Thomas Jackson, chief of police in the small St. Louis suburb where a white officer shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9, is leaving his post, according to law enforcement officials.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, would not say when he would step down or under what circumstances. Several community leaders in greater St. Louis said talks were underway to discuss new leadership for the Ferguson police, though none said they knew definitively what would happen or whether any plans had been finalized.
CNN reported Tuesday night that Jackson would leave office, and the chief spent Wednesday swatting away questions about his plans.
Jackson told CNN, “Nobody in my chain of command has asked me to resign, nor have I been terminated.”
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles also told CNN there is no plan for Jackson to resign.
The St. Louis area is awaiting a grand jury decision on whether to charge Wilson. The shooting set off explosive protests, and residents are bracing for the possibility of more unrest if there is no indictment.
Five community leaders and public officials in greater St. Louis, all of whom spoke under the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations and plans, said Wednesday that they are aware of talks locally — some involving federal officials — about a department shake-up, including the possibility of Jackson resigning.
Each one, however, stopped short of saying that Jackson had agreed to resign or that plans for a reorganization had been finalized.
“It’s safe to say that some of the changes we’re hearing about will manifest themselves,” one community leader said.
Another, who said he has been in talks regarding Jackson, said that it is unclear whether the chief has agreed to leave or whether leaks about a shake-up are an effort to gin up public pressure.
“This is a move to try to strong-arm Chief Jackson, to try to embarrass him into resigning,” the community leader said. “It doesn’t matter if he resigns or is fired. There is going to be a change, and he is going to be gone.”
In the months since Brown’s shooting, there has been a consistent push for Jackson to resign, and he has publicly bristled at the effort, insisting he can lead the force effectively. However, in private meetings, Jackson has told other local officials that he would be willing to step down under a reorganization plan.
“Jackson was willing from the very beginning,” said an official involved in reorganization talks. “We’ve known from Day One that we had a chief that knew if he needed to go he would go.”
Some community leaders have said that Jackson was absent from a recent meeting with law enforcement officials and protest organizers about a grand jury announcement.