Police Union Chief Slams Obama Over 'Excessive Force' Comment

Friday, 15 Aug 2014 07:15 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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President Barack Obama has been blasted by the head of the Fraternal Order of Police for accusing police in Ferguson, Missouri, of using "excessive force" to handle "peaceful protests."

"I would contend that discussing police tactics from Martha's Vineyard is not helpful to ultimately calming the situation," Executive Director Jim Pasco told The Hill.

"I think what he has to do as president and as a constitutional lawyer is remember that there is a process in the United States and the process is being followed, for good or for ill, by the police and by the county and by the city and by the prosecutor's office."

There had been rioting, vandalism and looting on the streets for several nights after a police officer killed an unarmed black teenager last Saturday. Police have fired tear gas and stun guns into the crowds and arrested dozens of people.

On Thursday, Obama had appealed for "peace and calm" in Ferguson after what he called "disturbing" clashes between police and demonstrators over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Jr.

"There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting," Obama said in a statement while on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

"There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights."

The officer involved in the Ferguson shooting, identified Friday as Darren Wilson, is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and is being represented by the group’s legal team.

Pasco compared Obama’s statement to his criticism in 2009 of a Massachusetts police officer who had arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates while he was attempting to break into his own home. Obama said the officer had "acted stupidly."

"That is one where the president spoke precipitously without all the facts," Pasco said, adding that he is not convinced police have used excessive force in Ferguson.

Ferguson, a mostly black suburban St. Louis community, was calmer on Thursday night after a small number of state police, led by a newly appointed black captain, replaced riot gear-clad local forces and mingled with the crowd.

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