August 14th, 2014
03:13 PM ET
4 months ago

Rand Paul on Ferguson: Police too militarized

(CNN) – There’s a “legitimate” need for authorities “to keep the peace,” but the law enforcement response to racially-charged street protests over the police shooting of an unarmed Missouri teenager illustrates something more pervasive and troubling, Sen. Rand Paul said.

Writing Thursday in an opinion piece in Time, Paul noted that the wild scene of police in tactical gear apparently firing teargas and rubber pellets and pointing automatic weapons at people in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson resembled a “war more than a traditional police action.”

He said there “should be a difference between a police response and a military response."

All of the details of what occurred are not yet clear. But multiple law enforcement agencies were dispatched to calm the situation prompted by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18, last Saturday.

Ferguson violence: Police slammed for 'escalating the situation'

Residents contend the shooting was unwarranted, and on Wednesday night, police said protesters threw firebombs and engaged in gunfire.

Paul said outrage over the shooting is “understandable,” but there is never an “excuse for rioting or looting.”

Weaving together his Democratic appeal with his libertarian-leaning values, Paul argued that the situation in Ferguson carries racial undertones and underscores a need for smaller government.

He has been actively courting African-Americans as he prepares the groundwork for a potential presidential campaign.

A large part of his outreach includes calling for criminal justice reform, with a focus on nonviolent crime and the war on drugs.

"Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them," he wrote in Time.

Moreover, he argued that police forces have become more militarized in recent years. His op-ed cites research that argues the federal government has had a role in the process by giving highly sophisticated equipment to local authorities.

"When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process ... we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands," he wrote.


Filed under: 2016 • Rand Paul
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Say WHAT???

    And yet after all that rioting, looting and burning how many thousands lay dead in the streets? NONE.

    I guess the police are supposed to show up to the riot and looting in short sleeve shirts armed with water pistols? Is this guy for real?! The cops don't take an oath to be sitting ducks for rioters throwing fire bombs. Police have shown a HUGE amount of restraint given what they have had thrown at them.

    Frankly, I think it is high time that some of these looters DO get shot. That is just brazen anarchy for personal benefit. Don't some refer to it as "going shopping"?

    August 14, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Paul said outrage over the shooting is “understandable,” but there is never an “excuse for rioting or looting.”
    ------------------------
    The rioting and looting is over and done with until the police show up to clear the streets, using undue force. Someone needs to remind the Ferguson authorities that people have a right to gather and protest against their government.

    If a man can stand in front of the White House with a high powered weapon and demand that the POTUS come out and surrender himself, and not be shot at nor forcibly ordered to leave, then why are the police attacking unarmed protestors on a peaceful march?

    August 14, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  3. bcrunner

    Now you will never get past the tea party militans Rand!! Although some of us know what you are trying to do...

    August 14, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  4. smith

    So now we have people saying the police should not have the proper equipment to do the job. smh. Riot police have special gear because of objects being thrown at them and maybe other weapons being used against them. Can you imagine a plain clothes officer against people throwing rocks and bottles? Stop looting, acts of arson, and violence against the riot police and they will go away.

    August 14, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  5. Rashi Taggar

    I keep hearing how the police need to "unmilitarize." That's unfair. Look at what recently happened in Stockton, CA. The police took all measures necessary to protect civilians by use of SWAT, Humvees, etc. and still an innocent hostage was killed. We can't take these resources away, in the event that they may be required. Better safe than sorry.

    August 14, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. sonny chapman

    Wanna be a cop or a soldier of fortune ? This militarization puts good cops in a bad mindset. Also, a symptom to the 1% that all is not well among the peasants within their Kingdom.

    August 14, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. just asking

    Rudy NYC
    then why are the police attacking unarmed protestors on a peaceful march?
    --

    where is your proof of this? there is rioting, looting and arson going on. doesn't sound very peaceful to me. should the police just disappear until these criminals loot and torch every business in town?

    August 14, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  8. Marty

    Overall how are gun sales doing in Missouri?

    August 14, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  9. Lizzie

    Rudy NYC, go try to stand in front of the WH, make sure you have it on film. Or better yet tell the rest of us when and we will be there to support you.

    August 14, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. Lizzie

    sonny.... Next time someone robs you or breaks into your house (if you own one) don't call the police.

    August 14, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  11. Lizzie

    Marty
    Overall how are gun sales doing in Missouri?
    -after the looting and rioting I bet they have soared.

    August 14, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    I actually agree with you on this Rand. Doesn't mean I'll vote for you, but I like your libertarian view on this issue.

    August 14, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. just saying

    peaceful marches occur in the day. at night, rioting, looting, burning, attacks.

    so rudy, who is looting all the businesses and setting them on fire? what do those businesses have to do with the cops or the teenager that was shot?

    August 14, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. MaryM

    You know,m I dont agree with Rand on most things, but This one I do agree with him

    August 14, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "Police have shown a HUGE amount of restraint given what they have had thrown at them."

