Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the high unemployment rate among African-Americans should not be overlooked in the outrage over Ferguson.
The overall unemployment rate for July was fairly steady at 6.2 percent, but the rate for blacks edged up to 11.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate for teenagers was 20.2 percent.
Sanders told MSNBC that “if there’s any silver lining in the tragedy of Ferguson is that I hope we learn some very important lessons.”
“When I was a mayor of Burlington, Vermont and all over this country, what mayors are trying to do is develop community-based policing, where police officers are seen as part of the neighborhood, they know people in the neighborhood, they are trusted by people in the neighborhood,” he said.
“When you see the kind of force that’s been used in Ferguson, it really does make an appeal that the police department there is an occupying army in a hostile territory and that is absolutely not what we want to see in the United States. So, I think we’ve got to rethink a lot of this heavy equipment that police departments around the country are utilizing.”
The senator said he hopes “that what Ferguson teaches us is that not only the violence being perpetrated against young black men but also the economic crises facing black youth in this country.”
“Youth unemployment in America is tragically high, it is 20 percent. African-American youth unemployment is 35 percent. In the St. Louis area, it is significantly higher than that. And if we are going to address the issue of crime in low-income areas and in African-American areas, it might be a good idea that instead of putting heavy equipment into police departments on those areas, we start creating jobs for the kids there who desperately need them,” Sanders said.
He added that “we want to make sure that our police department has the effective tools and equipment to combat those threats.”
“But on the other hand, I do not think you need tanks and heavy military looking equipment in low income communities in America. I think that it essentially makes a difficult situation, a dangerous situation much more provocative and much more difficult,” he said. “…I think this is an issue along with the economic issue of having to create jobs for our young people that Congress should be addressing when we return.”
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said last week that Congress would review how the Pentagon transfers surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies.
The promise from Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) came after criticism, including from Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), that the SWAT reaction to the protests and rioting in Ferguson, Mo., resembled a police state more than a suburb.