Calling In The Missouri National Guard May Have Been A Bad Idea

At FiveThirtyEight.com, Brennan Center economist Oliver Roeder writes that data shows over-militarized police behavior can be ineffective, or even counter-intuitive, when it comes to protest response.

November 20, 2014
Ferguson

On Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency. The emergency hasn’t happened yet — it’s what might happen if a grand jury decides not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The National Guard, thanks to the order, is standing by.

Nixon says he owes it to his citizens to protect them “from violence and damage” and that “the State of Missouri will be prepared to appropriately respond to any reaction to these announcements.”

The declaration “immediately enraged protest leaders and some local black elected officials,” according to The Washington Post, and Jamelle Bouie, writing in Slate, argued that what Nixon sees as protection many in Missouri will see as antagonism. “The unrest in Ferguson was as much the fault of the police as it was the protesters,” Bouie said. “But by declaring a ‘state of emergency’ aimed at residents of Ferguson and the broader St. Louis County, Gov. Nixon obscures this fact and smears the community … all but giving license to law enforcement to reprise its draconian response.”

This is the riddle of crowd control: Does showing force in advance of a protest help control it, or send it out of control? Academic research says it’s more likely the latter.

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Click here to read the full column at FiveThirtyEight.com.

(Photo: AP)