Justice Dept. blasts Ferguson police response to protests in leaked report

Reuters / Adrees Latif

Reuters / Adrees Latif

Police trying to control the Ferguson protests had contradictory policies, violated free speech rights, and antagonized people with military-style tactics, said a new Justice Department report summary acquired by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The full report is expected to contain 45 findings regarding the
response of four police agencies in the first 16 days after
Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown,
18, in a controversial confrontation on August 9, 2014.

The draft report suggests that the protests after Brown’s death
were aggravated by the community’s hostility toward Ferguson
police and worsened when authorities didn’t quickly divulge
details about his death.

“Had law enforcement released information on the
officer-involved shooting in a timely manner and continued the
information flow as it became available, community distrust and
media skepticism would most likely have been lessened,”
document states, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

READ MORE: 2 plead guilty in Ferguson bomb plot

A grand jury and the Justice Department both declined to
prosecute Wilson, who later resigned, and another Justice
Department report released in March was critical of Ferguson
police and the city’s profit-driven municipal court system. Those
reports led to the resignations and firings of six Ferguson
officials, including the chief of police and a municipal court

The new, unreleased report chastised the Ferguson Police
Department for failing to manage community reaction and develop a
long-term strategy, as well as for maintaining poor relationships
with the black community — a problem that “over time led to
devastating effects

The protests were … also a manifestation of the
long-standing tension between the Ferguson (Police Department)
and the African-American community,
” the report summary

The summary found a flawed response across agencies. It was
critical of the police use of canine units, which
exacerbated tensions by unnecessarily inciting fear and
anger among amassing crowds
,” pointed out the inconsistent
use of force and arrests, and noted the use of tear gas,
deployed without proper warning” in places where people
couldn’t retreat.

The report was also critical of the arbitrary use of the
moving order” or “five second rule” by police,
which the Justice Department said violated citizens’ right to
assembly and free speech.

The Justice Department also found that the use of police snipers
on top of tactical vehicles, and rifle sights to monitor the
crowd, was an “inappropriate crowd control measure.” It
was critical of officers wearing defensive and tactical equipment
visible during peaceful protests. The department recommended that
armored vehicles should only be visible when responding to shots

St. Louis alderman wants answers after cops use Taser on
protesters (VIDEO)

The summary of a longer report, subject to revision, is scheduled
for delivery to police officials in Ferguson, St. Louis County,
St. Louis and Missouri Highway Patrol later this week, according to the Post-Dispatch. Its 45
findings will be accompanied by recommendations.

The summary addresses failures in tactics, and behaviors rather
than targeting personnel, but it did find fault with varying
levels of training and different police philosophies at the four
agencies. It also said the agencies were ill-prepared to handle
the effects of social media, as they had “underestimated the
impact social media had on the incident and the speed at which
both facts and rumor were spread and failed to have a social
media strategy.

Also noted was that “officers were not prepared for the
volume and severity of personal threats…this includes threats of
violence against family members and fraud associated with
technology-based attacks

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