Ben Kesling, Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2014
Workers are boarding up windows in Ferguson, Mo., and police are re-stocking tear gas as they prepare for civil unrest that could follow a grand jury decision on whether to indict a police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old.
And as the nation awaits that decision, those on the ground are making preparations. “We’ve been doing board-ups for probably the past month, the phone’s been ringing off the hook,” said Brian Krieger, owner of American Board Up and Construction Services in St. Louis. “I’ve already purchased 500 sheets of plywood.”
He said he expects work to increase in the coming days as businesses, especially those in the Ferguson area, take precautions for the announcement.
Local police, whose military-style gear seemed to fuel some of the violent confrontations during the summer, have been increasing training and trying to find ways to diffuse protests when the grand jury decision is announced.
As things intensified in August, the state police were put in charge, and later the National Guard was called in. Now, a unified command of state, county and city police departments are gearing up. A spokesman for the unified command couldn’t be reached for comment.
“Commanders in our department have been meeting almost daily,” said Brian Schellman, spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department. “We don’t really know what to expect, but as a police department it’s our job to prepare ourselves. We can’t be caught off guard one way or another.”
The department has spent more than $100,000 on gear since August, including $42,824 on “less-lethal munitions” and more than $2,000 on flex cuffs, which are single-use plastic restraints, Sgt. Schellman said. The department also replaced two cruisers totaled during protests.
The Justice Department on Thursday began a two-day “Fair and Impartial Policing” training session for local law enforcement, said a department release. “Training is specifically designed to enhance officers’ understanding of how bias–including implicit or unconscious bias–affects officer behavior,” the statement said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri announced Thursday the launch of a smartphone app that helps people record footage of interactions with law enforcement and then send an automated incident report to the organization for review.
The app has been in place in New York since 2012 and downloaded more than 30,000 times.
Blocks away from the Ferguson police station, Kelly Braun said her stomach aches because she’s worried.
Ms. Braun, owner of Marley’s Bar and Grill in downtown Ferguson, hasn’t closed her six-year-old business–even during the most violent days of unrest in Ferguson. She said she plans to stay open, even if there are no customers, because her employees depend on a paycheck. But she thinks there is a chance the grand jury announcement will force her to temporarily close.
“A few weeks ago, [protesters] marched by screaming that they were going to burn our place to the ground,” she said.