Friday, August 15, 2014
Military veterans see deeply flawed police response in Ferguson: "We went through some pretty bad areas of Afghanistan, but we didn’t wear that much gear"
Jet-black rifles leveled at unarmed citizens and mine-resistant vehicles once used to patrol the roadways of Iraq and Afghanistan rumbling through small town America. These are scenes playing out in Ferguson, Mo., which has been racked by protests for the last week following the fatal shooting of an unarmed 19-year-old named Michael Brown.
For veterans of the wars that the Ferguson protests so closely resemble, the police response has appeared to be not only heavy-handed but out of step with the most effective ways for both law enforcement and military personnel to respond to demonstrations.
“You see the police are standing online with bulletproof vests and rifles pointed at peoples chests,” said Jason Fritz, a former Army officer and an international policing operations analyst.
“That’s not controlling the crowd, that’s intimidating them.”
The protests in Ferguson began in earnest just a day after Brown was killed, when a prayer vigil for the slain teen turned into an evening of looting.
Scriven King, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force’s law enforcement component and a SWAT officer, attributed the initial spasm of violence to a lack of leadership and mismanagement of public perception on the Ferguson Police Department’s behalf.
“The first thing that went wrong was when the police showed up with K-9 units,” Scriven said. “The dogs played on racist imagery…it played the situation up and [the department] wasn’t cognizant of the imagery.”
King added that, instead of deescalating the situation on the second day, the police responded with armored vehicles and SWAT officers clad in bulletproof vests and military-grade rifles.
“We went through some pretty bad areas of Afghanistan, but we didn’t wear that much gear,” said Kyle Dykstra, an Army veteran and former security officer for the State Department. Dykstra specifically pointed out