I Am Outraged! You Should Be, Too!

“I can tell you from my own experience, that starting ‘soft’ in handling a protest works. When a police agency doesn’t do that, violence by police is always met with more violence from the protesters. It spirals. A lawful nation is dependent upon lawful police.”

Navy Veteran Chris David, age 53, being repeatedly beaten in Portland.

Watch this video and then come back to this blog.

I am outraged, and I hope you are also, about what’s been going on in Portland (this is important for both police and community members to think about).

Police in a democracy must act in many different ways from police who serve in an autocracy. You should be able to tell the difference. Police in an autocracy serve the state/leader alone. They are on the street to control the people who have no inherent rights but to serve the state. They, unlike us, have no constitutional right to be on the street and defying and decrying their government.

In a democracy, a free society like ours, police are to serve the people and protect their rights from being infringed. At the formation of the first public police in London these new public police officers were taught that “the people are the police and the police are the people.” Just one of Sir Robert Peel’s “Nine Principles of Policing;” to “police the community with their consent of the community.” These nine principles apply today as much as they did in the early 1800s.

Our nation’s Founders valued the freedom of the person over the state. They expressly wrote ten amendments to our Constitution to make this point. These Constitutional principles are contained in our Bill of Rights. These value statements protect our “unalienable rights” as American citizens. They are, among others, freedom of speech and religion, protection from illegal searches and seizures, cruel and unusual punishments, and the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government if we feel grieved.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” — The First Amendment.

If a government does not have to put up with protesting citizens (after all, they are annoying to elected officials), the government can do almost anything. The Founders had experienced living in a monarchy. They did not want this to happen to this new, unique, and independent nation they were forming.

What seems to be happening in Portland is that federal police, not under the direction of the mayor of the city, are assaulting and arresting protesting citizens. On top of that, they have no personal identification on their camouflaged uniforms to hold them accountable for their behavior. This cannot be tolerated and needs to be brought into a federal court to gain remedy as soon as possible!

It’s not only that citizens cannot identify the federal officers who are assaulting them, but the tactics they are using run counter to those which must be used in a free society. In fact, they are the same kind of tactics one sees police use in a dictatorship, not a democracy.

There is a way, however, for police to respond to civic protest without abridging the rights of those present. We did this in Madison, Wisconsin, for over two decades without a protest turning into a riot.

Let’s say police follow the “best known method” today for handling protest — it can be found in the “Madison Method.”

This method has worked before. It beings by talking and dialoging with protest leaders. We, the police, clearly state our position — to facilitate their right to protest. We always initially show up in “soft” uniforms, engage with protesters and work to keep the peace. Later in the protest, if troublemakers appear and brake windows, set fires, and began to throw rocks, we announce we have to “upgrade’ in order to contain those who are violating the law. This means we call out reserve officers who are wearing protective body armor, with shields and batons. They would be called out to contain this behavior, but being very careful to respond only to those who are actively breaking the law.

Okay. Now let’s go to the above video again. One man appears not to be moving on. He is not violating the law per se. He doesn’t move. What should the police do? They should order him to move (they have most likely done that) and he fails to do so. He now should be passed on to a follow-up arrest team who will decide whether or not he should be arrested. What they should NOT do is to assault him. This clearly is a use of illegal force — and repeatedly so.

So how does this man hold his assailants accountable? Those who beat him have no visible identification.

Years ago, when I studied police in Japan, they had a special, highly trained and selected crowd control teams. Before a demonstration in which they may be deployed, they all showed up at the police gym and had a robust martial arts workout. Why? To get rid of tension that might affect their behavior controlling protestors later in the day.

Because of the above behavior, already gone viral, we all suffer; especially the “good cops” who see this and are as outraged as I am!

So, when police act outside the law, and almost everyone sees it, they lose trust, legitimacy, and community support. These behaviors make every police officer’s job more difficult. Now police become part of the problem. (When I came to Madison, I was told about how the Dow Chemical Protest was, on the first day, against the war and the use of napalm [made by Dow Chemical] but, on the next day, and all the days forward, the protest was about the response of the Madison police.)

Seeing Portland has now experienced over 50 days of protest, it may be too late to turn things around. The protest now will be about whoever those police were! But I can tell you from my own experience, that starting ‘soft’ in handling a protest works.

When a police agency doesn’t do that, violence by police is always met with more violence from the protesters. It spirals.

A lawful nation is dependent upon lawful police.