Sunday, July 30, 2017


Ex-police chief tells his own side of Ferguson shooting

By Harry Levins

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
July 29, 2017

On Aug. 9, 2014, Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown after a face-off on the streets. Before long, all hell broke loose, with sometimes violent protesters blaming police racism for the killing of Brown, a black man.

Wilson’s boss at the time was police Chief Thomas Jackson. He tells his side of the events in “Policing Ferguson, Policing America,” subtitled, “What Really Happened — and What the Country Can Learn From It.”

Jackson has written a book that swerves from anger at what he sees as unfair condemnation of his police force to some well-reasoned thoughts on how police departments and communities can get along better.

Among his arguments:

• Many media members “approached me with the assumption that I was hiding something or had an agenda of protecting the officer and department, no matter what.” He also says the national media ignored both positive news about his department and negative footage of especially ugly protests. He’s especially hard on CNN but praises two local outlets — the Post-Dispatch and KFTK-FM (97.1).

• His department was caught off-guard by the impact of social media, which drew in protesters from across America. “That was the real wild animal in the room” Jackson writes, “and nobody knew how to deal with it. When it comes to social media, there simply are no rules.”

• Then-Gov. Jay Nixon comes under heavy fire, as do U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), then-Attorney General Eric Holder and then-Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. Jackson says Nixon’s on-and-off approach to using the National Guard made a bad situation worse.

• True, the majority-black city of Ferguson had a predominantly white police department. Even so, Jackson says, “I would have given everything to have a pool of black candidates from which I could hire new officers. But guess what: that pool exists mostly in the public’s imagination.”

• Outfitting his police officers in riot gear was a defensive move, not an offensive tactic. “The idea was that police wore riot gear to the scene of a demonstration as an intimidating show of force,” Jackson writes. “To this day, I am amazed that people could believe that some chief or captain thought, ‘We’ll show up in battle dress and scare the hell out of them.’”

• In March 2015, Washington issued its own report on Ferguson. Jackson says that “the damning report on Ferguson from the United States Department of Justice, the final nail in the coffin, was itself a collection of misperceptions, misrepresentations, and outright falsehoods.”

A week later, Jackson handed in his badge.

At book’s end, he quotes at length from a detailed report by the FBI (an arm of the Justice Department). The FBI says in effect that Officer Wilson was justified in shooting Brown — and seems to back up Jackson’s side of the story.

How much interest “Policing Ferguson” will have outside the St. Louis area remains to be seen. But locally, demand should be heavy. After all, Jackson makes a strong case for his view of things. And if he tends every now and then to slide into angry outbursts of profanity — well, as he himself says at book’s end:

“I feel like the more inconsistencies and falsehoods I point out, the more I sound like an obsessive madman.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for the people who served on the Ferguson Police Dept. then and now. I heard Friday that some judge gave Michael Brown's friend who was with him at the time he was killed permission to sue former officer Darrell Wilson and the City of Ferguson for damages.

This whole Obama era tragedy needs to be corrected. Who in their right mind would consider a career in LE after this? State Attorneys tried to prosecute officers based on the race of the arrested person, not the offense.