Let us stipulate that none of us know what happened between Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown. We can also stipulate that the members of the Ferguson Police Department might need some additional training.
The Ferguson PD has 53 officers to Serve and Protect about 20,000 residence. That seemed high to me, but a quick glance at other places shows that might be about right.
Washington, DC has 4,000 uniformed cops (not counting about 2.3 million other federal agency police officers) for 600,000. If that ratio were transferred to Ferguson it would have a uniformed force of about 133 cops.
On the other end of the scale, greater York, Pennsylvania (pop. 108,000) has 44 uniformed officers. Transmogrifying that to Ferguson would leave the city with only about 16 cops on the street.
In addition to the continuing, and increasingly troubling, issue of racial issues in the United States, the Ferguson situation has given rise to what became known over the weekend as the "militarization" of America's police departments.
Whether or not Ferguson, or any other city police department needs enough military equipment to allow Captain American III to be filmed there raises serious questions.
First among them is: What is the purpose of a police department?
My off-the-cuff answer is: We want our cops to keep us safe in our homes, schools, and places of business. We want them to make sure cars are driven in a safe manner so they never run over out kids at stop signs, or bump into one another too often.. And, we want them to … that's pretty much it.
In fact, the official document describing the nature and duties of the police force in Baton Rouge, La begins with
"Work normally consists of checking of parking meters for violations, routine patrol, preliminary investigation and traffic regulation… of checking of parking meters for violations, routine patrol ?
Most police departments do not need armored, anti-IED personnel carriers for the routine checking of parking meters, unless the parking meters are in Fallujah.
A great deal of equipment that has been made available to local PDs is military surplus. We have produce many, many armored, anti-IED personnel carriers for use in Iraq and Afghanistan that are no longer needed there.
They are probably not needed in Ferguson either but it's tough to turn down equipment when it is offered for free.
It would be useful to know (a) what the inventory of military equipment is in the Ferguson, PD and (b) what type of training was offered or completed in the utilization of that equipment.