Did Philly’s Former Police Commissioner Develop Ferguson’s Crackdown Techniques?

NYT: Observers say they see John Timoney's influence in Missouri.


One bit of irony regarding the massive police crackdown on protesters (and journalists) in Ferguson, Mo. this week: Democracy advocates in the Middle East began tweeting advice to their American compatriots on how to deal with tear gas attacks and similar police techniques. Make of that what you will.

The New York Times reports, though, that some observers see perhaps a stronger connection between the two regions: The heavy-handed techniques used by Ferguson’s police, they say, bear a striking resemblance to those developed by former Philly Police Commissioner John Timoney. 

The Times explains:

Activists in Bahrain pointed to a more direct connection too. In late 2011, the Persian Gulf monarchy’s interior ministry boasted that it had hired an American “supercop,” John Timoney, as an adviser. Mr. Timoney was once a senior officer in the New York Police Department, and later served as the police chief of Philadelphia and then Miami.

At the time of his appointment, American journalists noted that Mr. Timoney had been criticized for the forceful way officers infiltrated protest groups at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000 and used paramilitary tactics to break up demonstrations at the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit meeting in Miami in 2003.

Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who covered the Miami protests, explained that year that what became known as Mr. Timoney’s “Miami Model” of crowd control involved the heavy use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges to disperse protesters.

Timoney’s legacy in Philadelphia seems mixed. On the one hand, it’s true that many folks disdain his department’s handling of the Republican National Convention in 2000 — and worry about an excess of policing repeating itself if the Democratic National Convention locates here in 2016. On the other hand: Philadelphia’s never-ending rash of murders seemed to abate under his watch.  That’s probably not a huge comfort in Ferguson right now.