Campaign for Liberty has been closely following the situation in Ferguson, Missouri on our website here, here, here, and here. I was curious as to what a professional thought of the situation so I interviewed my good friend and active C4L member from Florida, Detective John J. Baeza, NYPD (ret.) While details are still coming to light, I think we can all agree that this situation has caused the nation to have a meaningful discussion on the militarization of state and local police departments that has been going on for decades.
Campaign for Liberty: What do you think of the police response to the events in Ferguson, MO?
BAEZA: Using a militarized police presence can only incite protesters. Although difficult at times, opening a line of communication with those protesting is a much better approach. This type of communication should have already began before this incident as community outreach is a key part of police work. Police commanders and supervisors must get in touch with their community so that if an event like this occurs they can both come to a civic solution.
After taking over control of managing the protests the Missouri State Highway Patrol has done a good job of reaching out to citizen groups. This outreach has eased tensions.
Campaign for Liberty: How can police officers balance the public safety with the rights of people to protest?
BAEZA: If protesters harm another person or damage another’s property they must be held accountable for those crimes. Police should use cameras to film the protest to ensure proper identification of those committing criminal acts just as citizens should use cameras to film the actions of the police. Everyone who commits a crime, whether it be a protester or the police, can then be held accountable. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor when enforcing some laws and police may refrain from intervention or arrest until after the situation has returned to normal. This does not mean that the police should allow crimes against persons. The police should also know that they are not permitted to commit crimes against persons. If a protester used tear gas against the police they would certainly feel that they are being attacked. What then should they expect when they use tear gas cannisters against citizens. The use of tear gas will always cause the situation to escalate.
The police must realize that under Article 1, Section 9 of the Bill of Rights under the Missouri state constitution citizens “ have the right peaceably to assemble for their common good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances by petition or remonstrance.” Article 1, Section 8 reads. “That no law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech, no matter by what means communicated: that every person shall be free to say, write or publish, or otherwise communicate whatever he will on any subject, being responsible for all abuses of that liberty…” The police represent and are paid by those citizens and they must uphold their oath to the Missouri constitution as this is a state matter and should be handled by the state.
Campaign for Liberty: What is your opinion of police officers wearing cameras?
BAEZA: All police officers should be mandated to wear body cameras. Studies have shown police abuse drops significantly when cameras are worn by police officers. Cameras can also be used to determine if an officer is unfairly accused of some wrongdoing. The Ferguson Police Department possessed body cameras but never put them into service.
C4L Chairman Ron Paul gave an interview on MSNBC earlier in the week on Ferguson, which you can watch here.
Be sure to see John Baeza at LPAC! Get your tickets here.