The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, June 02, 2020 1:00 am

Weekend aftermath:

Law enforcement owes public answers following two nights filled with tear gas

Christer Watson

After the events of Friday and Saturday, I am sad, angry and frustrated.

Perhaps because of my background or just my personality, I often express frustration and anger with questions. Here is my list of questions for Fort Wayne Chief of Police Steve Reed and Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux.

When you learned of the planned protests for Friday and Saturday, what was your plan for the evening?

The police policy, as described in media accounts immediately after Friday's protest, was that there would be a zero-tolerance policy implemented. Could you describe what the goal of a zero-tolerance policy is? Do you think you achieved that goal?

It appears the order of operations was for police to wait, wait some more, then use tear gas. Could you describe why this is the most effective way to minimize violence? What other plans have you considered and why do you expect those to be less effective?

On Friday, multiple accounts described police using tear gas shortly after protesters blocked traffic. As the protest grew and traffic appeared to become a potential problem, did police leadership consider redirecting traffic away from the protest to avoid conflict?

Which was responsible for stopping traffic longer, protesters in the streets or tear gas in the streets?

How much did you collaborate with leaders of the protests? How often did you meet before and after the protests? Did you know what the protesters were planning? When did you inform protesters of your expectations?

How have you trained the police force to behave during a protest that individual police officers may find offensive? Since anger may be close to the surface for many officers, what tools have you given them for ensuring they will behave according to your plan? How often do officers practice for situations such as these protests?

The mayor of Minneapolis and governor of Minnesota have claimed that many of those arrested in Minneapolis for violent acts have ties to white supremacist groups. Is there any evidence this is true here? If it is true, is there any way you could have known who those people were before the protests?

Many firsthand protester accounts describe being present at the protests, hearing no warning, then having tear gas canisters shot toward them. In media accounts, Reed said protesters were warned before tear gas was deployed. Could you describe how much warning was given to protesters before tear gas was used? How do you determine the amount of appropriate warning?

Consider a person who wishes to protest peacefully. Could you provide instructions to this person that would ensure they would not be harmed by police actions during the protest? If that is not possible, what would have to be different that would allow people to protest without being harmed by police actions?

What failed on Friday and Saturday? Going forward, what are your plans to fix those failures?


Christer Watson, of Fort Wayne, is a professor of physics at Manchester University. Opinions expressed are his own. He wrote this column for The Journal Gazette, where his columns normally appear the first and third Tuesday of each month.

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