Passivity is poor policy

It has become the working policy of law enforcement to allow protestors to take over roadways or block access to buildings, etc. This passive approach has grown in popularity in recent years. The intent of this approach is to avoid unnecessary conflict between officers and protestors, and to ensure the actions of protestors remain the focus, not law enforcement’s reactions.

While the intentions of a passive approach are good (and proper when dealing with a legal, orderly, and permitted demonstration), the time has come to rethink law enforcement’s approach towards protests which purposefully flout the law and endanger public safety.

Passivity and inaction only serve to legitimize this lawlessness and leave the public in the helpless and dangerous position of having to try to navigate through or around an uncontrolled mob.

Nowhere is this more evident and more troubling than with the lack of response to unlawful mob activity masquerading as peaceful demonstration.

This past weekend’s “Pro- Palestinian” demonstration on Hennepin Avenue near the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is a good example.  The demonstration was not permitted and involved the takeover of a major roadway in Minneapolis using cars and trailers to create barricades. Masked protestors driving ATV’s and flying Hamas terrorist organization flags, took over the street in a menacing manner to ensure no one dared interfere with the protest.

Photo by Taylr @taylr via Twitter

The Minneapolis Police response was to keep out of sight and monitor the situation. This left hundreds of citizens on their own to attempt to navigate in their cars away from this dangerous situation.

Social media accounts recorded an older male citizen driving on Hennepin Avenue as his car was surrounded by protestors who were angered that he would attempt to legally drive on Hennepin Avenue in some violation of their illegal blockade.

Photo by Unicorn Riot via Twitter

While a mob this size and this unruly is difficult for a small group of law enforcement officers to deal with, law enforcement must continue to maintain a presence, and, for example, not allow protestors vehicles to block roadways, or protestors to patrol streets which they have taken over, using ATV’s.

Failing to respond to these low bar issues leaves the public at risk and emboldens these groups, making it more likely these tactics will escalate over time. Public safety should not and cannot be left to the whim of unruly protestors.

Unfortunately, taking a “stay out of site” approach to protests has become the norm for far too many law enforcement agencies across the state and country.   

I know firsthand that proactively dealing with protestors is not an enviable task. I have been one of a handful of officers in a mob of anti-police protestors.  It’s not pleasant, nor is it particularly safe, but it is crucial that law enforcement never abdicates its public safety role or its presence anywhere its needed. 

The new police chief in Chicago, Larry Snelling, seems to have the right mentality for a shift in the way law enforcement responds to unruly mob activity – this in a police department down over 1500 officers.

“Newly anointed Snelling takes over a depleted department in a city frustrated by frequent flashes of lawlessness. From dangerous drifting by showboats to young people taking over downtown streets, some committing crimes, and officers looking on apparently powerless to stop it does concern Snelling.”

“‘There is a way to stop it and that approach is to be more aggressive and I intend to do that. That means doing what it takes’.”

“‘I can’t worry about political climate,’ Snelling said. ‘I understand political climate. But if that political climate forces me into allowing my officers’ response to be rendered ineffective, then I’m not doing my job’.”

Every American, should value and support the right to peaceful and lawful assembly. Law enforcement’s response to peaceful and legal protest should remain passive.

However, in recent years, a passive law enforcement response to unruly and illegal protesting has failed to serve public safety and has emboldened groups to escalate lawlessness.

It is time to reject passivity as a proper law enforcement response to mob lawlessness.