SOURCE ALERT: Ferguson Protests Prompt Questions about Race Relations in America and Police Militarization

August 15, 2014

Contact: Andrew Good at (213) 740-8606 or gooda@usc.edu.

1954 Mississippi or 2014 America?

Ange-Marie Hancock, Associate Professor of Political Science at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, is an expert on political psychology and African-American politics. She can discuss how incidents like the Michael Brown shooting start long before a confrontational moment, when an officer relies on implicit biases about race to decide whether a person is armed or not. She can also discuss the recent shooting of Ezell Ford in Los Angeles.

“There is a fundamental disconnect in political representation – 70% of Ferguson’s residents are African American and 100% of Ferguson’s elected officials are white, which sounds more like 1954 Mississippi than 2014 America. Where there is elite anxiety about shifting demographics and a population that feels alienated and unheard, you will have what happens in Ferguson.”

Contact: (310) 994-5563 or ahancock@usc.edu.

From community policing to paramilitary armaments

Jody Armour, Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law at the USC Gould School of Law, is an expert on racial profiling, race and the law and police and excessive force issues. He can discuss the shift from community policing policies as municipal departments have received military-grade armaments, and the breakdown of trust between citizens and police.

“The trend away from paramilitary approaches to law enforcement toward community policing approaches, greeted with enthusiastic approval by community residents and expert observers alike, suffered a reversal in recent years largely due to the acquisition of military weapons and equipment by many municipal and county level police departments.

“Military armaments put more emotional and psychological distance between officers and citizens, and they undermine the ‘To Serve and Protect’ credo stenciled on the doors of many police cruisers.”

Contact: (323) 573-0444 or jarmour@law.usc.edu.

Reminiscent of the West Bank

Sandy Tolan, Associate Professor at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, is a veteran radio and print journalist who has reported from 30 countries in the past 28 years, including conflict zones. He has been struck by the similarities between the images from Ferguson and his own experiences covering the West Bank. He can address the militarization of police and the role social media has played connecting reporters, protestors and even Palestinians, who have offered advice on avoiding harm from tear gas.

“The recent images out of Ferguson are strikingly and disturbingly reminiscent of the occupied West Bank and other conflict zones I’ve reported from. To see protestors, their faces wrapped in scarves against tear-gas, confronting metal-clad, heavily-armed ‘security personnel’ firing rubber bullets from armored carriers, transports me to Ramallah or Jenin. The shock is when you understand that the occupation is at home.”

Contact: sandytolan@gmail.com.