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How can authorities restore order in Ferguson?

Police Shooting Missouri

Police advance to clear people Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Brown's shooting has sparked more than a week of protests, riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

By
From page A1 | August 20, 2014 |

They’ve lined the streets with police in riot gear, brought in a new black commander with an empathetic manner, imposed a curfew, lifted it and deployed the National Guard — and still the violence erupts nightly in the town of Ferguson, Missouri.

After more than a week of unrest following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, law enforcement and political leaders are left struggling for answers to a frustrating question: What can we do to restore peace to the community?

“It’s the question of the week, the month and the year: How do you bring this to a conclusion?” asked Thomas Nolan, a former Boston police officer and criminal justice professor at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

One answer, Nolan said, rests with police, who should take the initiative to meet with nonviolent protesters, pledge to scale back some of the more military-style methods of crowd control, such as sound cannons, and increase the recruitment of black police officers — something the city said it plans to address. Only three members of Ferguson’s 53-person force are black, even though about two-thirds of the residents are black.

“If the police keep showing up every night in force with a military presence, these protesters are going to keep showing up,” Nolan said. “Something has got to give. … Police are trained not to back down. I think they need to reimagine this and realize their responsibility ultimately is public safety and not to save face. If it takes making some concessions and meeting people they’re not enthusiastic about meeting with — that’s what needs to be done. If not, who can say how long this goes on?”

On Tuesday, Ferguson officials released a statement, saying they plan to “learn from this tragedy” and vowed to take steps that could increase the number of black applicants to the police department and offer incentives to encourage city residency for police officers.

The statement also urged residents to remain home at night Tuesday to “allow peace to settle in,” following Monday’s street demonstrations that once again turned violent. The trouble began after dark when some protesters resisted police orders to disperse.

Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who is overseeing security in Ferguson, said Molotov cocktails and bottles were thrown from the crowd and some officers came under heavy gunfire. Two fires also were set.

“These are not acts of protesters but acts of violent criminals,” Johnson said at a news briefing where he also announced two people had been shot. Police fired tear gas, threw flash grenades and deployed ultra-loud sound cannons to repel the crowds.

It was the first night the National Guard was on the scene, though soldiers kept their distance from the streets. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who lifted the midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew he’d imposed two days earlier, deployed the Guard for a “limited mission” to restore calm. Ferguson’s violence, looting and vandalism have been sparked by the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Brown by a white police officer.

Johnson also noted in his briefing that some of those arrested have come from out of state and said agitators intent on creating havoc are hiding among the crowds of peaceful demonstrators.

Police reported 57 arrests Monday night and Tuesday morning. Just four of those arrested live in Ferguson. More than a quarter of those arrested are from out of state, including Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, New York, Austin, Texas, San Diego and Chicago, according to a St. Louis County spokeswoman.

Dominique Adams, 30, who lives in an apartment complex near where Brown was shot, said she doesn’t recognize many people she sees at the demonstrations. “I believe that the trouble is not caused by a lot of people who live here,” she said. It’s the outsiders, she said, who are causing the problems that force police to use tear gas. “They (the outsiders) are messing up my neighborhood,” she added.

That situation just adds to law enforcement’s troubles, said Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

“It’s exquisitely complicated in the sense that you have people there who are legitimately protesting,” he said. “You may have people there intending to do civil disobedience, break the law and accept the consequences. And you may have people there who just want to go head-to-head with the police.”

It’s that third group, he said, “that can very well hold the cards. It’s a democratic country. You have people bent on violence coming (to Ferguson) for seven seconds of cable TV glory. Unless you use repressive tactics, they may have the upper hand.”

O’Donnell also said while it’s “almost impossible” for police to strike the right balance, it’s important for law enforcement to work with the community to end the continuing crisis.

“The secret to success in this — it’s almost now a cliche — is … if the community can assert ownership of the town, it will do more than any amount of weaponry and sophisticated tactics,” he said. If Ferguson makes it clear militant protesters engaging in violence “are not welcome, it will go a long way … toward where they need to go,'” O’Donnell added.

Ken Novak, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, agrees.

“What will carry at the end of the day is mending relations between the police and the public,” he said. “How that occurs in the light of everything that’s gone on — I don’t have an answer to that. I don’t know how to get there. … Until that fence-building occurs, they run the risk of these things occurring.”

