Something I should have thought of earlier. I came across a quote I had forgotten which has some relevance to the militarization of our police in general and the situation in Ferguson in particular.
It comes from John Adams, who in 1770 was given the unenviable task of defending the British soldiers who were involved in what John's cousin Sam Adams liked to call "The Boston Massacre."
A group of British soldiers, facing an unruly mob, had fired into the mob, killing five and wounding several others. The public, inflamed by the rabble-rousing Sam Adams and his Sons of Liberty, was outraged and demanded justice. Governor Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts, insisted that the soldiers receive a fair trial, which proved a problem. There were no lawyers in Boston willing to take the case, because anyone who defended the soldiers would risk retaliation by the Sons of Liberty.
Finally a prominent attorney approached John Adams to undertake the defense. Being Sam's cousin, and prominent among the Patriot faction in his own right, John was less likely to be targeted by the Sons of Liberty for doing this. And, the attorney told him, if he didn't do it, the soldiers would not receive any kind of a fair trial. Either the soldiers would be strung up by an angry mob, or they'd be shipped away back to England where the crime could be forgotten. In neither case would justice be served.
So Adams took the case, and he successfully defended his clients. He was able to demonstrate that the attack was not unprovoked; that the soldiers had a reasonable fear for their own safety. He won an acquittal for all of them except for the officer who actually gave the order to fire on the crowd; and he got that man a lighter sentence due to an odd religious technicality, the type of religious exemption the Founders later tried to keep out of the Constitution.
But what does this have to do with Ferguson? It comes in one remark Adams made in his summing-up statement, and can bear repeating. Even though he was arguing in defense of British soldiers, he couldn't resist one dig at the Crown:
"Soldiers quartered in a populous town will always occasion two mobs where they prevent one. They are wretched conservators of the peace."John Adams knew this from personal experience. But still, communities keep having to re-learn it.