This is an Assault on the Bill of Rights
There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. – Marine General Smedley Butler – Two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor.
The events in Ferguson have shown us daily that the looting and violence by a few is not being stopped, while the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition government for redress of grievances is not being respected. The current riot control tactics of the local police, rooted in outmoded techniques developed in the 1950’s – and only made worse by the ongoing militarization of our police – are failing the people of Ferguson, giving them a false choice between rampant looting on the one hand, and hyper-militarized police and curfews on the other (which also fail to stop the looting, leaving the mistaken impression among many of the American people that even more militarization and curtailment of free speech and assembly is needed). Our local boots on the ground, made up of retired police officers, military veterans, and intelligence workers (with critical input from current serving Missouri police officers) have answers that could provide the people of Ferguson the relief they need and deserve while respecting their rights. It is time to change a losing game.
The militarized police response we saw in Ferguson did not work. All it did was violate the rights of peaceful protesters and media, alienate the community, and make our country look even more like a police state, with big, intimidating displays of heavily armed, militarized officers, in full “battle-rattle” and backed by BearCat type armored vehicles, firing CS gas and rubber bullets into peaceful protesters and even at media personnel, while failing to stop those relative few who were actually looting, throwing Molotov cocktails, and shooting.
The police focus on peaceful protesters, with lines of policemen equipped in riot gear, in fundamentally static positions – at best, slow, plodding, on-line advances – are easily thwarted by modern looters and thugs with cell phones and team work. Such outdated tactics fail to apprehend those actually looting and shooting.
What they do succeed in doing is alienating the local population while risking additional shooting incidents due to unsafe gun-handling. There were multiple instances of police officers pointing M-4s and sniper rifles at unarmed, peaceful protesters, media, and local residents just going about their business, in displays of spectacularly unsafe weapons discipline and methodology. As one of our police sniper veterans pointed out, even police snipers deployed in response to prior incidents of shots fired should have used spotting scopes to observe the crowd and search for potential threats, not their rifle scopes.
Even worse were the well-publicized incidents of officers routinely pointing M-4s at unarmed protesters at close range for no apparent reason other than to intimidate. An officer facing an actual lethal threat should be moving to cover, not standing there in a static bunch with other officers, using the rifle as a threat display. And a properly trained and disciplined professional keeps his rifle pointed down, where it is pointed in a safe direction but still ready to bring up on target within a second at close range, and it stays pointed down unless and until he identifies an actual lethal threat, while he uses his presence and voice, first and foremost, to control the situation – all without covering anyone with his muzzle.
Such over-the-top threatening displays, with rifles pointed-in indiscriminately at protesters and residents, only anger and frighten the people and reinforce the perception that it is “the police vs. the people” rather than the police vs. a small number of criminals, while risking the lives of the very people our police are supposed to be serving.
And much like over-the top and indiscriminate threat displays and use of force in Iraq lost the hearts and minds of the locals, so too does it lose the battle for hearts and minds here at home – assisting in the agendas of those who wish to divide us along racial lines and create an “us vs. them” mentality among both the people and the police.
The overt displays of heavily armed officers lined up to intimidate the crowds were also tactically unsound for the officers themselves, leaving them exposed in the streets. The more skilled the opposition, the more such tactics fail. So far, it has only been random, inaccurate, handgun fire directed at the police in Ferguson, not rifle fire. Against rifle fire, a long line of exposed officers standing in the open would be a disaster for the police. One active duty police sergeant told us, “I don’t want my guys stationary – they just become targets for the thugs throwing bricks and taking pot shots at us with their pistols.” The analysts in our group take this kind of feedback from the rank-and-file very seriously, and you should too. And, again, it doesn’t get the job done. It doesn’t secure the arrest of those who are looting and shooting. It leaves the officers exposed while it only punishes and threatens those who are there to protest – those who are not looting and shooting.
Likewise for the imposition of curfews, which violate the right of the people to peaceably assemble, while also failing to stop the looters and shooters who ignore such decrees. The First Amendment prohibits “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” period. It doesn’t add on “unless a politician declares a state of emergency and imposes a curfew.” Nor does it say “unless other people are looting and being violent, in which case all of you lose your right to peaceably assemble.” Curfews punish the peaceable majority for the actions of a violent few, and again, alienate the community and send the message that the police see them all as the enemy and seek to trample on the rights of all of them.
The local police are capable of handling the current situation in a way that both respects the rights of the people and gets the actual criminals off the streets, but only if a paradigm shift in strategy and tactics can be made. The leadership, starting with you, Gov. Nixon, and on down the chain of command, must make the changes that are needed to bring sane, effective, and constitutional policing to this situation.
A Constitutional and Effective Strategy
One retired Special Forces veteran in our group suggested that instead of grouping the police officers in large blocks (50 to 100 men), that you should break up these groups into rapid reaction teams of 20 to 25 officers and disperse them, staging them in places spread around Ferguson, with a focus on the looters, not the protesters. Our intelligence and police veterans concurred, and added that you should also task some officers to go out in street clothes to blend in to the crowds and work as Scouts, identifying threats and looters. The plainclothes Scouts should be directing the rapid reaction teams to protect the businesses from the ongoing crime, and refocus the police assets away from unconstitutional activities like shooting CS gas at peaceful protesters and enforcing curfews, and get to the business of putting the real criminals behind bars. If you think you need more minority officers for this role, you could easily find them in the St. Louis County Police Department, St. Charles County Sheriff Department, and other local municipal police departments. The plainclothes officers can identify and locate the trouble-makers and their caches and resources, such as gas cans and bottles for Molotov cocktails, bricks, etc., and they can also film the trouble-makers in support of later arrests and prosecutions.
By: THE MISSOURI OATH KEEPERS at OATH KEEPERS where you can read their (this) entire letter.
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