Riot Control Reform

By Alethea Thompson

Following a shooting of 23 year old Sylville Smith in Milwaukee this past weekend, protesters gathered to defend the recently deceased.  Unfortunately, it was not not long before the protests became violent and turned into a massive riot that resulted in a lot of damages.  This case, as well as the riots that occurred in Ferguson and Baltimore make it clear that something needs to be done to ensure the safety of the peaceful population.  Although every city has a protocol to deal with riots which include the use of tear gas, water hoses, and other forms of riot protocols, it is obvious that in extreme situations, such as the these three incidents, are simply not enough.

These situations cannot use traditional riot control methods because they were not localized.  Instead, in all three incidents were spread out, making it a bit more difficult to control the problem.  To give you an idea, imagine yourself trying to chase after a bunch of sheep running in a variety of directions.  It’s a huge headache.  Instead you get a faster more capable animal to help you herd the sheep together (such as a shepherd or a horse).  Well…it is sort of like that, except that humans are far better at evasion techniques, and they can do a lot more damage than sheep.

We could talk ad nausea all day about how the National Guard should have been allowed to use lethal force in Ferguson, there really is wisdom in not doing so.  It’s clear that this is not something that can be easily remedied, but we can work towards trying to resolve riot issues in other methods.

  1. Legislation.  There has been a lot of hatred towards legislation because it seems to target particular demographics.  I’ve already considered this and went looking before I even made this suggestion- White people are idiots too.  We riot over the dumbest things- like the Giants losing, or a Pennsylvania coach getting fired because he allowed his assistant to molest children.  Each of these incidents have occurred since 2010, so it’s not like it is a new thing.  No, if we put up legislation against rioters, it’s rioters, not Black, White, Hispanic, Native American, or whatever other race you claim to be, rioters.
    So what would this legislation look like?  Here’s problem number 1- Riots are acts of passion in the moment.  They turn normal law abiding citizens into something horrific.  But this isn’t their natural state- not most of them.  So why place them in an already flooded corrections system?  It doesn’t solve anything.  But we could look elsewhere- Pocketbook.  I’m not talking about a fine, but something a bit more final.  Such as being placed on a blacklist for government assistance.  This would not bar them from receiving assistance from charity organizations, just government funding, and access to government run housing or facilities.  This legislation could have a number of years attached to it, or it could be forever, depending on how it would get implemented by individual states.
    I would not, however, bar them from medical insurances such as medicare.  Medical issues are medical issues, and those things arise at the most inopportune times.  No medical doctor can turn them away if it’s life threatening, so we may as well do what we can to help the medical community.  I mean, really, let’s face the reality, medical insurance is not really for the patient, it’s for the medical staff to keep their hospital running properly.  There is no reason to make a hospital suffer for someone else’s actions.
    There is one problem with legislation, however, and that is what to do about minors.  Most of the time this sort of stuff will disappear from their record when they turn 18.  So it will be something that needs to be taken into consideration if ever legislation like this is looked into.
  1. Implementing Legislation.  When compared to all the people that are involved in a riot, the number of arrests are really insignificant.  This makes legislation like the one outlined above essentially ineffective.  Which means that we need to work more on ensuring the point is made which each riot.  When police and/or National Guard go into a situation, their needs to be a plan to take as many as possible into custody so that charges can be brought against them.
  1. Training and Execution.  As I mentioned earlier, traditional methods of crowd and riot control are not as effective as we would like them to be because of the widespread nature of these riots, as opposed to .  This tells us that there needs to be a new focus on developing tactics.  A review of every riot since 2010, and the LA Riots may be able to lend some insight into what police are doing altogether, and at what tactics may improve their results.  Milwaukee does appear to have a Tornado Siren. Although the alarm is set for Tornados, a siren going off means to get to shelter.  Sounding that off in the middle of a riot can alert the public that they need to retreat, before law enforcement makes their move to tactically resolve the issue at hand.  Combine this with a public statement over radio and television why the siren is going off and what the timetable is, urging the public to gather their friends and family up before any action is initiated.
  1. Education.  The final thing we need to do, is educate people about the law, as well as effective methods of pursuing change in our government.  We need to teach them about voting locally, participating in lobbying events for causes they feel are important, as well as the importance of civil rights lawyers.  If we truly want to see change which benefits all parties, there needs to be a respect and understanding for how the system works.

This will all take time.  However, if the last few years have taught us anything, it is that the only way we can move forward is if we learn to adapt.  There is too much being lost in these incidents.  People lose property which is vital for them to survive, or businesses which support entire families are destroyed.  Our government bodies owe it to the public to work on a number of areas, not just the issue of Use of Force.


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