The Ferguson, Mo., police department was “way behind the curve in their training and the way they responded” to the violence after the Michael Brown shooting, Clark McPhail of the University of Illinois tells the Los Angeles Times. “Tear gas is almost guaranteed to turn the crowd against the police. They were out of it.”
McPhail said the police were geared up for a major confrontation when there was little reason to expect a lethal confrontation. “We have data of tens of thousands of protest events for the 20th century and the 19th century and violence occurs in 10% or 15% of the cases,” he said. “If police are not trained that way, they show up scared to death. If police grant the protesters some leeway rather than react to trivial violations of the law, it can be possible to defuse it.” McPhail was surprised that the Ferguson police force is 95% white in a majority-black city.