The big news out of the fifth night of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday afternoon is that the police presence was a peaceful and decidedly non-militarized one, a stark contrast to the behavior and appearance of officers from various Ferguson and St. Louis area law enforcement agencies involved in policing protests on Wednesday night, when cops acted aggressively toward protesters and journalists alike, arresting at least 16 people. Ferguson cops, meanwhile, promised to release later today the name of the officer who killed Brown.
The change came after Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the State Highway Patrol to take over policing of protests in Ferguson. Photos from the fifth night showed cops dressed like cops, not soldiers. Observers on Twitter rejoiced that police stayed peaceful while monitoring last night's protest. It's a depressing illustration of how we've lowered expectations of police behavior. Ferguson police say they will release the name of the officer who killed Brown, a demand of protesters since Brown was shot. The prosecutor's investigation still has no projected end date, and there's not much reassurance available that the investigation won't end like so many others in this situation, with a decision that the use of force was justified.
Following some of the Ferguson commentary last night, largely expressing relief that police were remaining calm and weren't militarized, I couldn't help to think of the Lowered Expectations bit from Mad TV. The story of the killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson remains that an unarmed 18-year-old was killed to end an interaction that started over him and a friend walking in the street. In the national news cycle it may have become a story about riots, and then militarized police, and now about how a calm police force can relieve some tension in the community. The questions surrounding the death of Michael Brown, however, and the judicial process through which his killer will go through, and the protections his job will offer him, as well as the continuing trend of militarization of police across America and whether the plethora of bad actors among the law enforcement agencies swarming Ferguson until Wednesday night will face any kind of disciplinary action, are the real issues.