Claire McCaskill: Pitting protesters against police “very unfair” to most police officers
A “narrative” that pits protestors against police in cities like Ferguson has been “harmful” and “very unfair” to most police officers, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Tuesday.
In a wide-ranging interview, the Missouri Democrat told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric that it would be “naïve” to think that years of institutional bias against African Americans could be reversed in the 12 months since Michael Brown’s death in her home state. On Monday, St. Louis County authorities declared a state of emergency in Ferguson after gunfire broke out during the protests marking the one-year anniversary of Brown’s killing.
“This whole narrative of protesters versus police has been harmful in so many ways, and in many ways very unfair to most of the police officers that I’ve had the honor to work with, because most of them want to be of the community, not in an adversarial position against the community,” McCaskill said. “But the system has created this and now we have got to figure out a way to unwind it.”
McCaskill’s comments — in which she expressed frustration that “a few bad actors… have grabbed the headlines” — came on the one-year anniversary of the protests that engulfed the Missouri town of Ferguson and kicked off a national “Black Lives Matter” movement protesting Brown’s death and the disproportionate number of young black men killed in encounters with police.
“I say all this and it sounds like I am trying to minimize what’s going on there — I don’t mean to do that — but I’ve watched in frustration when the narrative has gotten out ahead of itself in terms of what’s really going on on the ground,” McCaskill said.
Signs of progress in Missouri since Brown’s death, McCaskill said, include: An increase in black members on Ferguson’s city council, the installation of an African American at the head of the town’s police department, municipal court reform in St. Louis County and expanded job training programs. But criminal justice system, she said, still needed to be reformed — and that is going to take time.
“This is something that’s taken years to become an institutional bias, we can’t be naive enough to think we’re going to fix it in twelve short months,” McCaskill said.
She also called for increased community policing and for more resources to be directed to departments so they can devote more time to engaging with communities, in addition to responding to 9-1-1 calls.
McCaskill said real fear exists in communities that are currently being underserviced: “These are hard-working, God-loving people who live in neighborhoods where sometimes they feel like their children need to sleep in bathtubs to be safe.”
Black Lives Matter protesters have attracted headlines at several recent events where they have disrupted Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, and while McCaskill did not discuss what sort of impact these issues might have on the 2016 election, she did talk about the emerging Republican field, which she dubbed a “circus.”
And if that “circus” had a ringleader, it would seem to be billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump.