I was actually in Ferguson on August 9th, 2014, and (generally) agree with the notion that (quoted in this Politico article today) that most people “have no clue of what was going on on the ground” then or now.
I’ll never forget watching some 200 vehicles from just about every law enforcement agency in the St. Louis Metropolitan area literally drive over a grieving community’s memorial in the Canfield Green Apartment complex. That was the moment that I knew what was happening in front of me would not be a one night affair. If you had asked me what was happening I would have probably pointed at the conspicuous display of weapons and military-style tactics funded by federal civil asset forfeiture revenue and said “these police agencies have 0 connection to what is happening in this community and are basically following a federal playbook called Equitable Sharing and the 1033 Program.”
I caution anyone from making generalizing comments about law enforcement further because the the context is local and specific to St. Louis, a region of predatory municipal governments and stagnant politics. (Kudos to State Senator Eric Schmitt, who successfully passed reforms addressing some of these root causes by capping revenues municipal law enforcement derived from municipal law enforcement).
I think it is right to say as Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder points out that there were significant failures of executive political leadership going all the way to the Governor Nixon’s office. We should expect our Governor to be actively aware of these kinds of situations and be able to mediate conflict. Moreover, as the Chief Executive in control of law enforcement, a Governor should know how to wield power; if you do it wrong, as Governor Nixon did, you antagonize citizens by not respecting their Constitutional rights and undermine law enforcement by making them the face of your failure. I could see Kinder being on the ground and talking to leaders in the community if he were Governor, making the decisions that would keep the situation from escalating; I don’t know if I see any of the other Republican candidates doing that. (Maybe John Brunner? Chris Koster would probably be calling Lacy Clay to see what the beach was like in Annapolis).
There has only been the beginnings of what should be a much more vibrant conversation about A) over-criminalization and predatory municipal governments and B) over-federalization of state and local affairs. Kudos to Missouri State Representative Shamed Dogan (R-98), who is a thought leader on many of these issues including abolishing civil asset forfeiture and mandatory minimums.
Ultimately, it is these kind of reforms that will really drive the path forward for this state; either you have big, intrusive governments that survive at the expense of their citizens or you have Constitutionally limited governments that protect liberty and opportunity. Ending cannabis prohibition will be an important step on that path, and it will be significant that it will likely be a citizen initiative rather than a legislative or executive action that was key there.