Al Jazeera America reports: Canisters of tear gas thrown indiscriminately into crowds, armored vehicles rolling through city streets and men in camouflage wielding machine guns — it seems like a scene from Fallujah or Kabul or perhaps from the dark days of the U.S. civil rights movement.
But as the world knows, this is Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
Even as the community struggles to come to grips with the tragic shooting death of yet another unarmed young African-American man, the events unfolding in Ferguson have thrown a spotlight on a second alarming trend: the increasing militarization of local police departments.
In response to protesters expressing outrage over the killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown, the St. Louis County and Ferguson police departments have turned the streets of this majority-African-American suburb into a veritable war zone, firing rubber bullets, menacing demonstrators with dogs and in general displaying excessive force for the purposes of security and crowd control.
“This militarization that we are witnessing — police officers dressed as soldiers, using military vehicles and military weapons to engage largely unarmed protesters — is outrageous,” said Tom Nolan, chairman of the department of criminal justice at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, who served for 27 years in the Boston Police Department. “It’s a disgrace.” [Continue reading…]
BuzzFeed reports: Amid growing criticism of the military-style equipment and tactics deployed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, a Democrat from Georgia plans to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act” in Congress next month.
Rep. Hank Johnson asked his all his colleagues Thursday to join him in supporting the bill, which he said in a letter “will end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for.”
Images of assault rifle-carrying camouflaged police riding through Ferguson on military vehicles similar to the IED-resistant equipment used by American armed forces in combat have proven to be a jolt of energy for a long-simmering debate about police militarization.
In his letter to Congress, Johnson signaled that he expects his bill to break through the partisan gridlock in the House. [Continue reading…]