What we all just witnessed for several nights in Ferguson, Missouri, may aptly illustrate the nadir of militarization and the apex of principled policing. In the midst of all the controversy that now surrounds the demonstrations themselves and the tactics of the local police, it is well to remember what occurred to set off the demonstrations (as told by Charles Chamberlain of Democracy for America using sources such as the NY Daily News, MSNBC, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and “BuzzFeed”).
- The scene is left in the hands of the officer’s own colleagues who allow the officer to leave the scene of the crime. His vehicle is also allowed to leave the scene – presumably breaking the integrity of the chain of evidence.
- Victim is left lying in the road for four hours – inflaming the community and presumably destroying evidence.
- Witnesses say that the killing officer never bothered to check for a pulse once his victim went down. None of the other officers arriving on the scene checked for a pulse. Bystanders in the medical field were not allowed to attempt CPR.
- Rumor has it that the cellphones of possible witnesses were confiscated.
- The response to a community protesting police brutality is the imposition of ‘martial law’ complete with authoritarianism, tear gas, rubber bullets, flash grenades and sound grenades.
- Local police dressed in camouflage and battle gear (pictures side by side of a local police officer and a combat veteran from Afghanistan illustrated the heavy gear that the local police favored)
- Battle equipment that wasn’t relevant or appropriate for the situation, like huge tank type vehicles, semi-automatic guns and guns that could shoot someone at 80 yards away.
- The helmets and gas masks and riot gear like the gas canisters and rubber bullets.
- Reporters were kept from covering the event with some illegally arrested just for doing their jobs
- Peaceful protestors were arrested; others were harmed; others harassed
- Even a St. Louis alderman was unlawfully arrested
- Police were caught on international TV screaming “Bring it! Bring it you f__king animals!”
- Protestors were told to leave in violation of their rights
- Negotiation had no place; only orders, riot control tactics and militant actions such as the release of tear gas on the entire crowd
Serving as Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel introduced a number of important reforms to British criminal law. His changes to the penal code system resulted in fewer crimes carrying a death penalty sentence and education for inmates. Remembered today as “The Founder of Modern Policing,” Peel created the “Metropolitan Police” based on nine principles that he developed for law enforcement (some say others had a large hand in this). These nine basic principles are often referred to as “The Peelian Principles.” Upon close examination of each of the Peelian principles, not only are direct connections to policing in today's world apparent, but often the nine principles are cited as the basic foundation for current law enforcement organizations and community policing throughout the world. There are some law enforcement agencies that currently quote the Peelian Principles on their community websites as their own principles. Following the disastrous imposition of a curfew by Governor Nixon, a few comments are inserted by me.
Principle 1 - “The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.” To protect and serve is the modern equivalent. The question then becomes: who is being protected in Ferguson – certainly not the law-abiding protestors. The second question to arise is whose interest is being served? Too often in these instances, it is the vested interests of officials, businesses, and police authorities that are served first and foremost. That is exactly what happened when a curfew was imposed. The interests and the good will of the protestors was cast aside or ignored.