Following the leak of information regarding the Michael Brown shooting case that supports Officer Darren Wilson’s account, Missouri police are preparing for the grand jury’s decision on whether to charge Wilson for shooting the Ferguson teenager.
That preparation includes stocking up on riot gear, brushing up on constitutional rights, and getting a plan of action in place in case Wilson is not indicted.
After the initial clashes with protesters, the state Highway Patrol purchased more shields and equipment for its officers. St. Louis city police recently spent $325,000 upgrading helmets, sticks and other “civil disobedience equipment,” said Police Chief Sam Dotson.
More than 350 St. Louis officers now have been trained in civil disobedience tactics. St. Louis County police and state troopers also have undergone training, focused largely on ensuring they understand protesters’ constitutional rights.
Police and residents have continued to clash since Brown, a black 18-year-old, was gunned down by Wilson, a white six-year veteran on the force. Witnesses maintain Brown had his hands up when he was shot — but new information from the grand jury proceedings suggest Brown struggled with Wilson in an attempt to take his gun. Protests spurred by the shooting have put police tactics and human rights issues at the forefront — protestors were often subject to militarized tactics, tear gas, and unlawful arrests.
A decision from the grand jury is expected mid-November and officers, despite making sure their riot gear is readily available, say they are reevaluating their tactics to work peacefully with protestors.
From the Associated Press:
In the meantime, law officers have adjusted their tactics for interacting more peacefully with protesters while also honing their procedures for quick, widespread arrests. They plan to have a large contingent of officers at the ready, but have been meeting with clergy, community leaders and students in hopes of building relationships that could ease tensions on the streets.
“I know there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of fear, anticipation” about that announcement, said Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who was put in charge of security in Ferguson in the days after Brown was killed and is now part of a coordinated command with local police. But “I have a lot of hope.”
Officers will receive at least a day’s notice before the grand jury announcement.
Law enforcement agencies have declined to say whether they will proactively line the streets with more officers as the grand jury announcement is made or position them in strategic locations to react as needed.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said he’s learned it works better to let sergeants and lieutenants retain their normal place in the chain of command, instead of supplanting them with higher-ranking officers.
“We’ve also learned we have to have a dialogue with our demonstrators, so they know what to expect from us, and we know what to expect from them,” Belmar said.
The information leaks, paired with the Justice Department’s statement that condemned the “selected” releases seem to indicate that Wilson will not be charged. Earlier this week, former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch suggested the leaks are meant to “let people down slowly.”
“In my opinion [information was leaked] for the sole purpose of preparing the community for what may be seen for many as bad news, that there’s not going to be any federal charges.”
We’ll keep you updated with the latest.
SOURCE: AP, KSDK | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty