A lot of us this weekend are thinking about Ferguson Missouri which seems to have taken the bad news we typically see coming out of other countries full of foreign people and landed it right in the USA: Uncountable paramilitary police firing rubber bullets on crowds, reporters getting detained and all in the wake of an unjustifiable shooting. Where is this, Uruguay or something? It’s Missouri? What? Didn’t they all seem so nice and polite during the World Series to our typical Boston assholishness? What the hell happened? At least when our Boston cops were running around in camo all jacked with military hardware they were going after actual terrorists. Take a lesson, “Show Me State” (and what the fuck does that even mean?).
I don’t care if the kid in Ferguson did rob a store, you don’t shoot fleeing, unarmed people in the back. Not here, not ever. There is no justification for this, none.
And calling the aftermath a “militarized” response is an insult to our military who know a lot better than to run into a bunch of angry civilians with MRAPS and start pointing the assault rifles with all the nifty tubes on them at everybody. They aren’t acting like soldiers, they are acting like a 9 year old with Nerf guns.
But luckily this is not going down HERE here. We are incredibly lucky to have a police force in Gloucester that is actually a community force. I grew up around cops, cops in Lynn no less. I can tell you that years of dealing with idiot criminals all day can change you. If every interaction you have during your work day is with shirtless dudes who just punched their girlfriend, you start to see the world differently. Your brain starts taking shortcuts- “Guy with no shirt, drinking Monster Energy drink, white hat with flat brim worn at askew angle…hmmm…wonder if he has any warrants?” (spoiler: he does).
In the end, cops are human but it’s all about training and tactics. The military’s primary mission is to fight, the police are here to protect. Once you start crossing the streams it becomes a huge pain in the ass for everyone. Like the Marathon Bombings, there are going to be times when the cops need to go after armed, demented bad guys out to do as much damage as possible. But that is not, repeat NOT what was going on in Ferguson. After the not-at-all-surprising reaction to their own straight-up killing of a guy, the cops there just broke into the toy chest and ramped the whole thing up.
Hey, Ferguson cops: The response to a civilan reaction to police brutality is not A METRIC FUCKTON MORE POLICE BRUTALITY WITH A BUNCH OF SHIT FROM THE HOMELAND SECURITY HOLIDAY CATALOG.
I experienced a far, far more minor version of outsized police response in a nearby town a decade or so ago where I was in a convenience store with my brother, who happens to resemble the average of any given Ramones lineup. The Fuzz-by-the-Sea burst in with guns drawn while we were buying sodas and snak mix because the owner of the store had called 911 to report the counter phone had been suspiciously busy for an hour.
Apparently protocol for that situation in a town where the police notes are heavy with “suspicious van” sightings and the occasional coyote, required bursting into the place with irises the size of tea saucers and pupils the size purely theoretical particles, then sighting down on two random shabby-looking dudes (We’d been working on my house all day) yelling all kinds of cop-orders bullshit like “Show me your hands NOW!” which were already pretty much shown what with the snak mix and the Coke Classic in them preventing me from wielding any kind of weapon more dangerous than whatever the fuck terrible chemicals the ranch dressing powder is made of.
This is what these officers decided the best response to the “busy signal” situation was. Rather than calmly walking in and finding that the somewhat pronounced keister of the behind-the-counter employee had knocked the phone off the hook and thus making it so the owner couldn’t call in, they went with “tactical assault from Bruce Willis movie.” For the record: I am whiter than Al Gore in a sweatervest playing ukulele at a Farmer’s Market, which is probably the only thing that kept them from shooting me dead on the spot.
In Gloucester I can’t imagine that happening. Or if it did, at least we would all laugh about it after the Glocks got holstered, rather than the cops keeping up the massive dickhead attitude like in that town-I-won’t-mention-the-name-of even after we figured out the whole ass thing. Even after the phone got hung back up they continued to aggressively question us, as if this was all part of our supercriminal plot to release an army of robot zombies on their golf course or something. Officer, it was the clerk’s ass. There is no further investigation to be done. You don’t need to see my ID or ask me what my “purpose” here is. That shit is self-evident (see: mix, snak).
In contrast, the police in Gloucester, despite having to deal daily with the problems concurrent with poverty, drugs and alcohol abuse are an actual community police force. Most officers live in town, they know everybody and overall they work to solve problems rather than gin up confrontations. I have only ever had positive interactions with them, even when they were dealing with some messy situations. I’ll tell y’all about my heroin dealer neighbors in Lanesville some other post, but they handled it with respect and care not only to us and themselves, but to the suspects as well. And I have to admit that after living next to these idiots for six months I was ready to see some nightsticking or at least a mild pistol whipping when the bust finally went down. There was none of that. The GPD were a class act all the way.
Side note: the GPD also didn’t wear “tactical gloves” like total tools when busting the drug dealers, unlike the guys responding to the “suspicious busy signal” call. Jesus what assholes those guys were.
The Ferguson thing is terrifying because it combines about every flash point in our society: Race, inequality, the increasing availability of military-grade hardware, social media and the pervasiveness of video recording surpassing traditional media as an information source. As a Gloucesterite I feel profoundly lucky to live in a place where the vast majority of us feel like we’re in this thing together and the biggest enforcement concern seems to be dog crap on the beach.
As an American, I’m ready to do what it takes to make “unarmed black guy killed” something that stops happening. Like, ever.