creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
John Stossel
John Stossel
22 Oct 2014
Federal Persecutors

A group of Washington overlords — federal prosecutors — sometimes break rules and wreck people's lives. … Read More.

15 Oct 2014
Crumbling Constitution

Does the Constitution still matter? When it was written, Ben Franklin said the Founders gave us a republic, "… Read More.

8 Oct 2014
Poverty

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson declared "War on Poverty." It sounded great to me. I was taught at Princeton,… Read More.

Policing a Riot

Comment

Libertarians warned for years that government is force, that government always grows and that America's police have become too much like an occupying army.

We get accused of being paranoid, but we look less paranoid after heavily armed police in Ferguson, Missouri, tear gassed peaceful protesters, arrested journalists and stopped some journalists from entering the town.

One week before the rioting began, Fox News aired my documentary on the militarization of law enforcement, "Policing America."

That show didn't stop some left-wing commentators from making the bizarre claim that libertarians like me have been silent about Ferguson.

I can't force them to read my columns, or Sen. Rand Paul's (R, Ken.) article titled "We Must Demilitarize the Police" or libertarian Rep. Justin Amash's (R, Mich.) condemnation of the police for "escalating" tensions with "military equipment."

Although it was government police and government-supplied military equipment that provoked the conflict (plus property-rights-violating looters), leftists still found ways to blame libertarians and advocates of private gun ownership.

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Tom Toles depicted a sarcastic TV viewer watching news from Ferguson and sniping that "I'm sure the NRA has an interesting solution for this" — as if overzealous police are the fault of people who believe in individuals' right to defend themselves.

Other pro-big-government commentators just questioned the sincerity of libertarians, saying that if we were in power, we would become authoritarians and defend the police.

It's true that once people are in power, they often grow fond of authority and less interested in liberty. But I don't see why this is an argument against libertarians — who warn about this problem all the time — instead of an argument against all those who are actually in power and shameless about wielding that power.

But since leftists are so easily confused, and since there's plenty of blame to go around, let's list who's to blame for what:

—The police do not have the right to execute suspects, unless there is no other way of stopping them and they pose an immediate threat to the safety of others.

—Michael Brown, assuming current interpretations of security footage are correct, robbed and bullied a store clerk right before he was killed by police. That may well mean he was violent and dangerous, but even violent people should be brought to trial, not gunned down.

—Individual cops may feel threatened — and may be threatened in the course of doing their jobs — but they still do not have the right to use more force than is necessary. Too often, panicked or angry cops pump multiple rounds into already-wounded suspects, as appears to have happened to Michael Brown.

—Yes, centuries of white people abusing the civil liberties of blacks have left many blacks resentful of police power, and in recent years, white police officers have shot, on average, two young black men every week. But none of that justifies violence and looting like that which followed Michael Brown's death. Criminals who ransack stores are always wrong to violate the rights of innocent third parties.

—Peaceful protestors should not be lumped in with looters and subject to curfews by police. Most looters are opportunists, not people making a political statement. Police and angry citizens alike have a duty to distinguish between protesters and criminals.

—The Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and opportunistic politicians all pushed the idea of heavily arming local cops, even in places more rural than Ferguson. "Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors?" wonders the Cato Institute's Walter Olson.

He notes that a man identifying himself as a veteran from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division reacted to video of police in Ferguson by tweeting, "We rolled lighter than that in an actual war zone."

If authorities arm cops like soldiers, they may begin to think like soldiers — and see the public as the enemy. That makes violent confrontations more likely.

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM



Comments

2 Comments | Post Comment
Militarization of the police has been going on for over 30 years. Early examples are SWAT teams and Chief Gates (of Los Angeles) used armored vehicles to bust into crack houses in the early 80's. The camo makes no sense to me either, they used to dress in all black uniforms.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Douglas4517
Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:05 PM
This is the most common sense, down to Earth, rational explanation of the events of Ferguson I've seen yet. Well done.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Sat Aug 30, 2014 6:28 AM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
John Stossel
Oct. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Ray Hanania
Ray HananiaUpdated 23 Oct 2014
Froma Harrop
Froma HarropUpdated 23 Oct 2014
R. Emmett Tyrrell
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.Updated 23 Oct 2014

11 May 2010 Leave the Gamblers Alone!

19 Aug 2009 Obamacare's Inevitable Logic

24 Dec 2013 Drive Free