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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

 

Militarization Is Not What Ails Ferguson

August 24, 2014

By Ben Boychuk

Yes, far too many police departments have gone overboard with the military equipment. On that point, liberals and conservatives should be in broad agreement.

Early on, the Ferguson police looked like soldiers, not cops — occupiers, not protectors. Using armored vehicles for crowd control, as the police did in Ferguson before the Highway Patrol took over, only reinforces an "us versus them" mentality — with "us" being the police and "them" being everyone else.

But as worthwhile it may be to discuss demilitarizing America's police forces, it's also worth noting that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, wasn't decked out in camouflage when he confronted the young man and his friend. He was driving a patrol car, not an armored personnel carrier. He shot Brown with his service weapon, a standard-issue 9mm handgun, nothing special.

In short, militarization is a symptom of a problem, but not necessarily what ails Ferguson or other cities. If it's true that some police are overzealous or abusive — which is still a wide-open question in the Brown shooting — then greater accountability is crucial.

It's a shame Wilson wasn't wearing a video camera. Cameras are controversial — police unions hate them, calling them an "encumbrance." But they may be effective in reining in excessive force and abuse.

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the Rialto Police Department in Southern California, where every officer is required to wear a body-mounted camera. One year after police introduced the cameras, use of force by officers dropped by 60 percent and citizen complaints fell an astounding 88 percent.

The kicker? According to the Journal, "police in Ferguson have a stock of body-worn cameras but have yet to deploy them to officers."

Cameras may not solve every problem, but the extra effort toward accountability could help prevent the next conflagration.

Original Source: http://www.goupstate.com/article/20140824/ARTICLES/140829903

 

 
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