To the Editor:
In his September 3rd opinion piece on the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mr. Sowell attempts to create a generalization that “heavily armed or aggressive police forces” are not what seed rioters, but rather suppress their tendency to riot. Unfortunately, what Mr. Sowell does not understand is that generalizations do not account for the unique dynamics of each situation that require a more calculated and proportional response.
I am first to admit that I am not opposed to police forces of major metropolitan areas, such as St. Louis County, having bomb-resistent, armored vehicles, automatic weapons, etc. in their inventory. If we look at the recent Boston terror bombings, no one complained about the use of those assets in the pursuit and capture of the perpetrators of that horrific crime. Unfortunately, we in the St. Louis area have to be just as prepared to face that kind of threat.
The issue in Ferguson was not equivalent to Boston. The demonstrators were not terrorists out to kill hundreds of people; they were American citizens exercising their constitutional right to peaceful assembly and protest. Granted, there were some who chose to destroy and loot property, which is inexcusable behavior that should have been dealt with using conventional law enforcement techniques. However, the transition from orderly marches to more aggressive posturing by the protestor’s was, in large measure, the result of a frustrated public at the lack of proportionality in response of our local law enforcement organizations.
There is a right way and a wrong way to respond to varying levels of public protest. It is the responsibility of our legislators and our law enforcement personnel to understand those differences and to train to perform their sworn duty using more appropriate responses.
We have an opportunity to learn some very important lessons from these events. I hope we have the wisdom to apply them.