Out of Control
It’s been difficult to watch the news from Ferguson, Missouri all week following the police shooting death of an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown.
The images of supposed police decked out in military style uniforms, complete with “officers” mounted on top of armored vehicles assuming a sniper position with a scoped rifle aimed at American citizens was unlike anything the Founders could have ever envisioned.
It’s likely the very representation of tyranny that the signers of the Constitution had in mind when they put ink to paper.
Any rational observer can’t help but note how the 50 man department in Ferguson botched their reaction to the natural outpouring of emotion following the young man’s death. Even before parents and relatives had a chance to grieve, or the news filter out to the rest of the country, it seemed like the local police force was deployed in a battle line in the streets.
It was somewhat fitting, then, that Stephen Stills played in concert here in the Triad this past Friday, singing a classic line from his early hit “For What It’s Worth”.
What a field day for the heat.
A thousand people in the street.
As the week wore on it seemed as if the police there reveled in the opportunity to confront its own citizens with its supply of military equipment, deploying tear gas and concussion grenades like they were sweeping neighborhoods in Baghdad.
By the end of the week that “officer” could still be seen perched in his sniper’s crouch, even as the rest of the country was engaged in debate about the militarization of domestic civilian police.
It’s that militarization that is the core of the problem. Police in this country are ceded vast powers over the free individual. That power brings them unquestioned devotion from many corners of our society.
Despite the fact that police in America also have a long history of abusing minorities, especially African American men, some are blinded by the luster of the badge.
But until police militarization is checked, and until African American men are free to walk the streets without fear of automatically being a target, the luster of that badge will remain tarnished.