Ferguson Unrest Blamed On Too Many Police Agencies

Image: Ferguson Unrest Blamed On Too Many Police Agencies Law enforcement officers watch on during a protest on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri. (Micheal B. Thomas/Stringer/Getty Images)

Friday, 22 Aug 2014 02:56 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Police tried various tactics while attempting to bring calm to the strife-torn suburb of Ferguson, Missouri — but were hampered by a lack of unity between different law enforcement agencies, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The strategies included the use of military-style equipment, tear gas, rubber bullets, a late-night curfew, the deployment of state police, and the call-up of the National Guard.

"Changing conditions often requires a change in approaches, especially in a difficult and fluid situation like the one in Ferguson," said Scott Holste, spokesman for Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

The governor announced on Thursday that he would start pulling out National Guard troops after two nights of low-key protests, with only a handful of hardline demonstrators being moved off the streets.

Violent clashes had erupted between police and protesters after the shooting death two weeks ago of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.

After heavily-armed police were criticized for being too heavy-handed and using military-style equipment during the confrontations, Nixon ordered state police to take charge of the crisis, while imposing a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew.

When the protests continued, Nixon brought in the National Guard in the hope of calming the situation.

The problems were partially caused by the fact that several law enforcement agencies — out of the 70 that were sent a distress call — rushed to Ferguson with their own tactics, training and command structure, the Journal reported.

"What did work was community policing, reaching out to seniors and community leaders," said St. Ann Chief of Police Aaron Jimenez, whose police force helped to secure the St. Louis suburb of 21,000 residents. "That's when you saw things turn around."

Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County Police Department, which was called on to send in police officers and equipment to help control the unrest, told the Journal, "In my 28 years I've never experienced anything like this."

"They had a staging area but there was no command post at the time," Jimenez said, while noting that it was not known which police departments fired rubber munitions and tear gas. "I don't know who is doing that, but I agree with them using them," he said of the tear gas deployment.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told the Journal that the several small police departments including the Ferguson force, which responded to the demonstrations, faced a struggle from the start.

"You have at least five different agencies that have to piece together a strategy," he said. "Unless you have trained together, unless you have worked together, the response is going to be uneven and challenging under the best of practices."

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