During Tuesday evening's edition of The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS, Rachel Maddow -- host of her own eponymous weeknight program on MSNBC – told the retiring host/comedian that the problems in Ferguson, Missouri, are the result of a number of intersecting conflicts.
People in the community feel “very unrepresented” in the government, she stated, which is in part due to the large disparity between the number of black citizens and local officials of the same race. Finally, Maddow claimed that Americans found it “terrifying” to see the type of military-style weaponry the small-town police department used to control demonstrators and protesters when incidents of unrest threatened to become dangerous riots.
Letterman began the segment by asking his guest to explain “the homicide or the police shooting that resulted in unrest.”
“I think a few different things were going on in that community,” Maddow replied, “but from what I can see, it's a community that feels very unrepresented by their local government.”
She explained: “The police department has 53 officers or something; there's three African-American police officers in a town that's 67 percent black, and the number of traffic stops is wildly out of proportion on racial grounds.”
Then on August 9, black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson, and Maddow asserted that the reaction by the local police escalated the crisis.
The liberal guest noted:
They left this young man lying in the street for hours after he was killed. They still haven't released a police report that says anything in it about what happened.
The autopsy report hasn't been released at all in terms of any information, but they found a way to go release information about this kid that made him look bad when he was the one who'd been killed.
“Then there's this broader issue about the way they responded to people being mad, the way they responded to the protests, and it looked like a combat zone,” Maddow noted.
“And that, I think, was kind of a shock to the country that even a little, small-time police department like this would have armored personnel carriers with gun turrets, with cops sitting on top of these vehicles pointing sniper rifles at peaceful protesters in the United States,” she said.
“That was terrifying,” Maddow declared.
Letterman claimed that “this armament of the local police department goes back to the war on drugs, where the police had to have equivalent weapons as did the drug smugglers and dealers. ... Is that where it came from?”
“Yes,” his guest replied emphatically. “A lot of people were saying: 'Oh, this happened since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We bought all that gear, and we need somewhere to put it. That's part of it. It happened after 9/11, when the police were taking on a counter-terrorism role. That's part of it.”
“On the militarized policing thing, in other democracies that we like to think of ourselves as equivalent to, they do not police people with military resources the way that we do,” Maddow noted.
The conflict “has been building for a few decades to the point where our police, even small-town police departments, have mine-resistant, ambush-protective vehicles that were developed for use in Kandahar,” the liberal guest added.
“I mean, it doesn't make any sense,” she continued, “and I think that there's going to be a backlash against that.”
Letterman then asked: “You mentioned town to town, county to county, but what about state to state? Do those percentages hold up state to state across the country?”
“I would say there's no state in the country which has addressed the problem about there being racial contours in policing,” the MSNBC host replied before stating:
People talk about there being systemic problems with racism in the country; it's because black communities in this country, coast to coast, are policed differently than white communities.
At every level of the criminal justice system, black people are targeted more than white people in a way that isn't explained by the crime rate.
Maddow then tried to end the discussion on a positive note.
“Even though it's systemic and it happens in a lot of places and it's been happening for a long time doesn't mean it has to happen forever,” she concluded. “And there are lot of examples of community policing approaches making stuff better.”
This interview was yet another example of liberals using a crisis to promote their favorite causes. This incident was probably the first time the police in Ferguson was called upon to control large crowds of people, so mistakes were not surprising.
Especially troubling is the concept of “de-militarizing” law enforcement officials. Police officers put their lives on the line every day, and I suspect neither Letterman nor Maddow would shed a tear over the death of a “cop” in a similar situation with less protection.