The news is out: [NEW YORK (AP) — In law enforcement, they’re referred to as “nonlethal” tools for dealing with demonstrations that turn unruly: rubber bullets, pepper spray, batons, flash-bangs.
But the now-familiar scenes of U.S. police officers in riot gear clashing with protesters at Lafayette Park across from the White House and in other cities have police critics charging that the weaponry too often escalates tensions and hurts innocent people.
“When you see riot gear, it absolutely changes the mood,” said Ron Moten, a longtime community organizer in the nation’s capital who was out demonstrating this weekend. He said it takes away any perception the officers could be empathetic.
“If I went up to speak with a police officer and I’m covered in armor and holding a shield and a stick, don’t you think they would regard me as a threat?”
“When we see riot gear, as black people it takes us back 400 years,” he said.
Protesters in Denver arrived at the hospital with injuries from police projectiles that caused one person to lose an eye and left three other people with permanent eye damage, said Prem Subramanian, a physician who operated on some victims following demonstrations late last month.
“They weren’t accused of any crime, and they came in with devastating eye injuries,” Subramanian said, adding that he was so upset about it that he complained to city officials, who promised to investigate any abuses. “We’re learning the consequences of using these weapons.”]
Your wish came true; but now it’s a nightmare. Years ago, when I lamented the militarization of law enforcement; long ago, when I was told at the police academy that LEOs were part of the military, countless of morons supported the lie that cops were outgunned by bad guys in the streets. And now, the public is paying the price for its stupidity.