By now everyone has seen the footage of a tactical officer demanding a reporter leave a McDonalds restaurant. Mr. Media was apparently arrested after taking his time to leave. In my opinion, which I won’t claim as humble, the reporter completely discredits himself by neglecting to mention that he had been asked to leave the restaurant by the staff. If attempting to argue a moral high ground and supposed attack on your civil rights, it might be best to include the whole story which in this case includes the act of trespassing. The reporter’s civil rights don’t trump the business’ civil rights to demand you leave when you use their restaurant as an office.
Additionally, by now everyone has also seen the KSDK footage, still image above, of Al Jazeera reporters running after a tear gas canister landed near them. St. Charles County’s Tactical Unit moved in and broke down the camera equipment which they secured in police vehicles. Do you know what happened to that equipment? It was turned back over to Al Jazeera. It wasn’t destroyed. It wasn’t left for the looters. They got their cameras back. Al Jazeera contends that officers had tear gas purposefully shot at them, but looking at the area on the night in question, tear gas was everywhere.
Is it possible that one tactical unit thought it would be funny or justified to launch a canister at them? Yes, and that doesn’t make it right if true. However, looking at other media reports, reporters are now regularly claiming that they were gassed specifically when they have been standing with or off to the side of violent demonstrators. If police try to clear the media out before using gas they’re accused of trying to suppress the media’s freedom of the press. If police let them stay, they’re gassing the media which is apparently also evidence of media suppression.
Police tactics shouldn’t have to be cleared with the media first. What’s more, the notion that there is some type of unified operational decision to suppress the media is an outright lie. The simple fact is that the demonstrators have had no problem taking selfies and other footage since the beginning, even of themselves committing crimes, with no attempt at suppression from the police. It’s actually been somewhat fun to go through images posted online and play a Where’s Waldo game of trying to locate my face in Instagram postings, particularly those images posted from the looters back on 8/10/2014.
The implication by claiming media suppression is that the police are acting in a manner comparable to a Middle Eastern dictatorship and removing the media’s ability to cover the news in order to hide worse abuses that are actively happening, but of which they’re not able to find evidence. And yet, the media hasn’t been able to find their Rodney King moment. The reason why there have been so few deaths and so little opportunities for pictures of police fighting with suspects, is because arrests have been so limited. Take for example the death toll of two examples (Wiki sources for both):
- -The Watts Riots resulted in 34 deaths and 1,032 injuries, but also 3,438 arrests. Interestingly the event lasted only 5 days.
- -The LA Riots resulted in 53 deaths and 2,000+ injuries, but also 11,000+ arrests. This event was over in 6 days.
In the case of the Ferguson riots we’ve had 2 confirmed deaths (excluding Mike Brown), uncalculated injuries, but only around 100 arrests, most of which are from the last several days. Is it any wonder that the riots have gone on for 10-11 days and counting? What’s more, there are rumors beginning to spread that Ofc. Wilson might be cleared in the shooting. If that happens, whether justified or not, the riots will escalate. A Grand Jury is set to convene this week to decide whether charges are warranted against Ofc. Wilson.
My point is that if police actually wanted to crack down on the protesters and the media, there are a lot more effective and conclusive ways of doing so than to simply launch gas and stand back. CS Gas isn’t fun to be sure. I experienced it for myself first hand on Sunday. However, its effects wear off almost as soon as you get out of the way. As someone who has also been cross contaminated with mace (OC spray) before, let me tell you, that doesn’t go away when you leave and is far more painful. If there was a concerted effort to crack down on the media, why not just institute a complete media blackout and start arresting everyone with a press pass? The media is already regularly accusing the police of suppressing them. How would the narrative change if they really started to do so at an operational level? The news has essentially become the boy who cried media suppression.
I’m working on a few other longer posts at the moment. One post in particular is a thorough look at the still developing Mike Brown investigation. I’ve also written a post detailing more in depth tactical problems with Capt. Johnson’s curfew policy and general strategy still being used now that the curfew has been lifted. However, I won’t post that entry until after things have calmed down a little bit as the strategic elements I discuss could be used by rioters against the police and other citizens in the area.
If there are any facets of this conflict that you would like me to cover, let me know and I will see what I can do.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank those who have shown support. The middle of last week was one of the most difficult times in my career to be a police officer. Kind words have helped improve my demeanor immensely and I know that other officers feel the same way.
If you want to do more to help, St. Louis County is currently taking donations mainly in the form of food to support officers, many of whom haven’t had a day off since this all began. St. Louis County Officers in particular have been on straight twelve hour shifts since the riots began on 8/09/2014 and their days off, their weekends, have been canceled. I’ve been fortunate in that regard that as a municipal officer, I get to go home after the all-call’s end. Many other officers aren’t so lucky. For more information, see the link below.