Ferguson Missouri: How to Fail at Government Without Really Trying

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Get on the fucking ground! We’re here to protect you!!

We seem to be on the eve of the Grand Jury decision on whether they are going to indict Officer Wilson in the murder of the Michael Brown. If I were a betting man, I’d say the jury will choose to not have Officer Wilson stand trial. The entire proceeding, from the shooting, to the leaks specifically designed to tarnish Michael Brown’s reputation, to what I assume will be a jury decision not to indict all seem way too familiar. It truly feels like we’re headed towards yet another Florida Style Justice type of ruling. And I’m not the only one who thinks so since Missouri state officials are gearing up for riots.

We can’t predict the future for certain. But we can sure as heck find a convincing reason to worry, considering the phenomenally terrible public outreach / preparations that have been happening in the Show Me State. So let’s take a tour of that hugely depressing waterfront before we’re all inevitably hurled off the pier when the real bad news starts to finally hit.

Let’s start with Jay Nixon, the Governor of Missouri, and his tone-deaf way of speaking during press conferences that tends to inflame tensions. We’ll pick up the story from the Huffington Post:

Police will work to protect peaceful protesters after a grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown shooting case is announced, but those who cross the line into violence will face consequences, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon warned Tuesday.

OK, I’m going to stop him right there. First of all, there didn’t seem to be a lot of protecting peaceful protesters in and around Ferguson a few months back. What with all of the arrests for people exercising their First Amendment rights. Or trying to, at least. Denying folks the right to peaceably assemble and pointing military-grade weaponry at them doesn’t really seem like protection to me. This is not a situation where one should be issuing dire warnings. I mean why stir the shit in advance of possible riots? But then I remembered this is the same Governor who weirdly seems to remix slogans from the Civil Rights Era for use in his terrible attempts to inspire confidence in his authority. Remember the “No Justice, No Peace” chants of yore? Well according to the governor it’s actually the opposite. If people don’t behave peaceably, then there will be no justice. And now it all makes sense.

Callous, privileged obnoxiousness like this may start at the top, but in Ferguson, it apparently permeates all the way down through the Police Department. Let’s not forget the Ferguson Police Chief blaming Ferguson issues on so-called “outside agitators.”  If you know nothing about American history or the Civil Rights movement, please be aware that that phrase has a special significance — and if you didn’t sleep all the way through your 10th grade social studies class, I’ll wait for you to stop choking on your own outrage before I continue. Because statewide, it’s not just long-term but very short-term historical memory that seems to be going out the window. The Governor kept the ball rolling though:

At a news conference with law enforcement officials to outline preparations, Nixon recalled violent protests that occurred soon after Brown was killed in August.

“That ugliness was not representative of Missouri and it cannot be repeated,” he said.

Lord in fucking heaven! Again, if this press conference was designed to calm people down, he’s failed miserably. Besides not stepping all over the ghosts of the Freedom Summer Past what you’d want to do here is mention that the overwhelming majority of the protests were peaceful. Maybe remark that in the unlikely event of civil unrest it’s your job to make sure state agencies are ready to respond. What you don’t want to do is start with the consequences of breaking the law and then transition to how violent the protests were. Here’s just a couple of problems with the Governor’s approach:

  1. It totally mischaracterizes what’s been going on in with the Ferguson protests since Michael Brown was shot.
  2. It glosses over if not outright ignores the government response which has swung from too heavy-handed to totally out of hand. &
  3. Rather than reluctantly preparing for a worse case scenario situation, it seems more like a “Bring It You Fucking Animals” mentality.

One hopes that the types of ugliness perpetrated by police officers wouldn’t be repeated. But I guess it’s only the public that should be held to the highest standards of conduct. At some point I will stop being shocked at how colossally bad they are at the public relations piece of this nightmare. Not today, though.

Speaking of public relations nightmares, you’ll be happy to know that police officers went though additional special training. At least you might have been before learning what that training entailed.  Mother Jones has the detail:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said that 1,000 officers from multiple agencies went through 5,000 hours of additional training in preparation for possible reactions to the upcoming grand jury announcement.

OK, so far so good. But what exactly does that training consist of? Mother Jones continued:

According to Officer Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, “Our training consisted of tactics and response to civil disturbance, as well as a review of the 1st, 4th, and 14th amendments.” To help ensure the rights of protesters and the media, Schellman told Mother Jones, “each officer will carry a laminated card with these amendments listed.”

Just wow. How poorly trained do police officers have to be that they need to get additional training in the basic foundations of their jobs? That’s not special training. That’s just called training. So up until the autumn of 2014 Saint Louis area police and Missouri State Troopers weren’t too knowledgeable on the basic tenets of freedom of speech, unlawful searches and seizures, and equal protection under the law?  This might be the most damning thing I’ve read about this entire situation, which is saying a lot. Then again, it’s not too surprising with all of the arrests of people for standing still — or not walking fast enough. Luckily, after 5000 hours of additional training in how to do the part of the job that they were supposed to know how to do from the day they left the police academy (i.e., know the very simple basis of the rules you are hired to enforce), Missouri police officials now know the law well enough so that they only need pocket-sized laminated cards to refer to when violating your Constitutional rights. Heck of a job there.

So between these types of communications and the extra $175,000 in additional riot gear recently purchased, it’s a wonder these people ever got their jobs in the first place. That’s right folks, they’ve looked at the situation these last few months with images like this…

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…and come to the conclusion that there just weren’t enough armored personal carriers roaming the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Personally, I doubt more officers with sniper rifles will make the situation any better.

For the sake of my own sanity, I’m going to assume this is ignorance rather than outright malice, but at some point don’t we have to reach a point of Peak Bad Ideas? I guess I’ll wait until we have a Grand Jury decision to lose that last shred of faith in humanity.

In the meantime, in terms of public relations and preliminary damage control efforts, it would be hard to do a worse job than what the MO and Ferguson powers that be are doing currently.  I’m not sure what’s worse: the idea that Governor Nixon and the rest of the Missouri officials are this bad because they aren’t trying at all, or that they’re trying really hard and still failing miserably. I can’t quite tell anymore.

 



Categories: Politics Fix

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