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President Obama is going to announce an executive order responding to the controversy in Ferguson, Mo. What is the great reform that we are going to see to address the shooting of a black male youth by a white police officer?
Efforts to regulate the “militarization of the police.”
This makes little sense. Whether the police have weapons that are too powerful and tactics that are too militaristic had nothing to do with the original shooting involving Wilson and Brown. It had more to do with the public images that came out of the protests after the shooting. This seems like a classic political move from this White House: address the public appearance of the problem, but not the problem itself.
The fruitless symbolism of the executive order is all the more telling given our constitutional order. Whether the police are using weapons that are too powerful or not, or tactics that are too aggressive or not, is not a matter for the federal government, especially the executive branch. Our Constitution reserves criminal law and enforcement to the states. There is some federal restraint through the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clauses, which regulate the use of force, and the federal government procures and apparently transfers military equipment to the states under existing programs. But if the police are not using unreasonable force in their treatment of suspects, the type of weapons should be up to local and state authorities.
Living near Oakland, Calif. now, and having grown up in Philadelphia, Penn., I think criminal violence in the inner-city is a terrible problem. The police should have the weapons that they need to match criminals who have access to high-powered weapons. Under-arming the police, who have a difficult job where they must make split-second decisions about life and death, is not going to help reduce violent crime in our inner cities.