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Hullabaloo


Thursday, August 14, 2014

 
The "if you build it, they will use it" daily update #Ferguson

by digby

Now they're arresting reporters:

One of our reporters, Ryan Reilly, was arrested this evening in Ferguson, Mo., along with a Washington Post reporter, because that's the kind of thing that happens now, apparently. He is there covering the protests in response to the killing of Michael Brown. Below is a statement we put out condemning the arrest, and here's our report on it. Meanwhile, both of our reporters there are now stranded at the police station, a long way from their rental car. If anybody on this list lives in the St. Louis area and feels like giving them a lift, shoot me a note.

"We are relieved Ryan Reilly and Wesley Lowery are safe, but we are disturbed by their arrest and assault.

"Ryan was working on his laptop in a McDonald's near the protests in Ferguson, MO, when police barged in, armed with high-powered weapons, and began clearing the restaurant. Ryan photographed the intrusion, and police demanded his ID in response. Ryan, as is his right, declined to provide it. He proceeded to pack up his belongings, but was subsequently arrested for not packing up fast enough. Both Ryan and Wesley were assaulted.

"Compared to some others who have come into contact with the police department, they came out relatively unscathed, but that in no way excuses the false arrest or the militant aggression toward these journalists. Ryan, who has reported multiple times from Guantanamo Bay, said that the police resembled soldiers more than officers, and treated those inside the McDonald's as 'enemy combatants.' Police militarization has been among the most consequential and unnoticed developments of our time, and it is now beginning to affect press freedom."

I have been writing about this for quite some time now. It's an inevitable result of the combination of paranoia, DHS money and lots and lots of spasre military gear being sold cheaply to police agencies all over the nation at taxpayers expense.

This is the problem:

Ex police chief Joseph McNamara addressed this dynamic in this op-ed:

Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed. An emphasis on "officer safety" and paramilitary training pervades today's policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn't shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed. Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.

Yes, police work is dangerous, and the police see a lot of violence. On the other hand, 51 officers were slain in the line of duty last year, out of some 700,000 to 800,000 American cops. That is far fewer than the police fatalities occurring when I patrolled New York's highest crime precincts, when the total number of cops in the country was half that of today. Each of these police deaths and numerous other police injuries is a tragedy and we owe support to those who protect us. On the other hand, this isn't Iraq. The need to give our officers what they require to protect themselves and us has to be balanced against the fact that the fundamental duty of the police is to protect human life and that law officers are only justified in taking a life as a last resort.

"Officer safety" is the excuse for tasers --- even on elderly women at traffic stops and unruly children having tantrums. In fact, it's commonly used so that the officers can demand instant compliance from the citizens regardless of the circumstances. I'm certainly sympathetic to the idea that policing is a dangerous job. But the pursuit of officer safety to the exclusion of everything else is to create a world in which the bill of rights is an anachronistic abstraction.

Being a cop in a free society is a tough gig. I think they deserve all the early pensions and great benefits they get for doing it. Anyone would burn out early from a job like that. But giving them carte blanche to use pain devices on the citizens in order to gain instant compliance and avoid any kind of physical altercation can't be right. Over time that war on crime morphs into a war on citizens.

And now we have Ferguson.

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