County, state authorities plan to continue patrolling Ferguson’s streets


Police stand guard outside the Ferguson Police Department on Saturday. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

The Missouri State Highway Patrol and the St. Louis County Police Department plan to continue patrolling West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, authorities said Wednesday.

But fewer officers remain in the city, indicating that police believe calm has fully returned following two weeks of tense confrontations that occurred after Michael Brown was shot and killed.

The police command center in Ferguson, which served as the headquarters for law enforcement responding to protests in Ferguson in recent weeks, has been fully dismantled, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol said in a news conference Wednesday.

Police from the city of St. Louis have also returned to their normal duties, while the Missouri National Guard has also left Ferguson, Johnson said.

Officers with the county police and the Highway Patrol will continue to patrol this area, Johnson said. He said he would not discuss the precise number of officers that remained and did not answer when asked if the Ferguson police will also participate in these patrols.

In the wake of Brown’s death, large protests on the city’s streets gave way to violent standoffs at night between heavily-armed officers and residents. There was a brief period of peace after Johnson and the Highway Patrol were put in charge of security, which quickly gave way to yet another round of confrontations. A curfew was imposed before Gov. Jay Nixon (D) called the National Guard to the city. Late last week, it appeared that the chaos that drew worldwide attention had subsided.

The National Guard’s stated mission was to protect the law enforcement command center. Nixon ordered the National Guard to begin withdrawing from the city on Thursday, saying the situation in Ferguson had improved since its arrival.

Johnson said Wednesday that the command center was dismantled after another night of relative peace, which saw one person arrested as another protest occurred in the city. “Last night was another great night for the citizens of Ferguson,” he said.

In addition, Johnson talked about how the relationship between residents and the police had shifted.

“I think all of you who have been in Ferguson the last several days have noticed a positive change to relationship building,” Johnson said.

Sarah Larimer in St. Louis contributed to this report.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.

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