Governor Jay Nixon
P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Dear Governor Nixon,
You’ve tried the State Police, and you’ve tried the National Guard. I know you want to settles the issue in Ferguson as quickly as you can, but there is an option that will work better, it just takes a bit more creativity and effort.
It’s time to assemble and enact a community participation program in Ferguson. I cannot provide you with the specifics needed, as that needs to be worked out with the people of Ferguson, but the basics lie in identifying the community leaders and working with them to meet mutually agreed upon security goals. The community wants order, but the problem has been that it has been the type of order that takes away their freedom and control. Every time you escalate the force, you take more of their sense of freedom and control away, and so they escalate in turn. It’s time to do the opposite, it’s time to create order by giving them back their freedom.
Here is what I would propose:
- Identify and meet with community leaders, including protest group representation, church leaders, school leaders, and representatives of any other formal or informal community groups.
- Open a discussion about how to restore order to Ferguson. Present your security priorities and listen to their security priorities. When there are differences, listen to why there are the differences, and see what compromises are possible. Also, create a set of agreed upon criteria to let people know what it will look like when order is restored, so everyone has a clear idea what they need to work towards and how they will get there.
- Develop a way for the community to assist in its own policing. This would be a cooperative policing model, not an enabling of vigilanties. Identify citizens to act as peer mediators who can deescalate situations without violence. Create a system where citizens can still guard their neighborhood, while cooperating with guardsmen or police who will make the actual arrest actions. Identify guardsmen and police who are willing to act as representatives and liaisons the people can trust to coordinate this.
- Let them keep protesting as long as the overall safety and security is maintained. If all the other measure are put into place, including the community deescalation teams, then there will be no concerns about safety in regards to the protests. The more you try to silence people, the more aggressive people become. Create the space for them to speak safely, and they will feel heard and will keep order among themselves. When the other interventions are working, they will be satisfied and return to their lives.
This is not the clean and easy plan, but it is the plan that will work. This is the plan that will continue to work even after the national guard leaves. The people of Ferguson are upset because they have had their rights taken away by oppressive and overpowering officers. Ferguson will only resettle after they are given those rights back and given a way to preserve them.
Dr. Zachary Maichuk