Restoring the Sacred

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Words of Relevance: Edward C. Banfield and the Ferguson Riots

Edward C. Banfield (1916-1999), one of the leading political scientists of his time is quoted in the Wall Street Journal today.  The quote is from his great book: The Unheavenly City, which was published in 1970.  His words are relevant today in view of what has happened the last few days in Ferguson, Missouri.  The quote, which is a little lengthy but well worth reading, appeared in the Notable & Quotable section of today's paper.

Here's the quote:
The rioters knew they had little or nothing to fear from the police and the courts. Under the pressure of the civil rights movement and of court decisions and as the result of the growing ‘professionalism’ of police administrators . . . the patrolman’s discretion in the use of force declined rapidly after the war. At the same time courts were lenient with juvenile offenders. ‘Tough kids’ had always attacked policemen when they got the chance, but by the 1960’s the amount of toughness required was not very great, for in most cities it became more and more apparent that a policeman who shot a boy would be in serious trouble. Not being able to use force, the police could not effectively use the threat of it. It was not uncommon for a gang of boys to disarm and beat a policeman who, following orders, would not use his gun against them. During a riot, the police were especially ineffective—because their offenses were not very serious, most rioters could not be successfully threatened; the only thing that could be done with them was to take them into custody, and this was something the police were seldom numerous enough to do. Sometimes the police had to stand by and allow looting to go on before their eyes. This, of course, increased the tempo of the rioting.