By Kevin Wilson
Less than a decade ago, a group of researchers took a few bowls of candy to the lobby of an apartment complex. Over several days, the researchers placed a bowl full of M&M’S on a table, with a spoon and a note that said, “Take what you want.”
The bowl and note never changed, but the size of the spoon did. A similar process was performed with the bowl and Tootsie Roll candies; the amount of candy didn’t change, but the individually packaged sizes did.
In both cases, when the spoon or the serving size was bigger, more candy was taken. Availability influenced appetite and consumption.
One can see this same practice taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, where protests have taken place since a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.
The police and city response couldn’t have been more wrong. The protesters have since been greeted with a faceless arm of the government, as the Ferguson police have donned military gear to handle the crowds. It’s something to see a dozen camouflaged men with gas masks and assault rifles keeping order in an American city. Iraq War veterans note they didn’t have that much gear while patrolling in Fallujah.
The handing down of military gear to local police departments originally started with bigger cities receiving weaponry as part of the war on drugs.
With the tamping down of action in Afghanistan and Iraq, more weapons were available for transfer. The spoon got bigger, and now cities that average zero murders per year find themselves with armored Humvees and grenade launchers.
And since an unwritten rule of government agencies is to exhaust this year’s resources to avoid getting stiffed next year, departments are finding justifications to use it. The ACLU found that of every five SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012, four of them were for serving warrants. Not to stop a crime in progress. Not to save the proverbial woman tied to the train tracks. To serve a warrant to somebody suspected of a crime, sitting at home.
The expanding justification is on full display in Ferguson — cops wearing gas masks and armor, indistinguishable from each other, removing the human element that is so pivotal to the officer’s role as a community member first and jailer second. Cops stand on cars and point rifles at citizens who have no guns, running counter to the “never point a gun at something you aren’t going to shoot” rule that is taught from day one of firearms and hunter safety training.
There has been a crime element in Ferguson, with riots and looting. But to say a few looters justify the police pepper spraying seated protesters and arresting journalists with nothing more than a notebook is comical. It’s comical in the same way that police issued a sweeping investigation Friday that alleged Brown stole $50 worth of cigars, as if mere suspicion of such amounted to a capital offense.
There are plenty of other elements to consider about Ferguson, and what it says about us as a society. Why is the reaction to Ferguson so much more violent than the Cliven Bundy Ranch in Nevada, and can you imagine the outrage had Nevada’s governor instituted a curfew like Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon? Why is the NRA, which lauds guns as a citizen’s only recourse against an out-of-control government, completely silent when its doomsday scenario is happening in the middle of the country?
For now, I choose to focus on how the militarization of police has extended and worsened the situation in Ferguson, and maybe your town next. It’s time for a smaller spoon.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 319, or by email: