November 24, 2014

STL police union leader forsees violence

A spokesman for more than 1100 St. Louis metro police officers fears violence–at several levels–when the Michael Brown grand jury files its report, no matter what the report says.

Executive Director Jeff Roorda of the St. Louis Police Officers Association says Ferguson policeman Darren Wilson is not the only area officer to get death threats since the Michael Brown shooting, and that includes him. But he says every police officer hopes people will respect the justice system and give it time to work.

Roorda says he’s “disturbed” by the idea that Ferguson police who were trying to protect life and property in August somehow provoked demonstrators to violence. And he worries about what’s coming. “Those protestors responded with violence for two weeks…The response of the crowd was to their own emotions and to their own goals, not to the police.”

He has told CNN the media has under-reported there were efforts to kill and injure police officers every night for the two weeks after the Brown shooting. He expects more of the same after the grand jury report comes out.


Holder releases guidelines for police/protestor relations (AUDIO)

The Justice Department has issued guidelines for police behavior during demonstrations. Attorney General Eric Holder says the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Community-oriented Policing have issued the guidelines in anticipation of more protests in Ferguson.

Holder says the “vast majority” of law enforcement officers have “honorably defended” citizens in peaceful protests. He says, “Demonstrations like these have the potential to spark a sustained and positive national dialogue, to provide momentum to a necessary conversation, and to bring about critical reform. But history has also shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence.”

Police, community leaders, even professional athletes in the St.Louis area are urging protestors who might take to the streets again this weekend to be peaceful in their actions.

Holder’s full statement:
AUDIO: Holder statement 3:54

“At the United States Department of Justice, we are committed to ensuring that our local law enforcement partners have the resources they need to effectively serve and protect all members of their communities, particularly when citizens exercise their constitutionally protected rights. To that end, the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services are providing new guidance to law enforcement officers about how to approach maintaining order during First Amendment-protected events. This comprehensive new guide compiles information, tools, and best practices that will help law enforcement officers maintain public safety while safeguarding constitutional rights.

“As we’ve seen, durable relationships between the police and their communities do not develop overnight. But as someone who has spent a career at all levels of law enforcement-and as the brother of a retired police officer-I know the importance of these outreach efforts to ensuring effective neighborhood policing, officer safety, and community health. The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation. It is vital to engage in planning and preparation, from evaluating protocols and training to choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms. This is the hard work that is necessary to preserve the peace and maintain the public trust at all times-particularly in moments of heightened community tension.

“Over the past few months, we’ve seen demonstrations and protests that have sought to bring attention to real and significant underlying issues involving police practices, implicit bias, and pervasive community distrust. And in most cases, these demonstrations have been both meaningful and responsible, and have brought vital issues to the attention of the public at large. Similarly, the vast majority of law enforcement officers have honorably defended their fellow citizens engaged in these peaceful protests.

“I know, from first-hand experience, that demonstrations like these have the potential to spark a sustained and positive national dialogue, to provide momentum to a necessary conversation, and to bring about critical reform.

“But history has also shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence. And so I ask all those who seek to lend their voice to important causes and discussions, and who seek to elevate these vital conversations, to do so in a way that respects the gravity of their subject matter. Peaceful protest has been a hallmark, and a legacy, of past movements for change, from patriotic women who demanded access to the franchise, to the civil rights pioneers who marched for equal rights and equal justice. Americans exercising their First Amendment right to free assembly should look to those examples as they work to bring about real and lasting change for themselves and for future generations.

“Of course, I recognize that progress will not come easily, and long-simmering tensions will not be cooled overnight. These struggles go to the heart of who we are, and who we aspire to be, both as a nation and as a people-and it is clear that we have a great deal of important work to do. But as we move forward, the Department of Justice-and I personally-will continue to work with law enforcement and communities throughout the country to help build the more perfect Union-and the more just society-that all Americans deserve.”

Ferguson Commission vows reconciliation and healing (AUDIO)

The leaders of the newly-appointed Ferguson Commission talk of diversity and unity as they start working on the problems highlighted by the Michael Brown shooting.

The commission appointed by Governor Nixon is 16 people chosen from hundreds of applicants–nine men and seven women, nine African-Americans, seven whites. They come from church, business, education, public service, and activists backgrounds. While some have been involved in politics such as Co-Chairman Rich McClure who was Governor Ashcroft’s Chief of Staff, none of them holds political office today.

One co-chairman is the Reverend Starsky Wilson (upper left), who says “we’ve got heavy lifting to do as a region. We’ve got to do it together…Pray for the work of the commission. Pray for these Commissioners.  Pray for our community, because we need it.”

McClure (second from top left), now a retired moving company executive, tells the audience at the swearing-in of the commission that the group must be a movement for reconciliation and for healing:  “You don’t have to see eye-to-eye to walk arm and arm. We’ve had too much of  ‘you’ and ‘them’ and not enough of  ‘we’ and ‘us’ and ‘together.'”

Nixon is calling on the commission to “heal the divisions and use this moment to start to walk a different path.” He expects a report by next September 15th.

AUDIO: Ferguson Commission sworn in by Governor Nixon


Missouri State parks face longer camping season

Camping in Missouri’s state parks is up this year. And camping season isn’t over.

It used to be that this time of year was a time for maintenance and repairs in state parks.  But they’re becoming more popular year-around.  State Parks Director Bill Bryan says camping is up six percent for the year, continuing a trend.  And he says fall camping is becoming increasingly popular.  In fact, he says, Halloween camping including trick or treating is increasing.

Activities change with the seasons. “Hiking is really popular this time of year and it’s growing in popularity with Missouri being recognized as the nation’s best trails state the past couple of years.  People are recognizing that those trails that were too hot to get out on in August are really nice this time of year, and even later in the year,” he says. “When the fall colors fade and the leaves are off the trees,  you can just see through the distance. you’re much more apt to see a deer or some turkey and get a view that you haven’t been able to see when you’re out there in the summer time or even when the fall colors were on. I think people will enjoy it if they bundle up and get out there.”

Bryan says Bennett Springs, Table Rock, and Johnson Shut-ins have shower houses open every day of the year because they’re popular locations for campers. Cabins remain open at Montauk and Johnson Shut-ins.  He suggests people looking for cabins at other parks call ahead.





Missouri DOT looking for potentially deadly guardrails (AUDIO)

The state Transportation Department has started looking at all of its guardrails to see if the ends have a manufacturing flaw that can turn them into spears.

A section of Guardrail (file)

A section of Guardrail (file)

The department says it has seen enough incidents in Missouri and in other states to make it suspend buying guardrail end caps from one of its suppliers. MODOT’s Engineering Policy Administrator Joe Jones says the department has developed a database with GPS locations of tens of thousands of guardrail ends in the state.  Department workers started checking those locations this week.

Jones says most guardrails are for motorists who would rather hit them than something else on the road. “The end of the guard rail itself has to be treated.  If we didn’t treat that and you ran into it with your car,  it would have a very good chance of spearing right through the car,” he says.

The ends are supposed to absorb impact and the rail is supposed to bend and spread.  But some lawsuits say guardrail ends made by a Texas company has a design flaw that doesn’t let the rail absorb the impact. At least one fatality has been attributed to that design.

Jones says the first step in dealing with the issue is to check every guardrail end in the state and identify the ones from Trinity Industries, a company the department has used for almost twenty years. Jones says the problem segments appear to have been made in 2005.

AUDIO: Jones interview 8:28