“I wish I had a pill to make this go away,” Novak added. “I’m sure hundreds of people feel the same way.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 40 comments

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  • CD BrooksAugust 20, 2014 - 6:48 am

    The bad guys have won in Ferguson. There is no discussion for arresting the looters and those starting the fires.The parents have stated that "justice" must be done. Their version of justice as they have stated, is nothing less than the officer being arrested. Their son was caught on video stealing and more witnesses are coming forth and their accounts have him attacking the officer. If the investigations don't go the bad guys' way, they'll start all over again. Justice will probably not be a good thing in Ferguson, not any time soon.

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 6:57 am

    As Churchill said, we're at the "end of the beginning." The bad guys haven't and won't win.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksAugust 20, 2014 - 7:09 am

    rlw895, I disagree. I've been to St Louis 20 times in the past 40 years. My In-Laws live ten minutes from Ferguson. That city will have a great deal of difficulty if they get past this. Big if.

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 8:37 am

    CD: What town? 10 minutes away could put you in Clayton, one of the whitest and wealthiest suburbs in the nation. I understand well how segregate St. Louis County is. I grew up there.

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 8:39 am

    *segregated

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  • Rick WoodAugust 20, 2014 - 8:42 am

    What to the protesters want at this point? The Attorney General of the United States, a black civil rights leader, is there personally overseeing a federal investigation. Time to go home and await the results.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksAugust 20, 2014 - 9:48 am

    Rick, they are trying to get everyone removed that might offer a fair investigation for the officer.

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  • Rick WoodAugust 20, 2014 - 11:46 am

    CD: How about some facts to back up that opinion;-)?

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  • Rick WoodAugust 20, 2014 - 11:47 am

    *do

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  • CD BrooksAugust 20, 2014 - 9:46 am

    rlw895, then you understand the attitude in St. Louis is different and racial harmony does not accurately describe coexistence there. Oakland and Richmond are Disneyland compared to STL. It is and always has been a tough place and not likely to change any time soon.

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  • Rick WoodAugust 20, 2014 - 11:45 am

    CD: I expect we will get some in-depth analysis now in the national media about "what's wrong in St. Louis County." Should be interesting to those of us of live or have lived there. Unlike the Bay Area, there are few geographic features separating communities, and the County is a quilt pattern of relatively small suburbs of St. Louis. They border each other but can be highly segregated based on socio-economics. Think Atherton and East Palo Alto or Piedmont and Oakland. The most common question upon meeting a stranger from St. Louis is "where did you go to high school," because location tells a lot. Although not part of the Confederacy, Missouri is a former slave state with a large black population in the urban areas, nothing like the history of California or its minority populations. The Confederate battle flag flies all over the southern part of the state.

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 6:51 am

    The answer is for everyone except criminals to stay off the streets after dark and let law enforcement but everyone away who shows up until the violence stops. If the local community wants it to end, they need to agree to and promote that. Why did the governor lift the curfew?

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 6:53 am

    *put

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 11:54 am

    Note how many of the remaining night time "protesters" are from outside of Ferguson. Set a curfew and lock them all up until there aren't any more left. Then put them on probation and release them. Plenty of time to protest in the daylight hours and they are just providing cover for criminal activity at night. But, again, what do they want? We've got all we can expect in terms of investigations going on.

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  • PornacAugust 20, 2014 - 7:01 am

    The police need bigger tanks and guns. The citizens needs arms too to protect themselves.

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  • LarryAugust 20, 2014 - 10:39 am

    My question to the Daily Republic Newspaper please give me the facts: 1. Restore order, is there unrest 24 hours? 2. Do you consider people exercising their Constitutional Rights as being unrest. ( I am not talking about those outside trouble makers). As a newspaper you should send one of your reporters to Ferguson to get the true facts about this city and report on it. You should stop asking negative questions, negative questions will continue to give you negative answer. This is America the world is watching us, we do have a major problem with race.

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 11:58 am

    Larry: We don't have a constitutional right to violate a legitimate curfew, and who could doubt one would be legitimate in Ferguson right now? That's why I don't understand why the governor lifted it.

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  • Tired-of-itAugust 20, 2014 - 12:06 pm

    Rlw, I certainly have to agree with your opinion on this one.

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  • Mr. SmithAugust 20, 2014 - 2:22 pm

    The governor not only lifted the curfew, he called for a "vigorous prosecution." Why would he do that? He is afraid he might be labeled as a......you guessed it--racist. What a joke!

