August 14th, 2014
03:13 PM ET
9 years 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."

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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. Getoverit

    LMFAO! The liberals are bashing Rand Paul are the same liberals that are saying Ferguson has become a "police state". Waaaaaay too funny!

    August 14, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. Name

    Would anyone be surprised to see this 1960's type encounters spread to other cities?
    I would not be surprised at all ... and I wouldn't be shocked to see hoses pulled out too ... just like the old days.
    Humans NEVER LEARN from history. They just dig deep down, and pull out the same old tactics – that are always ineffective.
    When does the USA GROW UP?

    August 14, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  3. Mr.Correct

    Police are becoming too militarized, the sky is blue and Republicans are faux-conservative lobbyist puppets who preach small government while taxing and spending out the wazoo. Today's essay in the obvious courtesy of Rand Paul.

    August 14, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    What's troubling is that a particular ethnic group thinks they have a right to be lawless.

    August 14, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. Bill from GA

    In typical rand paul fashion, he is all over the issue, trying to offer something for everyone, while saying nothing substantial.

    August 14, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. jinx9to88

    I want to know why the same force was not given with Cliven Bundy and his clowns in Nevada? You had people pointing guns at federal Marshals!! Sounds funny to me!!

    August 14, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. Name

    And then we have the nerve to criticize Iraq, Gaza, Israel, and others.
    If anything, we are showing them what hypocrites we are in the good old USA. Leading by what? EXAMPLE. And not the example of our words. Blacks, Browns, and other non-whites (now the majority population in the US) are the "Gazans", the "Yazidis", the "Darfuri", etc. It's all the same, with varied degrees of heinousness.
    Amazing how blind we can be as humans.

    August 14, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. gb333

    Rand Paul is like his father, so many great ideas, and some that are so screwy.

    August 14, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  9. Bill from GA

    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."

    Shame on you, Lynda. Alleging that the rioters might have some accountability in this matter?? That rioting should not be condoned??

    Watch it, lady, or you will get kicked out of The Gang!!
    Lord Sniffit won't like you anymore. 🙂

    August 14, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. Timothy Philps

    Gov. Nixon has encouraged lawlessness in Missouri ... both lawlessness by police and lawlessness by the population. It's comical to see his slithering tongue blather about open and fair dialog when he has no sincere desire for anything of the kind and absolutely despises the 1st Amendment freedoms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. He's a pandering hypocrite, seeking to do like Rand Paul does here - say a lot and say absolutely nothing at the same time.

    August 14, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. HenryMiller

    Step One in demilitarising the police is to stop making illegal something which a big portion of the population doesn't think is inherently wrong: the use of recreational drugs.

    This modern-day Prohibition has had exactly the consequences of its predecessor of almost a century ago: gang violence, countered by militarised police forces, followed by a growing outrage directed at the police, a growing contempt for the legal and political structures that tolerate or encourage the outrage, and a near-complete failure of the purpose of the prohibition.

    Sign a treaty on the War on Drugs and be done with it, release all the prisoners of that war, and find more productive and less oppressive uses for the police.

    August 14, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  12. Lynda/Minnesota

    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.

    I acknowledge your comment, Sniffit. My point is only that there WERE riots, and the threat of riots continues. Do many in our police force see themselves as a law onto themselves? Absolutely. We see it daily. That these folks need to be weeded out I wholeheartedly agree. It is the "how to" weed them out before horrific offenses are committed that seems to have reached an impasse. I truly wish this was NOT a political issue; in my opinion politics adds to, but isn't necessarily a benefit in these situations. It will always take a "one side blah, the other side blah" narrative. Which causes no real accomplishment.

    Have tensions escalated because of over the top actions by police? Again, yes. But does not take away from the fact that it was the rioting that precipitated the entire "militarized" scenario to begin with.

    August 14, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  13. O'drama ya Mama


    LMFAO! The liberals are bashing Rand Paul are the same liberals that are saying Ferguson has become a "police state". Waaaaaay too funny!
    August 14, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |

    Are you under the impression that if you disagree with Rand on certain issues that you MUST disagree with him on ALL issues? Thats a very simplistic way of thinking and its part of why we have such a partisan divided country. These ideas are more complex than the "left vs right" paradigm we seem to constantly find ourselves in.

    August 14, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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