David Hampson: Through the telescope backwards: Ferguson, MissouriExpert Voices | August 19, 2014, Tuesday // 11:03| views
A protester kneels down in front of a police line while protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, 18 August 2014. BGNES/EPA
by David Hampson*
It came as a shock to many Americans to turn on their televisions and see following the nightly bombing of ISIS forces in Northern Iraq and the vision of armored vehicles moving into Eastern Ukraine, more armored vehicles and body armor clad gun toting American police moving onto the streets of Ferguson Missouri.
It prompted one American veteran of Iraq to comment that the body armor they were wearing was more that he had when he was part of the invasion force in a real war.
This shock has been quietly gestating and now was revealed in all its frightening reality. Was this really Middle America, was this a Rambo movie set, how could this be happening?
The cause was the shooting of an unarmed young black man who may have stolen minor items from a convenience store, was stopped by a white policeman, may have resisted and been involved in a physical altercation with the police officer and was subsequently shot not once, not three times but six times at least twice to the head.
Adrenalin, poor training, fear, all may have played a part in this tragedy. But what were the deeper, systemic, underlying causes that led to this serious happening?
First and foremost and I do not directly accuse the shooting police officer of this, is a deep rooted issue of racism that still effects substantial sectors of the US population. It manifests itself in the application of different rules and treatment within the law.
It takes the form of uneven treatment on traffic offenses and stop and searches and how potential offenders are treated, all leading to in the imagination and in reality a sense of persecution by large sectors of the black community.
A far more disturbing factor is the substantial discrepancy in many communities of the ratio of black to white police officers. This directly can be seen in Ferguson, Missouri.
A small community of 20,000 inhabitants, eighty percent black inhabitants has a police force where black police officers make up less than five percent of the police force.
Finally the serious question of the militarization of US police forces. It was not a Rambo move set. It was the reality in Technicolor of what American police forces have become in recent years.
Nearly all American police departments have developed special paramilitary units. Following 9-11 this trend has accelerated.
The Pentagon has made available to police departments machine guns and vehicles equipped with mine resistant armor all contributing to the militarization process. The Department of Homeland Security offers grants to police departments to equip them to combat terrorism.
This is what Americans saw on the television screens emerging as if reflecting reactions in places far way from Fergusson, Missouri.
Where is America going with these two phenomena, the underlying continued serious pockets of racism and the creation of little armies as part of local police forces?
The two are not necessarily linked. But it is obvious that where there is uneven treatment under the law serious examination should be given to oversight and policy management.
In white dominated communities the role of the police is to protect and serve. Black communities deserve the same.
*David Hampson is an American citizen resident in Bulgaria, former member of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, member of the Fulbright Commission in Bulgaria. Novinite are ready to present also other opinions on that topic.
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