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  • Mr. SmithAugust 20, 2014 - 2:40 pm

    Oh, I almost forgot. At the same press conference, the stalwart Gov. Nixon stated four different times that "there must be justice for the Brown family." Can anyone think of a more appropriate way to phrase that, given the circumstances? Why not, "There must be justice in this case?" Can you spell "prejudging" by a high government official? Throwing an as yet innocent police officer under the bus for obvious reasons?

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 6:53 pm

    Mr.S: Maybe Nixon knows more about the case than we do. But there DOES need to be justice for the Brown family. It might not be the justice they want, but that's the way the system works. Victims and their loved ones don't get to decide who's innocent or guilty or what the punishment should be.

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 6:49 pm

    Mr.S: If he was talking about against Officer Wilson, he's wrong. There's not even an indictment yet. Sure he wasn't talking about prosecuting looters?

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  • Mr. SmithAugust 20, 2014 - 7:19 pm

    Rlw: He was not talking about the looters. I watched the video of his remarks. Even his Lt. Governor is lambasting him publicly. His switchboard is smoking and his press spokesman is denying he meant what he said. He will be lucky to survive this episode as a politician, which is a good thing. Shameless and cowardly kowtowing to the Sharpton and Jackson crowd.

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  • rlw895August 20, 2014 - 10:38 pm

    Mr.S: What is the spokesman saying? All I can figure is he meant pursuing the investigation, not prosecuting.

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  • Mr. SmithAugust 20, 2014 - 10:45 pm

    The spokesperson was trying to sell the idea the the governor's use of the word "prosecuting" was somehow a generalization that meant pursuing all the facts (as I recall).

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  • rlw895August 21, 2014 - 12:58 am

    Mr.S: If we could all hear the words that come out of our mouth, we'd be better off. Chalk it up to a poor word choice. Is Nixon a lawyer?

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  • Mr. SmithAugust 21, 2014 - 8:24 am

    One tv reporter that I heard said Nixon was a lawyer. I saw and heard the video of Nixon's pathetic speech--my impression was that he was being very precise in his word choice. Why do you want to defend this guy? It is irrational. The man threw officer Wilson under the bus. Plain and simple. Many people in his state are angry at him. No big deal.

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  • CD BrooksAugust 21, 2014 - 8:58 am

    rlw895, yes Nixon had a law degree and private practice before entering politics.

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  • rlw895August 21, 2014 - 10:15 am

    CD: Then he should certainly understand how the word "prosecute" would be interpreted in this context. Dumb.

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  • Mr. SmithAugust 21, 2014 - 11:04 am

    Not "dumb," rlw. "Cowardly" is a better characterization of Nixon. What's "dumb" is your stubborn refusal to acknowledge it.

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  • rlw895August 21, 2014 - 10:57 pm

    Mr.S: I'm just trying to be consistent with the facts. How do you explain the retraction if it wasn't a (dumb) mistake?

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  • rlw895August 22, 2014 - 7:24 am

    Mr.S: Talk about "shameless and cowardly," I'll see your Jay Nixon and raise you a Robert McDonnell!

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  • Mr. SmithAugust 22, 2014 - 8:27 am

    Rlw: It seems the governorship in many instances comes with a sudden loss of a moral compass. These two guys are smelling up the place. They have many predecessors from other states to emulate, too.

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  • Larry WAugust 20, 2014 - 3:22 pm

    Larry. We do have a race problem when people riot and cause mayhem when they feel slighted. I still remember the Rodney king riots in LA when a total of 53 lost their lives because of thugs. I don't remember one person killed during the many riots when OJ got away with murdering two people. Oh yeah, there were no riots for that one. Why don't we encourage the youth to do the right thing and respect the police. The President and Holder are not helping the situation.

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  • The SugarJarAugust 20, 2014 - 7:33 pm

    Slighted?

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  • LarryAugust 20, 2014 - 10:11 pm

    Great answer coming from a white person, who Is privilege, and only focus on the negative on what he see on FOX news.

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  • CD BrooksAugust 21, 2014 - 5:49 am

    Larry, HUH?

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  • Rick WoodAugust 21, 2014 - 10:21 am

    Larry: Because the DR doesn't nest comments beyond one level, you have to but down who you are addressing, like I just did for you.

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  • OldFartAugust 21, 2014 - 4:01 pm

    for whatever it is worth, maybe nothing, I remember the days of yore. If rioting and looting broke out the Governor called out the National Guard with orders to shoot looters on sight, no questions asked. And lo! It got mighty quiet in a big hurry.

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  • Rick WoodAugust 21, 2014 - 11:01 pm

    When and where was that?

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