The law enforcement response to protests over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by police in Ferguson, Mo., shows the extent to which local police departments have become too militarized, Sen. Rand Paul writes on Time.com
"If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot," the Kentucky Republican said.
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Paul noted that the outrage by the community is understandable, but it isn't an excuse for rioting and looting as has been seen every night since the Saturday killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr.
While the police do have a duty to keep the peace, Paul noted, there is a difference between a police response and a military one.
He blamed "big government" for being at the heart of the problem.
Washington, he said, has "incentivized the militarization of local police precincts" by providing money to help local governments build "what are essentially small armies." They are able to obtain military gear that is beyond the needs of what most consider to be simple law enforcement, he said.
The wars on drugs and terrorism are typically cited as the reason for such things as full riot gear and even tanks, Paul wrote.
Coupled with an erosion of civil liberties and due process, police become judge and jury, he said, citing national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, and pre-conviction forfeiture.
Americans in general feel targeted by their own government, he said, and considering the racial disparities of the criminal justice system, it isn't surprising for blacks to feel they are especially targeted.
"Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention," he said.
Paul has in recent months worked to end racial disparities in sentencing, partnering with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday appointed Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson to head up operations in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, after police were criticized for using tear gas and flash grenades Wednesday night.
Johnson was on the scene early Thursday evening talking to protestors. He told Fox News Channel he didn't expect trouble and would handle the situation "with some conversation and the right approach." He said backups were available if needed.
Johnson and other officers were in normal police uniforms and not riot gear.
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