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Editorial: Give cops tools to control mobs

The Detroit News  |  The Detroit News

A federal judge has left Detroit police in a difficult position in confronting violent protesters. At least some of the policing tactics she limited should be restored to allow the police to adequately protect themselves and the public.

Mayor Mike Duggan, police Chief James Craig and the police officers union are asking the court to modify the temporary order from Detroit Federal District Judge Laurie Michelson.

Recently, the judge granted a request from protesters who say they were abused by police to temporarily ban the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and batons while peacefully exercising their right to protest.

More: City seeks changes to order banning Detroit police use of tear gas, rubber bullets on protesters

But as police and the city point out, peaceful protests can turn violent in an instant, and often agitators intent on destruction are mixed in with those who are non-violent.

The city rightly argues that the court order limits the police department's ability to control a potentially violent situation, without doing anything to restrict the violence.

The modification filing asks the court to forbid protesters from vandalizing property, throwing dangerous objects at police officers, inciting violence and loitering or blocking public roads and sidewalks.

The city also wants the order to require protesters to obey police officers' lawful commands, such as moving from one place to another or leaving a demonstration.

It's a reasonable request and one that should be granted. 

It makes no sense to restrict the tools to combat violence while doing nothing to quell the violence.

While police should always exercise restraint, and should not interfere in peaceful protests that respect the parameters of the law, they should not have their hands tied in protecting lives and property against a mob intent on mayhem. Doing so risks emboldening demonstrators to act out and, worse, physically attack cops who have limited ability to respond.  

At the least, the court should honor the city's request to set limits on violence, destruction of property and blocking the free flow of traffic and commerce.

Beyond that, the court should return to police the discretion to use whatever tools are needed to keep the peace.