Staff Editorial: Feud with Ferguson

Position Statement- The recent shooting in Ferguson Missouri reveals essential problems with America’s police force, such as their recent extreme militarization and urge to shoot to kill.


The world may never know the exact consequences that led 18-year old Michael Brown to be shot dead on Aug. 9, but we do know a few things: he was unarmed, the responsible police officer was white, and he sustained six bullet wounds, one of which was at the top of his head.

The shooting has ignited protests, lootings and riots over what many see as a senseless and racist killing. The entire story is a mess, and the way the authorities have handled it has only made the situation worse. The problems with the police force are both numerous and heinous, and are the true problems with not only Ferguson, Missouri, but many cities around the world.

The first horrible fault of the new American police force is their rush to unnecessary militarization. Created in the 1960s, SWAT teams, originally intended for high danger situations such as hostage negotiations, have been exponentially growing.

According to the book The Rise of the Warrior Cop, by Radley Balko, about 26 percent of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT teams in 1984. In 2005, that number reached 80 percent and has continued to grow in the nine year period since. Nowadays, SWAT teams are used to smash down doors of alleged “drug havens” with only a single tip. And due to the National Defense Authorization Act, your local town of 37,000 could have a tank patrolling the streets. This is not an exaggeration; these are military grade tanks and heavily armored vehicles.

Do you think a town only relatively larger than LaGrange really needs a tank? Television coverage of Ferguson shows a police force that seems prepared to take on ISIS, not a crowd of protestors

You would think that police would treat this great power, these military grade weapons, with great responsibility. It’s what most normal human beings would do. But for some reason, this thought doesn’t seem to register with those who are meant to “promote the general welfare”. Instead, it appears many officers do what a psychotic person might do if they were given a military grade weapon: shoot to kill.

Only weeks after Ferguson in St. Louis, a knife-wielding liquor store robber was shot to death upon advancing towards a police man. The police argued that the man was advancing towards them against their demands and was a dangerous individual. But how dangerous could this individual have been? He literally brought a knife to a gun fight, and was clearly at a disadvantage to the police. A quick shot in the leg would have ended the fight and stopped the advantage.

Incidents like this pop up all too often. Minor robbery turns into dead criminal. Each shooting feels the same: police show up to a store to find an overwhelmed, unarmed robber, who due to nerves and lack of knowledge, does something he shouldn’t and ends up getting shot. These stories have become so common place that they have five seconds dedicated to them on newscasts and end up in the middle pages of the Chicago Tribune.

That’s why Ferguson is such a big deal. It’s a hot bed of all these problems with the police force, and suddenly they’re under the microscope of national television. Hopefully we can do what we have not so many times: capitalize on a meaningful event and turn it into purposeful legislation that fixes a problem. By the time this editorial is published, maybe the idea of Ferguson is out of everyone’s mind and the media will be focused on more interesting news stories, like disappearing planes. Hopefully, however, we remember Ferguson and the problems it exposed.