Monday, August 18, 2014

Ferguson: When enforcing the law is "bad optics"

An example of "good optics"
Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri have experienced another night filled with a lack of sympathy for their irresponsible hooliganism and unjustified criticism for their violent and hysterical reaction to a questionable police shooting.

Many Americans apparently think the problem in Ferguson is out-of-control violence and threats to the safety of the local law-abiding population, when, in fact, the problem is a widespread lack of understanding for the needs of looters and bomb throwers.

Thankfully, more and more commentators on television news and talk radio are beginning to stand up to the larger public and are pointing out the inordinate attachment most people seem to have for safety and order.

Protesters in Ferguson (most of whom admittedly have no connection whatsoever with the alleged victim) are clearly upset about the shooting and have a need to express their feelings by throwing Molotov cocktails and stealing from convenience stores. Surely we can find it within ourselves to understand how they feel. Let's be honest: Think of all the times we have looted a store when we were were down or thrown a gasoline bomb at the local police when we woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

It is astounding how little understanding now only we, but the authorities in Ferguson are willing to give these protesters and how little of their pain the local police are willing to feel.

To make things worse, state and local law enforcement officials seem to think the problem is, well, the problem, when, in fact, the solution is the problem. As the defenders of the protests have argued, the reason for these protests has little to do with the fact that there are a bunch of hoodlums using the shooting as an excuse to destroy things and endanger other people's lives and a whole lot more to do with how prepared the police seem to be to deal with it.

Just what do the police in Ferguson think they are doing with riot gear and tear gas? When would they ever have to use that?

As Newsweek magazine has pointed out, the real problem is the "militarization of the police force." As it turns out the police in Ferguson have weapons. Real guns. As many liberal commentators have observed, it is a basic principle of law enforcement that crime is directly related to a police force's ability to deal with it should it happen.

In short, the better prepared you are to deal with crime, the likelier it is to happen.

Seen from this perspective, crime is a justified response to the preparations police have made to respond to it. It just so happens there is a theory called the "Elaborated Social Identity Model." It even has an acronym, ESIM―proof that it is scientific. ESIM, says Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald , "is the leading scientific theory on managing a boisterous horde of people."

And what more accurate description than "boisterous" is there for is a bunch of fire bomb-throwing hoodlums?

Here's the idea, says this Eichenwald person:
What the ESIM shows is that an angry crowd can be driven to riot if they believe they are being treated unfairly—for example, by being confronted by cops decked out with military weaponry. When police treat a crowd justly and humanely, the chance of an uproar decreases and participants trust law enforcement more, the research shows.
If the police in Ferguson were only up-to-date on their knowledge of modern law enforcement theory, they would know that the equipment police need to deal with violence is not a response to violence but that, instead, violence is a response to the possession by police of the equipment they need to deal with it.

It's science.

Not only that but, as has been pointed out by liberal commentators, the police force's resort to tear gas and dogs doesn't look very good on camera. It's not nearly as great viewing as, say, watching some guy on a security cam walking out of a store with an armful of goods he hasn't paid for.

As it turns out, actually enforcing the law is "bad optics."

If we're going to use tear gas and rubber bullets, they ought to be used on the complacent civilian population that does not care about the rights of violent protesters who clearly need to be brought into line.


KyCobb said...


Do you mind explaining the relationship between tear gassing peaceful protestors and journalists and stopping looters? Thanks.

One Brow said...

Could you also add in why a police force interested in order brought out the riot gear before there was any violence in Ferguson?