The police have not had a good run lately. In the aftermath of high-profile killings of African-American men, they face anger, not only for those deeds, but also for their sometimes violent over-reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests that have followed.
Anger is easy. Sympathy, at least for the moment, is not. The only way out is moderation and an honest look at rational reforms.
It is with this weighty sense of obligation that I offer the following thoughts about small changes that might lower the temperature of direct, on-the-street, confrontation and allow space for constructive dialogue:
Tear-gas, and the sometimes-deadly canister in which it is delivered, needs to go. Whatever its effectiveness in initially dispersing a crowd, tear-gas creates havoc worse than the turmoil it is intended to halt. Perhaps more significant, it has become a symbol of police brutality.
A substitute is needed, not to stop protests, but to minimize the chance the protests will cause personal harm or physical damage and, incidentally, undermine the very cause they are advocating.
Effective immediately, tear gas should be replaced by perfume. Let me explain:
Perfume is harmless and, in fact, has widespread societal approval. It carries an implicit message of welcome, not repulsion.
If protesters are sprayed with perfume, most women, though they may find it unusual, possibly distracting (hmm, that’s rather nice, I must find out what it is), at least will not be enraged by it, even if it happens to be a brand they do not favor.
Men’s reaction may be even more favorable for its implicit message.
Men are far more likely than women to engage in violence. But the intriguing allure perfume conveys might weaken their resolve, or at least make them pause and think.
For some, it may convey thoughts of girl-friend or spouse waiting lovingly at home. Or, conversely, it might evoke the image of a more sinister reaction from one who wonders suspiciously why he smells like the cosmetics department at Saks. For those with the hard-earned experience of a Chanel-induced black eye or night on the couch, common sense might suggest caution.
There are, of course, questions of cost. Even low-end perfume is not cheap. But neither is tear-gas. And perfume’s scent is unusually strong. Mixing it with water would save money and could still mark rioters with an unmistakable, possibly even more mysterious, odor. Costs should decline as the effectiveness of this measure is clear, when the mere possibility of being perfumed offers potential rioters the opportunity for a second thought.
I am not suggesting that perfume is a universal panacea. In smaller cities, with limited budgets, perfume might be prohibitively expensive and, given the lower likelihood of riots, a wasteful expenditure. There is a solution, however, quite similar in its reliance on olfactory sensitivity, though differing in quality — manure!
Many small cities have immediately-adjacent rural areas where manure is usually widely available and remarkably cheap, in some cases free. Where there is manure, there are sure to be manure spreaders. Hitched to a slow-moving tractor (one never wants to drive a vehicle at high speed into a chaotic situation), a manure-spreader can persuade even the most rabid protester that it is just not worth the effort.
There are other riot-control measures that deserve our scrutiny, but this is enough for now. Do keep an eye out for upcoming articles on The Alternative to Tasers (alcohol, dispensed free and in immoderation, can be a safer, equally potent, immobilizer) and Batons Can Be Your Friend (they were once used only by majorettes; imagine the diversionary effect of a covey of them bursting out of a time-warp, twirling … not wielding … their batons in front of a big brass band marching proudly down the street; enough to disarm even the most battle-hardened).