15 Aug 2014 The Anniston Star St. Louis Post Dispatch
As soon as the unrest in Ferguson is over — and let it be soon — there must be a thorough, independent and timely investigation into how and why it happened and the police response to it. This inquiry would go beyond the parallel criminal investigations and get into the root causes of this madness.
Yes, the immediate cause — the “tipping point” they call it in the literature of civil unrest — was the fatal shooting Saturday of 18- year- old Michael Brown by a still- unidentified Ferguson police officer.
( By the way, the failure to identify the officer violates every principle of transparency recommended by law enforcement experts. Society grants police officers the right to use deadly force. That right carries special obligations, one of which is strict public accountability. The longer the officer stays anonymous, the more public confidence is undermined.)
When the independent investigation deconstructs the Ferguson incident, as it must, it should explore the history and conditions that may have helped precipitate Saturday’s shooting and the subsequent public protests. That includes racial segregation. That includes the training and qualifications of Ferguson police officers. It includes command- and- control decisions by the Ferguson and St. Louis County police forces and the Missouri Highway Patrol. …
Cops are human beings, and human beings get scared. Their first impulse is to gear- up as if they were patrolling outside Baghdad’s Assassin’s Gate. As in foreign policy, the academic types may say that dialogue and soft power are better, but that defies the average’s cop’s attitudes. …
What we’ve seen in Ferguson is skirmish lines of officers in hard gear and videos of tear gas canisters lobbed onto roofs.
Individual officers generally have shown great restraint. But those images are doing incalculable harm, and not just to community relations in Ferguson. The nation and the world have seen horrible images from St. Louis that suggest that race relations here have a long way to go. They’re not wrong. There are people of good will on all sides who want better. Ferguson should be the place where better begins.