Where to even begin. I have wanted to write about it since it started, but I was honestly too consumed by the changing events to be able to stop and say anything about it.
It’s bad enough that an unarmed teenager was shot by a police officer a week before that teen headed off to college. Worse that the Ferguson authorities still have not even released the name of the officer and are in charge of investigating one of their own.
But to then respond to the completely understandable community outcry over the death of Michael Brown with riot gear, tear gas and rubber bullets? It shows a complete lack of basic understanding that when a member of a community dies a violent death at the hands of the police – people don’t just want, but need answers, and if you cannot provide those answers, you need to be willing to listen.
Ferguson PD and St. Louis County PD proved themselves beyond inadequate for the task at hand. I am sure that there are a few members of these departments that are positively seething at the fact that they were relieved of command duties in favor of the State Police. Captain Johnson did what was needed at a critical moment. No riot gear, no tactical vehicles, no tear gas, no “get out of town before sundown” bullshit.
He walked with people. He talked with people. As did the men under his command. He respected the fact that the community needed to grieve and be heard, and he listened.
Fighting the community that you are sworn to protect doesn’t end well, as we have seen. Listening to them and speaking with (not at) them works much better.
Every police department needs a Captain Johnson. And a refresher course on the appropriate use of lethal force.
Sadly, Ferguson PD seems to have had neither.