Violence Portends More Violence

Violence Portends More Violence

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

This has been a terribly violent summer both at home and abroad. Unfortunately, there is reason to fear that the fall is not going to be any rosier. For the President, he has hardly had a vacation. Considering the numerous issues the country faces, it appears that he and the American electorate will be entering the fall election season after Labor Day with more than the usual amount of anxiety and angst.

Ironically the tragedy in Ferguson, beyond the specific outrage, demonstrated some of the spin-offs from the violent climate. For example, there were 600 special armored military vehicles (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles [MRAPs]) which the Department of Defense distributed around the country, to local and state law enforcement groups to help dispel rioters and quell domestic unrest. Thus Ferguson, Missouri, and Bergen County, New Jersey, for example, are now in possession of MRAPs; vehicles for which they have no reasonable use except to terrify and/or enrage the citizenry. When domestic crises reach the level that such equipment is necessary, serious military units of the state or federal government are the appropriate organs to be addressing such problems, not local constabulary forces.

Similarly, the creation of extensive new quasi-law enforcement agencies such as TSA, for example, has begun to generate a new badge culture in the country. (Consider how quickly some of the people in Ferguson were able to defuse the situation when authorities that were seeking to restore law and order were not decked out in full police regalia but civilian clothing.) 

Clearly, in the post 9/11 world there is a need for a much more heightened vigilance against potential  violence, dangers, and terrorism; but U.S. authorities and the courts must at all times be equally sensitive to insure that law enforcement or quasi-badge officials do not abuse and miss-use their offices. All citizens, especially minorities, need to respect the law. Those representing the legal system and the law enforcement authorities also need to increase their respect for all citizens. It should never reach the point of incidents like Ferguson or the Staten Island choking victim, Eric Garner.

Like fixing the foreign immigration problem, Governments need to understand that it is not only about improved border fences and electronic devices. So, too, law enforcement requires education and changes in the culture of those engaged in the business of protecting citizenry. Monies spent on equipment are important and necessary, but the training of these entrusted with using it to protect the citizenry is at least as critical.

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