Last night I laid in my bed, awake much longer than I should have been, and monitored my Twitter feed regarding all the events taking place out in Ferguson. To see all the images and video coming out of that small city of 21,000 was absolutely mind-boggling to try and process. It looked less like a small Midwestern town, and more like something you would see jumping out of a story from Iraq or any of the protests going on in the Arab world over the last few years. I understand that the City of Ferguson is a part of St. Louis, but the city I live in (which is not connected to another larger major city) is double the size in population that encompasses Ferguson. I’m trying to visualize such a sight playing out in my own city. Mind-boggling.
What’s truly troubling to me, and something I’ve been thinking about most of today, is how militaristic everything looks. As though what’s taking place is reminiscent of a scene from a film about a dystopian society where the rebels are finally making their stand against the evil empire of the film, or something. It’s Ferguson! It’s Missouri! How does that happen?
Now, I have one uncle who is a retired state patrolmen, and several men in my church who are a part of local law enforcement (one of whom I'd like to buy lunch and hear his perspective on this ordeal). I value their dedication to their oath and their communities. I value the fact that they would put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect fellow citizens as myself. I have found myself in prayer for local law enforcement at different times over the last few years for, at the very least, just being out on the streets away from their families. So, with that being said please don’t misconstrue my bewilderment of the militarization of the St. Louis County Police in Ferguson as it plays out on my iPhone screen. I value local law enforcement and the sacrifices that many of them make. And, I can't for a second fathom what is taking place inside the minds of some of the police officers currently embroiled in the situation in Ferguson. I have to think that for some of them, they're seriously questioning orders right now. Some of them are probably just clocking in and praying they make it home safely to their families.
Some of them are thinking, "Yea, I'm all about this!"
Others may be at the opposite end of that spectrum saying, "Man, what are we doing? This is overkill, we're making it worse."
It raises the serious question of what is the dividing line between local law enforcement and the military. Because, it’s bound to become a serious issue when you can’t discern the difference between the two based on looks and tactics. And we should be able to. Their mandates are different, therefore, being able to visually identify which party you're dealing with should be relatively easy. The sad reality is that after this all settles down, the relationship between the community of Ferguson and their local law enforcement is going to be deeply scarred by this entire situation.
And, ultimately it completely distracts from the fact that another young man lost his life and this does nothing to aid the investigation into why that happened. The people of Ferguson need answers, and if things keep going like they have been... it's going to be a long time, if ever, that they get those answers.
The City of Ferguson needs our prayers, a lot of grace, answers, cooler heads to prevail, and for leaders to step up and deescalate the situation before more lives are lost. The tension is real, as I sat in bed refreshing my Twitter feed I could feel it, and I'm not even exaggerating or using hyperbole here.
Finally, we'll probably need to take a hard look at how we define local law enforcement versus our military in a post-9/11 context. We can’t have another situation like the one in Ferguson, MO on our hands. Our nation is fractured enough at this point.
Praying for you, Ferguson.