Why Hasn’t Policing Gotten Better Since Ferguson?

Less of this, please.Ricky Fitchett/ZUMA

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Laurie Robinson was co-chair of the 21st Century Policing Task Force, set up by President Obama after the events in Ferguson in 2014. Politico’s Zack Stanton asked her what recommendations they made for dealing with mass protests:

What we recommended for dealing with mass demonstrations was protecting the First Amendment rights of demonstrators. Certainly, when dealing with violent situations, you need to bring law enforcement forward to deal appropriately. But where you can, pull back riot police and minimize confrontation by putting officers wearing “soft look” uniforms in front. Minimize the use of military formations and militarized approaches, so that the crowd perceives that you are working with the community and are not an occupying force. That’s what our report was all about: The notion of law enforcement being guardians of the community and not an occupying force. Not warriors; working with the community to co-produce public safety.

Put “riot” police in back. Put less-threatening police officers in front. Deescalate whenever possible. Avoid militarized approaches.

Later in the interview Robinson says she thinks many police departments have made tremendous progress in the five years since the report was issued. Maybe so. But in every city that I see on TV, the cops are in full body armor and helmets; they’re put on the front lines as if daring the protesters to make a move; tear gas and rubber bullets appear to be on a hair trigger; and the streets are full of armored vehicles. This is the same approach used in Ferguson six years ago, and judging by the television coverage it’s still the unanimous choice of big-city police chiefs for dealing with the George Floyd protests.

Or is it? One other possibility is that there are plenty of cities that have adopted a softer approach, which has paid off in less violence. This means they don’t make the news and I never see them, so I assume that the hard-ass approach is universal.

I’d love to see some reporting about that: Are there cities that have dealt effectively with large protests? Are they using different approaches? It’s still early days, but are there any conclusions to be drawn from how different cities have responded to the protests?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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