    LOL. Just laughable. Randroid is right on both counts: the rioting and looting is unacceptable and not the right way to protest this and the local police forces are too freekin militarized. Look up the Pentagon's 1033 program and then investigate precisely how much refurbished military equipment is winding up in our local police departments and encouraging them to take on a military mentality, which is completely inappropriate for local domestic law enforcement. Armored vehicles and all sorts of crap that is excessive and only serves to heighten the already inflated sense of self-righteous arrogance rampant throughout police departments all over the country. You can see it in the pictures coming out from Ferguson: police playing soldier, running around in jungle camo with loaded rifles out, aimed and ready, traveling in packs and pointing their weapons at innocent people on the sidewalk in the middle of the day. I reiterate my question: what purpose does JUNGLE camo serve in this suburban/urban environment other than to heighten the police's militaristic fantasies and make them appear more threatening and combative towards the people they're supposed to be protecting, not combating. Then we get to the toys. They've been popping off rubber bullets everywhere, throwing tear gas and smoke grenades. The whole thing adds up to nothing more than the police serving to escalate tensions and violence instead of diffusing it and restoring confidence and calm. Heavy-handedness like arresting journalists and confiscating their equipment (one reporter even got slammed into a soda machine for no reason while in cuffs) just proves that they are out of control, drunk on power and way too enamored with their authority. If you give them the toys, they will find an excuse to use them and they will mold their mentality and perception of their duty around excuses to use them with nonsense language like "effective stopping power" and "deterrent fire" and "pre-emptive suppression."

    August 14, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "Better safe than sorry."

    Better sorry than subjugated.

    August 14, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    just asking

    Rudy NYC
    then why are the police attacking unarmed protestors on a peaceful march?
    -

    where is your proof of this? there is rioting, looting and arson going on. doesn't sound very peaceful to me. should the police just disappear until these criminals loot and torch every business in town?
    ==============================================================
    The first night or two, yes, there was looting. Now, things are different. Police are initiating the violence. Reporters on the scene are capturing the violence over the last couple of nights. Police are using force to break up a peaceful march, which is technically a violation of their 1st Amendment rights.

    August 14, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    "He said there “should be a difference between a police response and a military response."

    The difference being what, Rand Paul? A riot is a riot is a riot. Do our police officers simply stand at attention while rioters throw "items" their way and hope not to get hurt? Do we allow riots in the streets without acknowledging the destruction these riots inflict on the innocent bystanders? Or do we simply allow the rioters their "turf" while our law enforcement wipe their hands and walk away from it all?

    Look. Shooting unarmed young men (or ANYONE) by ANY OTHER isn't to be condoned. Nor should rioting be condoned or justified. EVER.

    August 14, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    Hollow words from the same guy who said, “Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered. As a consequence, some associations will discriminate.”

    In other words, Paul thinks the Civil Rights Act of 1964 infringed on the rights of private businesses to discriminate against people.

    Paul's is a dog-eat-dog world, folks: Never forget that!

    August 14, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    smith

    So now we have people saying the police should not have the proper equipment to do the job. smh. Riot police have special gear because of objects being thrown at them and maybe other weapons being used against them. Can you imagine a plain clothes officer against people throwing rocks and bottles? Stop looting, acts of arson, and violence against the riot police and they will go away.
    -------------------------
    No one said take their equipment away until you did, smith. People have a constitutional right to protest peacefully. The police are denying that right to the protestors.

    August 14, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  21. Al-NY,NY

    with comments like that, Bland will never get the nomination. he has to say things like "the thugs and outlaws are Obama robots who want this and that and this and that. They'll never get a job or pay taxes."

    August 14, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. it must be said

    Marty
    Overall how are gun sales doing in Missouri?
    -–

    They are flying off the shelves, some legally, some after the windows to the store gets smashed.

    August 14, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Look. Shooting unarmed young men (or ANYONE) by ANY OTHER isn't to be condoned. Nor should rioting be condoned or justified. EVER."

    I don't think he's at all trying to justify the rioting. The question he's raising...and ALOT of people are raising...is about the manner in which Ferguson police have responded. The photos look like frickin Beruit. As Josh Marshall of TPM quite rightfully summed it up: "Ferguson or Fallujah?" The cops have turned it into a warzone, heightened tensions, responded excessively. It's not right. It only escalates the violence, deepens the problem and widens the divide, but the Pentagon continues to give them military grade weaponry and equipment, which only serves to heighten their delusions of the local police force having a paramilitary nature.

    And here's the kicker: to keep the military hardware, THEY HAVE TO USE IT WITHIN 1 YEAR. Get it? if they don't use it, they lose it. Guess what that does. When the only tool you have is a hammer....

    August 14, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  24. Bigd

    In California we had a black girl shoot sleeping in her car by police and a local church set up a march to City Hall of there members.This was a peaceful walk to City Hall , The Police set snipers on the roof tops and armored personal carriers long the route with swat teams running around in their trucks. For a Church group

    August 14, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  25. T-Prop

    From some of the more histrionic emotional comments, you'd think the entire city was in flames...

    Well, it's not.

    August 14, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
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