Military-Style Presence on the Streets of Ferguson Draws Praise and Criticism

The images are jarring.

Looking more like Roman legionnaires than police officers, helmeted men stand shoulder to shoulder behind body-length shields in the streets of Ferguson, Mo. One officer on top of an armored vehicle trains a scoped rifle on the crowd.

Professor Ken Novak, chairman of the department of criminal justice and criminology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said what has happened in Ferguson has been a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation for police.

“One way to avoid conflict is to show force,” Novak said, calling that “right out of the police playbook.”

But in Ferguson, he said, that tactic does not appear to be effective — and may in fact be making things worse.

“What do you do when that show of force is not working?” he said. “How can you reasonably de-escalate from it?”

Novak said that the situation in Ferguson is almost identical to what happened in Cincinnati in 2001. The police killing of a black teenager led to several days of rioting that was brought under control only after a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed. Read more.

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