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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Our police need more training, not weapons

On August 9, police officer Darren Wilson, amid mixed and unclear circumstances, shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The Ferguson police department’s actions and handling of the incident in the public eye caused a stir and many public demonstrations of grief and anger. The lack of information given about the incident and the initial refusal to release the officer’s name and testimony was part, if not most, of the reason for the protests.

However, the response by the department is why most sympathize with the Ferguson protesters.

While racism is certainly at the center of the row—that is, African Americans’ justified disgust at their treatment at the hands of white police officers—a greater problem has been illuminated by the Ferguson incident: the apparent development of a police state.

Ferguson and its surrounding towns and cities present a worst-case scenario of the outcome of tensions in a situation where the United States’ social defense system is eerily similar to the systems adopted by police states. A large and growing police force in any nation will undoubtedly have shortcomings, which is why a strong traditional system of checks and balances is highly warranted.

Due to an alarming lack of those checks and balances, the situation in Ferguson displays the faults that we hoped would never wash up on our shores.

Among the many problems with the current Ferguson police department, the first and most important is the appearance of surplus military equipment. As our military presence in the Middle East decreases, excess equipment is becoming readily available for police use.

This unnecessary use of military equipment leads to numerous problems. As the protests occur, the police feel the need to use armored vehicles and snipers, as though they were engaging in guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan.

If protesters feel brave enough to engage the police, those police have no right to use such equipment to subdue them. No matter what explanation the police use to justify the emergence of a sniper, to the rest of the world, a sniper has one purpose. 

The unconstitutional nature of militarizing the United States’ police force must be seriously looked into. The standard for police during riots used to be to simply contain and then disperse the crowd as safely and effectively as possible. On the other hand—the hand we currently have—the nature of military equipment is not to solely contain a riot. Its nature is to forcibly dominate a region. When containment is necessary, the equipment is used because the opposition is also heavily armed.

Trained police should not be threatened by a mostly unarmed riot, and if the rioters are more aggressive than previously thought, the police should be able to handle the situation in a manner that does not cause casualties.

Unfortunately, the police seem less than skilled in upholding the law, and even less trained in handling young aggressive men. The supposedly well-trained and militarized police in St. Louis, mere miles from Ferguson, felt the only way to handle a 23-year-old man with a knife was to shoot him to death.   

These are the issues that are increasingly becoming a major problem here in the United States, where the system of policing local crimes has been exchanged with military defense and the police department itself has been re-identified as a base.

In exchange for security and absence of all risk and danger, we have implemented a growing tyrannical system that, coupled with keeping foreign danger at bay, has begun to protect us from our own freedoms. The only way to counteract it is to forcibly establish a balance and to not be afraid to scrutinize the system.