Police officers should approach Ferguson protesters with caution and fully respect their constitutional rights. That is the clear message from recent court awards and settlements against police force abuses against demonstrators.
New York City just paid out $17.9 million to more than 1800 protesters arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention, according to CNN.
An Iraq War veteran injured by police during Occupy protest in Oakland has been awarded $4.5 million after being struck in the head by a beanbag fired by police.
UC Davis paid out $1 million to 21 demonstrators who were pepper sprayed during Occupy protests November 2011. This was $30,000 per demonstrator and $250,000 in attorney fees. The University apologized and the officer who pepper sprayed the protesters was fired.
Oakland paid $1.1 million to members of the Occupy movement for police misconduct during the protests.
New York paid over $580,000 to 14 protesters wrongfully arrested during an Occupy Wall Street march.
A small town in New Hampshire paid a woman $57,000 after they arrested her for videotaping a police stop.
These awards are in the context of much higher awards nationally for police misconduct. Chicago paid out $84 million in settlements for police abuse cases in 2013 alone. Los Angeles paid out $54 million in settlements for police brutality in 2011. Bloomberg News estimated New York City has paid out as much as $735 million for police abuse claims in one year.
Respecting the First Amendment rights of demonstrators is good policing. And courts and juries are making sure there are serious consequences if these constitutional rights are violated.