The trigger for Ferguson, Mo., civil unrest, the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a police officer, has provoked riots in other cities, but few of those disturbances were as stubbornly resistant to resolution as the Missouri protests, which now have drawn the National Guard and even the White House into efforts to restore calm, says the New York Times. Large mobilizations of police or National Guard forces have played a role in calming many riots. By studying unrest in Cincinnati, Oakland, Los Angeles and elsewhere, big-city police officials have learned that the speedy release of information and close ties to religious and civic leaders are perhaps even more crucial to stopping violence once it starts, said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum.
Cincinnati burst into rioting in 2001 after the police shot and killed an unarmed 19-year-old African-American with a record of minor offenses. After the shooting, “we kind of threw up a wall and said, 'We can't talk about it because it's under investigation,' ” said the mayor at the time, Charles Luken. Protesters besieged City Hall, where the City Council remained inside for hours but issued no statement responding to demands for justice. “In hindsight I think we now know that the excuse of, 'We can't say anything because it's under investigation,' that doesn't float,” Luken said. “You have to be straight with people, and that was our big lesson.”