Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky blames politicians for the outbreak of violence in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in the death of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown.
“In the search for culpability for the tragedy in Ferguson, I mostly blame politicians. Michael Brown’s death and the suffocation of Eric Garner in New York for selling untaxed cigarettes indicate something is wrong with criminal justice in America. The War on Drugs has created a culture of violence and put police in a nearly impossible situation,” Paul wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday afternoon in Time magazine.
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The War on Drugs, he said, has contributed to tension between communities of color and law enforcement. He also acknowledged disproportionately high crime rates in black communities and the culpability of citizens in their own actions. “Does bad behavior account for some of the interactions with law enforcement? Yes, but surely there must be ways that we can work to prevent the violence from escalating,” he wrote.
Paul dismissed solving the problem solely by reforming criminal justice and implementing new laws.
“Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother’s keeper, we are our own keeper,” Paul wrote. “While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.”
Police brutality received renewed national attention this year, following the fatal shooting of Brown on Aug. 9. On Monday night, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch said it was undeniable that Wilson had shot and killed Brown in the altercation, but, he added, the grand jury “determined that no probable cause exists” to indict the officer.
The incidents are just two in a long string of recent tragedies in New York City and across the country that have incited tension between authorities and residents. A novice New York Police Department officer fatally shot a 28-year-old man in a Brooklyn stairwell last Thursday, in what “appears to be an accidental discharge [with] no intention to strike anybody,” authorities said. Two other NYPD officers are under criminal investigation after being caught on surveillance video pistol-whipping a teenage marijuana suspect in August. The issue also recently made headlines in South Carolina, Ohio, and Utah.
The GOP member also reiterated calls by the Brown family and President Barack Obama for both peaceful protest and channeling frustration to make positive change. Americans, Obama said during an address to the country on Monday night, can’t ignore that “there are still problems, and communities of color are not just making these problems up.”
“The call should go out for a charismatic leader, not a politician, to preach a gospel of hope and prosperity,” Paul wrote. “I have said often America is in need of a revival. Part of that is spiritual. Part of that is in civics, in our leaders, in our institutions.”