Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Safety In Numbers

After the videotaped killing by a police officer of Charles Floyd, Minneapolis authorities wasted no time:
How did that work out for you, Minneapolis?

Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd after some protesters turned unruly, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder told CNN.

Some demonstrators wheeled a shopping cart full of rocks just outside the precinct and dumped the rocks on the ground for people to throw, a CNN team there reported. A police cruiser's back window was shattered when someone threw something at it.

Police outside Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct fired what appeared to CNN's team on the scene to be non-lethal projectiles at demonstrators.

Officers fired "foam marking rounds," but no rubber bullets, after some protesters became unruly, Elder said.

Those rounds are meant to mark individuals that officers believe may be instigating violence for later investigation, Elder said.

Walter Shaub notes an obvious disconnect:
Of course, there is a difference. Elected officials and the police, who are normal people, want most of all to simplify their jobs, prevent discord, and go home to their families. In Michigan (and a few other places), protesters brazenly violated orders from the governor, who knew instinctively that her political future lay in not doing anything. Unless she chose- as a Democrat would not- to exploit the riots which otherwise would have resulted, scenes of street violence would have been hard to explain away.  

By contrast, in Minneapolis the rioting already had begun and directly threatened police officers, which they rarely find comforting.

As Shaub noted, there is a contradiction. However, law enforcement officers, backed by superiors within and without their departments, must perform their job as they are sworn to do.  They should respond when, encouraged by decisive action in dismissing officers complicit in a killing, citizens violently attack police vehicles. And they should respond when armed protesters defy legal orders to practice social distancing.

In the latter case, the Police Department failed in its mission. In the former, it reacted promptly with non-lethal force.  The problem lay not with the response of law enforcement in Minneapolis, but in Michigan.

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