Militarised Ferguson police was wrong, United States Justice Department says

This video from the USA says about itself:

Radley Balko on the Militarization of America’s Police Force: VICE Meets

28 August 2014

On August 9th, 2014 a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. The death of Brown fueled days of unrest in Ferguson. Protestors took to the streets and were met with heavily armed police officers in armored vehicles. It wasn’t long before Ferguson, a town of 21,000, resembled a war zone. This week’s VICE Meets is a conversation about the militarization of America’s police force, with journalist and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko.

From Associated Press in the USA:

Police in Ferguson gave a lesson in how not to respond to protests, says report

Justice Department warns similar problems could occur elsewhere

Criticisms include infringement of free speech and military-style tactics

Thursday 3 September 2015 00.11 BST

The police response to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer offers lessons in how not to handle mass demonstrations, according to a Justice Department report that warns such problems could happen in other places roiled by mistrust between law enforcement and the community.

The report fleshes out a draft version made public in June, creating a portrait of poor community-police relations, ineffective communication among the more than 50 law enforcement agencies that responded, police orders that infringed first amendment rights, and military-style tactics that antagonized demonstrators.

The final version, which is to be released on Thursday, was obtained in advance by the Associated Press.

The report focuses on the regional police response in the 17 days that followed the 9 August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer. In a detailed chronology, it tracks missteps that began almost immediately after the shooting when police wrongly assumed that crowds would quickly dissipate, withheld information from the public and were slow to grasp community angst over the hours-long presence of Brown’s body beneath white sheets in the street.

It details more flaws over the next two weeks, including the improper use of police dogs, armored vehicles and snipers to monitor the crowds; the decision by some officers to remove their nameplates; arbitrary orders to demonstrators to keep moving after five seconds; and poor communication among agencies about which policy to follow and who was in change.

Police officers interviewed for the report complained of inconsistent orders from commanders, with some saying “there was no plan in place for arresting people” or that they “were unclear who they could arrest”. Community members, meanwhile, described poor relationships with the police that long predated – and were made worse by – the shooting.

“Having effective relations and communications with the community, recognizing that endemic problems were at the base of the demonstrations, and understanding how the character of the mass gatherings was evolving and spreading beyond the initial officer-involved shooting would have all aided in incident management decisions,” the report states.

It also makes clear that the situation in Ferguson was not unique, particularly in a year of heightened tensions between police and minority communities nationwide.

The Justice Department cautioned in its report that while much of the world sees the St Louis suburb “as a community of division and violence”, the protests and unrest that occurred there could happen in other places “in which fostering positive police-community relationships and building trust are not a priority”.

Federal officials hope the report will be instructive to other police departments confronting mass demonstrations.

“In many ways, the demonstrations that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown were more than a moment of discord in one small community; they have become part of a national movement to reform our criminal justice system and represent a new civil rights movement,” Ronald Davis, director of the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services office, wrote in an introduction to the report. …

The Justice Department began its review of the regional police response in September 2014 following a request from the St Louis County police chief. Its report is separate from a Justice Department report from March that was critical of Ferguson police practices and the city’s profit-driven municipal court system. A grand jury and the Justice Department both declined to prosecute white officer Darren Wilson, who later resigned.

The report focuses in particular on the responses of police in Ferguson, St Louis city and county and the Missouri highway patrol.

‘Provocative’ Police Tactics Inflamed Ferguson Protests, Experts Find. An in-depth study concludes that “inappropriate” law enforcement responses escalated tension in St. Louis County: here.

Policy Failures ‘Permeated All Aspects’ of Police Reponse in Ferguson: Report. Latest analysis of police and community relations in Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown’s death finds more evidence of poor communication, excessive force, and violation of protesters’ constitutional rights, by Nadia Prupis: here.

FERGUSON REPORT POINTS TO INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM “A 16-person commission tasked with examining racial inequality in the St. Louis area in the wake of Michael Brown’s death found sweeping examples of institutionalized racism, according to a report released on Monday.” You can read the whole report here. [Alana Horowitz, HuffPost]

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