For more than a week, we have watched and read with astonishment the stunning ineptitude of Ferguson, Mo., Police Chief Thomas Jackson. “We couldn’t care less” appears to be his and his department’s motto. Not about the residents of that tense Missouri town, not about state and local federal officials trying to keep a lid on tensions and not even about their own reputation. Each Jackson appearance is followed by an immediate facepalm. And little tidbits in the Sunday papers only add to the negative impression.
Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown, didn’t call in the shooting. In its gripping story about how Brown would meet Wilson on Aug. 9, The Post reports how the St. Louis County police dispatcher couldn’t get any answers from the Ferguson PD after getting calls about a police-related shooting.
In audio recordings released last week and confirmed by authorities as authentic, a St. Louis County police dispatcher indicated that Ferguson police were unaware that an officer was involved in the shooting.
The dispatcher noted that she had received two calls about an “officer-related shooting” on Canfield Drive.
“We just got another call about an officer-involved shooting . . . there,” she said.
A few seconds later, the dispatcher said she couldn’t get confirmation from the police in Ferguson. “We just called Ferguson back again, and they don’t know anything about it,” she said.
What followed was equally horrendous. Brown’s body was left in the middle of the street for more than four hours. No aid was administered to him. No ambulance was called. Goldie Taylor of MSNBC’s “The Grio” reports that, according to witnesses, Brown’s body was hauled away in a black SUV. To this day, we have not seen an incident report from Wilson. We still don’t know officially how many bullets were fired and from where, although Piaget Crenshaw, Tiffany Mitchell and Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown during the fatal encounter, have given detailed and similar accounts of what happened.
The one document Jackson bothered to release was a report and video of Brown allegedly shoplifting cigars from a convenience store. His brief and unsure readout Friday morning of the timeline of events left the impression that the deadly encounter that followed was related to the cigar-snatch. By Friday afternoon, Jackson said, “The initial contact between the officer and Mr. Brown was not related to the robbery.” A flabbergasting admission Jackson tried to walk back an hour later by saying that Wilson “made the connection” between Brown and the theft after passing him on the street.
Justice Department officials were so mindful what that video would do to racial tensions in the area that they asked Jackson not to release it. He did it anyway much to the chagrin of Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and the man he put in charge of protest security, highway patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who said he “maybe [would have] given out some information in a different way.” Because of Jackson’s boneheaded move, looting and violence resumed late Friday and Nixon declared a state of emergency on Saturday.
Perhaps one of the things Johnson might have insisted upon is the release of Ferguson Police Report #2014-12391 and St. Louis County Police Report #2014-43984. We know they exist because the officer who submitted the after-the-fact police report on the alleged convenience store theft by Brown (pictured above) wrote, “It is worth mentioning that this incident is related to another incident detailed” by those Ferguson and St. Louis County police reports. “In that incident,” he writes, “Brown was fatally wounded involving an officer of this department.”
That those two documents have not been released more than a week after the shooting shows the level of contempt the Ferguson police department — and the St. Louis County police department for that matter — has for everyone demanding answers. Combine this with the refusal to release the results of the initial autopsy done by the state and you can understand why Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Sunday a second, independent examination of Brown’s body. You can also understand why a swarm of FBI agents descended upon Ferguson over the weekend.
The New York Times story on the “deep tensions” in Ferguson between black residents and police and town officials that have risen to the surface in the wake of the killing of Brown reported a revealing bit of information. One woman tried in vain to get a sign warning motorists about a deaf family that lived on her block. “You keep asking, you keep asking,” she told the Times. “Nothing gets done.” We’re seeing a repeat of that now.
In order for justice to be done and to be served, it must be pursued by law enforcement officials who care about it. Jackson and the Ferguson police department leave the indelible impression that they really don’t give a damn.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj