Any day now the grand jury hearing evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer will announce its decision whether to charge that officer with a crime. Many fear that its decision, particularly if it is not to indict, could spark off more violence as bad or worse than that already seen in the community in recent months.
Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson says such predictions aren’t fair to the people of Ferguson.
“I’m not going to speculate the reaction that will come following the grand jury decision,” Johnson tells Missourinet. “I think this community is people of great character. I expect that will continue to show through.”
Johnson says if violence does occur, the unified command of the Patrol, the St. Louis County Police and the St. Louis City Police will keep people safe.
“To make sure that our citizens are safe, that our business remain whole. That’s our charge and we’re going to do everything that we can to ensure that,” says Johnson. “Our citizens can be confident that we will make sure their safety is maintained.”
The unified command has received a list of so-called “rules of engagement” from protest organizers, such as asking for 48-hours notice before the grand jury decision is released and tolerance of what were termed “minor lawbreaking,” such as throwing water bottles before deciding when to use force. Organizers say the rules are an attempt to promote safety and transparency.
Johnson says the unified command is looking over the requests.
“I’m not quick to give answers, but I do step back and take a look at that so whatever the response is, is appropriate, is well thought out, and it’s not just something that’s said without any meaning,” says Johnson.
Johnson has consistently urged looking to the long-term future when discussing Ferguson with the media. He believes positive change can be the eventual result.
“It’s about humanity within our world and how we understand each other, how we treat each other, and we talk about jobs and education; failing education and no jobs,” says Johnson. “There are a lot of things that have gotten us here and those have to be discussions that have to continue on in many different facets of our community and our nation.”
He says he’s already seen some of that change.
“I’ve seen conversations that are more reflective of the community. More people are involved in that conversation and at different levels,” he says. “I think that’s where true change comes from when people at the table are different, and I’m not just talking about different in color but different in economic background, maybe different educational background, and I think we’re seeing that conversation that hasn’t probably occurred in this region in a long time.”
Commanders in the Patrol and the two police departments continue to meet almost daily.